NHS crisis: clean out the profiteers

NHS crisis

Clean out the profiteers

THE SCANDAL of the privatisation of vital NHS services has been exposed yet again. The Office for National Statistics has revealed that deaths linked to the hospital bug Clostridium difficile have risen by 69%, to 3,800 since the year 2004-2005. Deaths linked to the MRSA infection have risen by 39%, to 1,629 in the same period.

Experience has shown that the only way of dealing with these infections is by effective cleaning of hospital buildings and strict infection control. But what has happened instead?

Experienced staff have been cut and hospital cleaning has been farmed out to private companies whose only worry is where the next percentage point of profit is coming from.

Len Hockey, a trade unionist who represents low-paid, privatised cleaning staff at Whipps Cross hospital in east London, explains the reality of the NHS today: “Since I started working at the hospital, I’ve seen the break-up of the healthcare team because of privatisation. There is an opposing ethos and culture between the aims of the NHS to provide good quality healthcare and the private companies, who put their emphasis on ‘growing the business’.

“One of the objectives of privatisation is cost reduction. This leads to cuts in staff and material resources. The delivery of savings for hospital trust boards is often at the expense of cleaning standards, increasing the risk of post-operative infection for patients. There is often high staff turnover and low morale and motivation.

“My union, UNISON, sees a direct link between the increase in competitive tendering and privatisation and rising rates of MRSA and other infections.

“It is obvious that reducing staff numbers means more stress and a greater risk of cross-infection in departments and wards.”

New Labour’s policies of cuts and privatisation are killing people. It is more urgent than ever that we campaign against cuts and closures but also against privatisation. Why should the fat-cat owners of the companies benefiting from NHS sell-offs have anything to do with health care?

No more NHS privatisation. Take all privatised services back into the NHS. A decent wage and trade-union agreed working conditions for all health workers.

Take all the companies providing goods and services for the NHS – including the pharmaceutical and construction companies – into public ownership. Run them under democratic workers’ control and management.

For the NHS to be fully-funded so that it can be rebuilt into a health service we can be proud of.