NHS in crisis

NHS in crisis   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

There’s more evidence that the National Health Service (NHS) is in meltdown. This time it comes from the Care Quality Commission inspectorate.

Its report identified: massive staff shortages, with vacancy rates in the NHS rising by 16% over the last two years; hospital bed shortages, with occupancy levels being consistently above recommended levels since April 2012; decreasing numbers of nursing homes beds – down by 4,000 in two years; more people not getting support for their social care needs; a 20% increase in people detained under the Mental Health Act.

This crisis is the result of successive governments’ toxic policies of cuts, underinvestment, Private Finance Initiative (PFI) privatisation and outsourcing, rip-off drug prices and medical supplies costs, and several disastrous reorganisations of the NHS into competing trusts.

All this is set to intensify with the Tories misnamed ‘sustainability and transformation plans’ (STPs). Under STPs a further £22 billion of cuts are being rammed through the NHS by 2020. All trusts – many saddled with enormous PFI debt – will have to clear their accumulated deficits by then. If this happens then more A&E and ward closures with the loss of hospital beds will follow, along with unfilled nursing posts, and cuts to GP services.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell’s call to scrap PFI and bring health services back in-house is therefore welcome. However, patients and health workers can’t wait for a future Labour government. Industrial action by healthworkers, along with community protests and a mass trade union organised national demonstration, is needed now to stop the cuts.