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From: The Socialist issue 522, 27 February 2008: Rich get richer - We pay the bills

Search site for keywords: Health - NHS - Hospital - PFI - Maternity - Lewisham - Amicus - Leicester

Don't let our hospital pay...

...the price for PFI

HUNDREDS OF people from south east London will march through Sidcup on Saturday 1 March to save vital services at Queen Mary's Hospital (QMH). Drastic cuts are threatened as part of the 'reorganisation' of south east London's health services.

Lois Austin

QMH will be downgraded to a 'borough' hospital. Accident and emergency (A&E) and maternity departments will close, forcing Bexley borough residents to travel to Bromley or Woolwich. All these proposals mean cuts to already stressed local health services. Two of the three 'options' available include closing Lewisham hospital's A&E and maternity and children's units.

The reorganisation of London's health service is really about saving money and opening the door to private health companies to buy up a cost-effective and very profitable London health service.

QMH is paying the price for market policies in the NHS. The local health economy is being sucked dry paying for private finance initiative (PFI) schemes. They can't close services at PFI hospitals because fines for reneging on these contracts are way too costly.

QMH is taking the brunt of the cuts because it is the only hospital left in this part of south east London that is not a PFI hospital or foundation trust. Health campaigners fight against all cuts!

Unfortunately, local Tory councillors and MPs organised the demonstration. How can a party responsible for privatising and closing public services across the country, when in government or running local councils, pose as 'defenders' of the NHS? They can do it because of a lack of any campaign by trade union leaders.

Union officials told QMH health workers to wait for the consultation to end before campaigning. But this will be too late. This 'consultation' is a sham. Even if the public says no to any changes, NHS managers and government health officials will implement the cuts anyway.

The Tories did not wait for the consultation to end, they took the leadership of the campaign. They are not concerned about the NHS overall, just their local hospital, so they can get elected next time round.

Don't be fooled by Tory wolves in 'save our hospital' clothing. If we are to win this campaign, stop the cuts and push back the proposals, which will be disastrous for all London's health services, we need a united campaign inside NHS workplaces and the community led by health workers, the trade unions and service users.

...for Hewitt's private health jobs

IN 2006 Patricia Hewitt, then health secretary, said there would be no limit on the private sector in the NHS. Her attachment to private health care continued after losing her ministerial status.

As Labour MP for Leicester West she has acquired a 45,000 a year consultancy with high street pharmaceutical giant Alliance Boots. As health secretary, she invited companies like Boots to bid to open GPs' surgeries on their premises.

Hewitt has also accepted a 55,000 a year 'job' at European private equity firm Cinven, which has just bought 25 private hospitals from Bupa.

Around 6-7 billion a year of the 90 billion NHS budget is being spent in the private sector. Last year companies were invited to tender for the commissioning of primary care in the NHS which accounts for 80% of the NHS budget.

And, says the Amicus union, private companies earned an estimated 23 billion of profit throughout the period of their contracts from building and delivering services through Private Finance Initiatives (PFI).







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