Exposed: Labour’s Health Scandals

IN THE general election, New Labour promised things would get better, but they’re getting far worse, particularly in the health service. Here are the facts about Labour’s NHS scandal:

Their manifesto pledge was to cut waiting lists to 100,000 below what they inherited from the Tories by the next election. But waiting lists in England rose by 10,700 in January to 1,118,700, on top of the rise of 36,000 in December.

Health Minister John Denham described the increase as “relatively small”. He is obviously not one of the 53,700 who have waited for more than a year for treatment, or one of the more than 56,000 the National Audit Office (NAO) found whose operations were cancelled on the day they were due.

A UNISON survey of seven counties in the Southern region last year found over 1,100 nursing posts vacant. One consequence of this was shown in early January when managers at Portsmouth hospitals asked patients’ relatives and friends to help nurses on the wards with “washing, shaving and feeding of loved ones”. This was when nurses were working 17-hour shifts to try to cover the staff shortfall.

OLD PEOPLE are dying because of a shortage of kidney specialists, nurses and equipment. The heads of every kidney unit in London have complained to the head of the London NHS that older patient are being refused treatment in favour of those who stand the highest chance of survival.

“Over the years things got better as we got more specialists and equipment and treatment has advanced. But now we are going backwards… 1,000 people on dialysis are dying every year while they wait for a transplant. People are literally living on death row – they are under sentence of death and it is absolutely scandalous.”

President of the Kidney Patients’ Association, Elizabeth Ward

TONY BLAIR made a commitment, subsequently downplayed, to spend an extra 5% a year on the NHS until 2006. This should have taken spending to 8% of GDP, what Blair calls the European Union (EU) average.

But a study by the Office of Health Economics reported in the British Medical Journal (4 March 2000) shows this would still be less than that spent on health care in the EU.

To catch up, the UK needs to spend 9.1% of GDP on health care, an increase of 7.8% a year, not the proposed 5%.

The Socialist Party demands:

  • Immediately spend the £20 billion-£30 billion the NHS needs to catch up with spending in other West European countries.
  • Scrap PFI, end privatisation and make the NHS free at the point of need.
  • Put the NHS under democratic control by health workers, local community and the government.