The Socialist 17 January 2018 |
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Cuts cause NHS crisis
NHS crisis: under pressure from all angles - end cuts and sell-offs!
Save our NHS (Click to enlarge)
- Investment not austerity
- Reverse privatisation
- Join demos on 3 February (see below)
Caroline Vincent, Leicester Socialist Party
The NHS is in a perfect storm this winter. Decades of cuts and sell-offs have brought it to breaking point while it faces pressure from all directions.
68 A&E consultants have written to Theresa May. The letter warns of the consequences of chronic underfunding amid a gathering flu epidemic, and the increased strain on already overstretched hospitals with too few staff and beds to cope.
NHS Providers, representing most NHS trusts in England, has demanded an NHS budget increase of £20 billion to avoid catastrophe.
So, what is the Tories' strategy for dealing with the crisis? According to May, the 55,000 operations cancelled this winter were all part of the plan!
Jeremy Hunt is still clinging to his health secretary job - now including social care - to the dismay of patients and doctors alike. Even he has admitted that significantly more money is needed.
Hunt and May both insist, however, that the NHS is better prepared this winter than ever before. Given the images of ambulances queuing outside hospitals, and patients sleeping on the floors of crowded A&E departments, this simply doesn't ring true.
But the current and all-too-visible crisis facing emergency services is just the tip of the iceberg. Staff shortages at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford mean delayed chemotherapy treatment for cancer patients.
Inadequate funding to social care creates further pressure too. Shockingly, under the Tories, the number of elderly people rushed to hospital from care homes has risen 62% since 2010.
Chemists are meant to play a role in reducing pressure on NHS resources. But Lloyds Pharmacy has closed 190 branches, meaning hundreds of job losses and limited access for patients - blaming government cuts.
Absurdly, cuts to NHS services don't even reduce costs in many cases. Quite the opposite.
For instance, lack of beds at the Royal Free and University College hospitals in London have resulted in millions spent on hotel accommodation for patients in specialist care.
At the Royal Free this expenditure has increased tenfold since 2010, rocketing to £400,000 in 2016.
'Out-of-area placements' in mental health too. The additional cost of all this mayhem in the 12 months to October was £83 million.
And the mental health crisis is escalating as demand for services rises while provision shrinks.
Consequently, the Metropolitan Police alone fielded a record 115,000 mental health-related calls in 2016. Calls they are unequipped to deal with, and at a time when they are facing cuts in numbers themselves.
Blame for this disastrous situation doesn't lie solely with the Tories. Sell-offs accelerated under New Labour too. The result is a health service on the brink.
The NHS can survive, but not without halting the privatisation agenda, including US-style 'Acmos' - 'accountable care management organisations' which entrench outsourcing.
All cuts must be reversed, and so-called STPs - 'sustainability and transformation plans' which demand 'savings' - scrapped.
And the fat-cat profiteers like Richard Branson have to be shown the door. The health of ordinary people should not be a source of private wealth.
The Socialist Party fights for a fully publicly owned NHS from family doctors to pharmaceutical firms, fully funded, free at the point of use for all.
The crisis nurse: "staff are desperate for change" - unions must build for strikes
Barts NHS Trust workers striking for decent pay, photo Paul Mattsson (Click to enlarge)
Andy Bromhall, NHS mental health nurse and Unison rep (personal capacity)
I work as a crisis nurse and unscheduled care practitioner, with the aim of giving patients a choice - if safe - between hospital admission and home treatment. This choice, unfortunately, is sometimes made for them.
With the shortage of mental health in-patient beds, people are often offered care hundreds of miles away from their homes.
I work in Wales and have known patients placed as far as way as Southampton - a distance of over 200 miles.
This leads to increased stress on mental health workers. We have to arrange transfers, have increased paperwork, offer support and care to distressed and anxious families - and at times very unwell patients.
The NHS needs to value and nurture its staff. Last year 6,479 nurses were off sick for four weeks or more due to stress or mental health problems. The total number of sick days has risen a third between 2012-13 and 2016-17.
This exacerbates staffing shortages in vital areas such as A&E, wards and mental health care. They are all rammed.
Hospitals are struggling to fill hundreds of vacancies - with possibly 100,000 posts unfilled across the NHS, according to Labour analysis.
This is a disgrace. It is a result of years of Tory austerity - and the actions of the Blairite Labour MPs in parliament and AMs in the Welsh Assembly.
