Dave Carr
Lively demo against cuts at Whipps Cross Hospital, photo Paul Mattsson

Lively demo against cuts at Whipps Cross Hospital, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

David Cameron’s 2010 election slogan was: “I’ll cut the deficit not the NHS”. Unfortunately for us, since he became prime minister of the Tory-led coalition, the National Health Service (NHS) has been savaged.

But as the NHS disintegrates under the impact of the gov-ernment’s market policies, the Tories are determined to offload the blame of a faltering service onto hard-pressed health workers.

This buck-passing is from a government which refuses to agree legally binding minimum staffing levels on hospital wards; while a recent BBC survey of Accident and Emergency (A&E) staffing levels at hospitals in England reveals an overall 10% shortfall, causing a “significant impact” on the safety and care of patients.

Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospital NHS Trust reported a staggering 43% shortfall of permanent staff at its A&E departments. But it seems that health bosses and the health secretary have found a solution – close the A&E department at one of its two hospitals!

But it is not only government spending cuts that are undermining the NHS. Many NHS trusts, including the aforementioned, are saddled with exorbitant and unsustainable Private Finance Initiative (PFI) debts.

Lively demo against cuts Whipps Cross Hospital, photo Paul Mattsson

Lively demo against cuts Whipps Cross Hospital, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

PFI schemes, introduced by the Tory John Major government in the early 1990s and widely expanded by Labour’s Gordon Brown, are a licence to print money for the private consortium that runs them, at the expense of NHS budgets.

One of the NHS Trusts to face PFI financial meltdown is Barts, in east London, which is burdened with a 42-year, £1 billion PFI contract on its new Royal London Hospital. The Trust has to shell out an eye-watering £115 million a year in repayments, resulting in £78 million of cuts this year.

To most people the sensible solution would be to scrap PFI and reintegrate health services back into a publicly owned and democratically run NHS. But that is a dead letter to Tory chancellor George Osborne who instead has signed off a new version of PFI, whereby the public purse acts as a financial guarantor to the ‘risk taking’ private sector.

And in the meantime, to reduce PFI debts, expensive private sector ‘turnaround teams’ are sent into hospitals, such as Whipps Cross (part of Barts Trust), to identify millions of pounds of cuts in hospitals’ day-to-day spending.

But if Cameron and Osborne and their private healthcare supporting friends believe that their wrecking ball policies in the NHS are going unopposed then they might want to wear ear plugs at the Save Our NHS trade union demo at the forthcoming Tory party conference in Manchester.

And in the week before, angry health workers, socialists, trade unionists and the wider community will be marching in east London as part of the campaign – along with possible industrial action – to demand a halt to the cuts.

If you want to save the NHS then join us on these protests (see demo details below).

The crippling cost of PFI schemes

NHS PFI repayments

  • 2001-02 £196 million
  • 2005-06 £542 million
  • 2012-13 £1.76 billion
  • 2029-30 £2.71 billion

Source: HMT

South London Healthcare Trust, which collapsed under PFI debt, was spending 14% of its income on a PFI repayments contract, agreed under Labour. This is equivalent to the salaries of 1,200 nurses or 200 hip replacements a week.

Defend all Barts health services and staff

Demonstrate: Saturday 21 September, 12noon,
The Green by Whipps Cross Hospital (near roundabout bus stops), marching to Walthamstow town square

Protest at the Tory Conference

  • Save our NHS
  • Defend Jobs and Services
  • No to Austerity
March and Rally – Sunday 29 September
Assemble at Liverpool Road, Manchester M3 4FP, 11am
Marching to a rally in Whitworth Park