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From The Socialist newspaper, 12 September 2012

NHS under attack - Stop the closures, stop the cuts

Steve Wootton and Robin Clapp
March to save the NHS, 17 May 2011, photo Paul Mattsson

March to save the NHS, 17 May 2011, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

Two Bristol health trusts are pursuing a 'money-saving' merger, it has been revealed. One of the most startling proposals would be the closure of the central A&E unit in the Bristol Royal Infirmary (BRI), leaving a city of over 500,000 people with just one emergency facility at Southmead.

Minor injuries units would be expected to cope with any overflows. This would be madness unleashed, catastrophic in its consequences for patients and staff alike.

This comes as 20 of the South West health trusts have formed a consortium to drive down NHS workers' pay and conditions. And in one of the Bristol trusts, the local press has announced that 1,000 workers are now on 'zero-hour' contracts.

None of these crude cuts were in the Bristol Health Services Plan that went out for consultation a few years ago.

It trumpeted the launch of two Private Finance Initiative (PFI) projects; the building of Hengrove Community hospital and the redevelopment of Southmead hospital, and the concurrent effective closing of Bristol's third hospital at Frenchay.

PFI schemes, expanded under the Con-Dems and Labour before them, must be paid for, over and over again by the public. It is this that in part lies behind the employer's attempts to cut services and attack the workforce. It is estimated that the initial cost of the Southmead PFI is to be 627 million, but over 30 years the NHS will pay 2.1 billion!

Financial advisors Operis reported: "The construction contract is valued at approximately 430 million, plus an additional 20 million in advance works.

Over a 30-year concession period, the construction and maintenance group also expects to earn a further 170 million for facilities management and lifecycle maintenance services"

170 million would fund vital NHS services across Bristol for a 30-year period. Looks like it could instead be going to the private sector as profit!

Going bust?

It is clear that the Southmead PFI deal is unwieldy and this lies behind the attempt to seek a merger with the BRI trust. So could the Southmead project go bust?

Already the South London healthcare trust has effectively gone bankrupt due to PFI which costs the trust 1 million a week.

The coalition government, faced with the potential financial time bomb that is PFI has decided to embark on a review of its use. But existing PFIs will not be included or renegotiated. The lawyers' fees alone would be exorbitant.

New health minister Jeremy Hunt might be smiling now, having so far ridden out Murdochgate.

But he's about to learn what was meant by a former Tory chancellor who said, 'the NHS is the closest thing the British have to a religion'.

The trade unions and entire communities must rally to the defence of our imperilled hospitals which are being dismantled daily. The battle is on and the task is to link all these local struggles together around coordinated national industrial action and the urgent calling of a 24-hour general strike.

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In The Socialist 12 September 2012:

Fight against austerity

Build a 24-hour general strike

TUC passes general strike motion

NSSN lobby demands a 24-hour general strike

Teachers must unite against Tories

Socialist Party news and analysis

Nationalise the banks

Cabinet reshuffle

Con-Dem housing measures - in 'the thick of it'?

After the Paralympics... Stop the Con-Dems' assault on disabled

Cable attacks health and safety

'Red tape' bonfire puts workers at more risk

More bad news from media mogul Murdoch

International socialist news and analysis

Quebec Solidaire's electoral gains show potential for left

Honduras: Privatised cities in the global economy

Socialist Party feature: TUSC

We need a political voice to fight austerity

Socialist Party youth and students

Socialist students: Fighting for education

Bristol YFJ: "We're not lazy - we're fighting back"

Global youth unemployment rises

Youth Fight for Jobs in action! Coming events

Socialist Party workplace news

Workers' unity against brutal bosses at Cranswick Foods

East Coast train cleaners on strike

RMT assistant secretary arrested on picket line

Fighting NHS cuts

NHS under attack - Stop the closures, stop the cuts

Bromsgrove meeting opposes A&E closure

Demo against heart unit closure in Leicester

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Sheffield Socialist Party pickets strike-breaking facility

Brent Labour: Making families homeless

Young tenants to lobby Leeds council over housing crisis

Reviews and comments

The Reunion rewrites history: the Poll Tax

The shame of sexism in sport

How we stopped the racist EDL


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