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New Labour feel the heat on hospital cuts
THE CRISIS in the NHS has become a big issue in next month's local council elections. Earlier this year managers at Lewisham Hospital in south London announced plans to close three wards and sack hospital staff.
Lewisham Hospital's Trust faces a funding shortfall as Blair's government tries to bring 'market methods' into the NHS. At March's council meeting following the cuts announcement, Socialist Party councillors Chris Flood and Ian Page put forward a motion calling for extra government funds to stop the cuts.
Lewisham's health services shouldn't suffer from Blair's market madness. But all the other parties - New Labour, Tory, Lib Dem and even the one Green councillor - voted against our motion!
Now however the establishment parties are feeling the heat, as anger grows at the NHS funding crisis. Blair insists his 'market reforms' will go ahead. But Lewisham council's Health Committee has organised an emergency 'scrutiny' meeting to discuss Lewisham Hospital. Their letter convening the meeting admits that "the impending local government elections" influenced their decision to act!
At the health committee meeting Chris and Ian will call on the council to use its legal powers to challenge Lewisham Hospital's cuts plans.
That won't guarantee that the cuts will be stopped - a big campaign will be needed for that and Ian, Chris and fellow Socialist Party candidate Jess Leech are organising a local public meeting before the 4 May election to discuss how to fight to save our NHS.
Worcester sauce from Labour!
MOST PEOPLE in Worcestershire have probably never heard of the Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust. They will have no idea that Michael O'Riordan is apparently Chairman of the Trust.
An Aslef member
But this Trust tells us we must dispense with 720 NHS staff across hospitals in Worcester, Redditch and Kidderminster. It says they're £30 million in debt and expects a further £30 million in deficit next year.
But this doesn't unduly perturb New Labour Worcester MP Mike Foster. 24 hours after job losses were announced he told the local Worcester News that "patient care will not be affected".
Four days later the Trust's Chief Executive says they don't know which jobs will be lost, he will minimise the impact job losses will have on patient services, but can't say how this will be achieved!
Worcester Socialist Party members held a city centre stall, giving out leaflets and starting a petition opposing the job losses. Several NHS workers signed the petition. One told us she expected her job to be one of the 720. Another said staff were already under enormous pressure. Job losses would make work intolerable.
Using the precedent set by Socialist Party councillors in Stoke, we contacted Kidderminster Health Concern campaign group who have members on Worcestershire County Council, to see that this decision is called in for scrutiny.
We hope to help mount a campaign to resist the job losses and move on to plan a secure long-term future for NHS services.
LABOUR HAS just brought in a new payment-by-results system nat-ionwide. Hospitals are paid according to how many operations they perform, with a new tariff for every type of operation.
But the country's leading children's hospitals say this system fails to cover the cost of the complicated procedures they carry out on some of the country's sickest children.
The new system will leave the four best-known children's hospitals with a combined deficit of some £22 million, £11 million at Alder Hey, £6 million at Great Ormond Street and about £2.5 million at both Birmingham and Sheffield children's hospitals.
New Labour are putting the health service under pressure to cut much-needed services, just to comply with a rigid formula, designed to increase competition between hospitals.
ON 11 March we held a protest outside Royal Free hospital in Hampstead, north London, against the 480 proposed cuts to contract staff's jobs and closures of wards. These cuts will greatly reduce the quality of service the hospital can give, whilst increasing pressure on the permanent staff.
Many people signed the petition and spoke to us about how angry they are at the government's neglect of the health service for the average person. Many gave donations to the campaign and bought the socialist.
In The Socialist 20 April 2006:
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party election campaign
Workplace news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis