The Socialist 3 December 2014 |
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Tories' £2bn funding lie
NHS: the money's running out
People's March for NHS, photo Simon Elliott (Click to enlarge)
An NHS nurse
The money is running out - at Medway Foundation Trust in Kent, maybe as early as January.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt's additional "winter pressures" payments won't even touch the sides. Nor will Chancellor George Osborne's £2 billion nationally - much of it is already in the NHS budget anyway! And shadow chancellor Ed Balls' £2.5 billion pledge is shallow one-upmanship, not a substantial answer.
Meanwhile, the media - swarming all over north Kent last month because of the by-election - have decamped to London. Ukip's Mark Reckless retained the seat he first won as a Tory. But none of the parties who stood in November could offer solutions to the NHS crisis being borne out at Medway Hospital. The Daily Telegraph recently branded it "the worst in the country".
Formerly a ship building centre, Medway is plagued with poverty related health problems and industrial disease. Despite understaffing, enormous pressure on beds and rotten senior management, the hospitals regulator found care in most areas to be good to excellent.
The emergency department bore the brunt of criticisms. Equipped for 50,000 patients a year but seeing in excess of 90,000, services are under strain. A&E nurses hold the fort, absorbing the emotional fallout of inhumane working conditions.
Emergency departments in surrounding areas have been cut, making Medway the nearest A&E for half a million people. Labour's drive to make hospitals "foundation trusts" - competing businesses - means many have cut loss makers like emergency care.
Cuts by the current government and local councils have compounded the crisis. Even Hunt admitted recently he takes his children to A&E because it's quicker than accessing the family GP.
The government's rejection of even a paltry 1% pay increase in the NHS has provoked widespread industrial action. It has brought in groups who have never struck before, such as midwives.
Without a clear strategy from health union leaders, many workers are voting with their feet. Twice as many nurses left Medway Hospital as were recruited last month, leaving an ever decreasing pool of ever more junior staff to pick up the slack.
Hospital bosses stagger from blunder to expensive blunder. Outside the hospital, community care packages in one area fall short of demand at a rate of five to one.
So funding healthcare will be the key issue in Medway, and high on voters' minds everywhere, come the general election. The Socialist Party is part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, standing candidates against all cuts in May 2015 (see page 7).
The Socialist Party demands:
■ Reversal of all cuts and closures, including emergency departments and ward beds, in Medway and nationally
■ Reversal of all privatisation - cancel all Private Finance Initiative debt!
■ Ending of foundation trusts and the anarchy of the internal market
■ Statutory nursing and midwifery staffing levels based on patient need
■ An integrated national health and social care service, publicly owned and democratically controlled - to deliver free, high quality care for all