NHS staff are desperate for change! The government gives us no recognition for the difficult, stressful work we face day in, day out in an understaffed and overstretched service.
We demand an above-inflation pay rise to start to make up for years of real-terms pay cuts. And bring back the bursary for student nurses now so more can afford to train.
Fund the NHS fully - reverse the cuts and the sale of services to the lowest bidder - so we have plenty of staff and beds and can focus on doing our jobs.
Health union leaders - in particular in Unison and the RCN - need to build for industrial action to win these demands, for our patients as well as for us. Coordinating strikes - with the civil servants, for example, who got a big majority for action in their recent indicative ballot - could prevent further privatisation of our
The A&E patient: "they were literally overrun" - but mass campaigns can win
Nurse injection healthcare NHS Employers (Creative Commons), photo NHS Employers (Creative Commons) (Click to enlarge)
Steve Nally, Lambeth Socialist Party
I ended up in London's St Thomas' Hospital after an accident at work on 10 January. From the moment I arrived, the NHS staff, from all walks of life and all nations, treated me with care, consideration and human kindness despite the obvious fact that they were literally overrun with patients and up against it.
People were in every available space and wheelchairs and trolley beds lined the corridors. The A&E department resembled nearby Waterloo station at rush hour, and this in what is one of Britain's top teaching hospitals just across the river from parliament.
In fact, it is in such full-service 'type one' A&Es that waiting times are the worst, with 23% of patients waiting more than four hours to be seen in December.
Even gaining admission to A&E is also at crisis point, with over 5,000 patients stuck in ambulances outside A&Es for more than an hour during the first week of January. Over six weeks, the total queued up in ambulances reached over 90,000.
Doctors are now publicly reporting that people are dying in corridors. I did not see that at St Thomas, thank goodness.
But with chaos and overcrowding in A&Es combined with a lack of beds it is inevitable that some patients will spend their last minutes in a hospital corridor. That is degrading and inhuman.
The Tories' and Blairites' cuts and sell-offs are fully responsible for this situation. It is clear the NHS needs more money, resources and staff.
The government has deliberately starved the NHS of what it needs to provoke a debate on privatising it further.
The bosses they represent look fondly at the US, where people's health is big business and where millions have no health cover. That is what the Tories and their friends in big business want for the NHS.
But recent campaigns have shown that when we fight, we can win. Glenfield children's heart unit in Leicester was saved by mass community mobilisations, with the Socialist Party playing a leading role.
Bringing all the various campaigns together - and linking them to the industrial power of the health unions - would have real power.
The demonstration called by Health Campaigns Together on 3 February has to be the beginning of a national movement to save our NHS.
"Over 120 patients a day managed in corridors, some dying prematurely"
Experience reported by A&E consultants in a letter to the prime minister
Attended hospital emergency departments in England last month, 3.7% more than December 2016 (all data from the NHS unless otherwise stated)
Elderly patients rushed to A&E from care homes between 2010 and 2016
Every five minutes
Met Police receive a mental health call - 115,000 last year, a growth of a third since 2011 (Labour)
15% of patients
Waiting longer than four hours in A&E - 23% in full-service 'type one' A&Es
Flu deaths, from 48 in the first week of January to 93 in the second week (Public Health England)
"There are seats available in most hospitals when beds are not"
Response of junior health minister Philip Dunne - now sacked - to patients sleeping on floors
Stuck on ambulances waiting for A&E over a six-week period
Stuck on ambulances in the first week of January alone - 5,082 for over an hour
Last time NHS England hit its target for A&E patients seen in under four hours
Cancelled to deal with the winter crisis
Number of doctors and hospital beds per person in the EU - that's Britain (European Commission)
Unfilled in the NHS (Labour)
Off sick for four weeks or more from stress or mental health - up over a third in 2016-17 compared to 2012-13
Lost to sick leave for stress or mental health in 2016-17 - up from 432,695 in 2012-13
NHS contracts taken by Richard Branson's parasitic Virgin Care (NHS Support Federation)
Minimum amount needed over next five years to prevent catastrophe (NHS Providers, Office for Budget Responsibility)
4 in 5 nurses
Can't even afford homes developed on sold-off NHS land (New Economics Foundation)
Saturday 3 February
Health Campaigns Together national day of action on the NHS, including a march in central London - put it in your diary
- London protest: 12pm at Gower Street, WC1E