The Socialist 4 July 2012
Kick 'em out!
South London NHS: Socialist councillors said 'Axe PFI, not our NHS'
South London Healthcare NHS Trust, with a £150 million deficit, is facing 'special measures'. However, as shown by an excerpt from 'Our Record - Socialist councillors are different', Ian Page and Chris Flood, Lewisham Socialist Party councillors until May 2010, showed how this massive debt could have been avoided - by cancelling the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) schemes that now cost the Trust £61 million a year in interest alone.
"In spring 2008, South East London NHS started a 'consultation' on plans to 'reorganise' hospital services in the region, allegedly driven only by 'clinical needs'.
In reality the plans were about cutting public spending and getting the NHS ready for private companies to profit from our health services. The glossy leaflets said that South East London hospitals were operating at a £400,000 a week 'deficit'. But they didn't say that this is actually less than the extra weekly costs of PFI schemes.
One report, buried away among all the glossy publicity, let slip the real reason why Queen Mary Hospital would be hardest hit. Both Queen Elizabeth and Bromley hospitals were tied to massive PFI contract payments for between 30 and 35 years. Bromley had to pay out £12.2 million a year more than it would do if private companies weren't involved, and Queen Elizabeth £8.9 million more. Because they were locked into these contracts and Queen Mary wasn't, this made it easier - and more profitable - to close services at Queen Mary's and sell off the land!
One simple solution to the 'deficit' was to take the PFI companies into public ownership and use the money saved to keep services open.
Socialist Party councillors launched a petition opposing the plans' 'options', with the aim to build public pressure to push the council to use its legal powers to ensure that the hospitals had sufficient funds. Chris Flood presented a motion to the council's Healthier Communities Select Committee to 'refer back' the plans to the government, which councils are allowed to do.
Both New Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors opposed this call.
In the end, however, public pressure won! In 2009, the proposal to reduce Lewisham Hospital's A&E opening hours or cut emergency surgery services was overturned. This shows the power of public campaigning - and the benefit of having Socialist Party councillors to put the case for public services."
The 'Our Record' pamphlet can be read online at: www.socialistparty.org.uk/txt/132.pdf
In this issue
Socialist Party campaigns
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party feature
Socialist Party LGBT
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party appeal
Youth fight for jobs
Socialist Party review