NHS in crisis
Plans 'unfit for purpose'?
'FIT FOR the future,' the government's plan for NHS services in North-east London, would be better entitled 'Unfit for purpose'! It will mean downsizing King George Hospital and possibly Whipps Cross Hospital, closing their Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments and moving them to a 'super-hospital' many miles away - the PFI-built Queens Hospital in Romford.
Dave Carr, east London
Local newspaper reports that King George's A&E department has been spared the axe are not true. At best the decision has been delayed. It is expected some time after March 2008 following a local consultation, ie a no-debate, slick, NHS management presentation in the affected boroughs.
The latest 'independent' clinical review of hospital services by Sir George Alberti is still pushing its 'option four', which means closing the A&E!
"Maintaining safe high quality services on three acute sites is not possible. No change is not an option", says the report.
A recently opened, private-profit making, Independent Sector Treatment Centre for elective surgery would remain at the King George site.
However, the report recognises the strength of feeling amongst the community against closure - a feeling articulated in east London Socialist Party's consistent campaigning over the last 18 months.
"The plans have caused major unrest amongst the public... centring on the fear of closure of an A&E department in either Whipps Cross or King George hospital.
"There is deep scepticism about the ability to cope and little belief that the proposed changes are for patient benefit rather than just a book-balancing exercise." (Review of clinical case for change)
But even before the health authorities finally announce their decision on these hospitals' future, cutbacks have already been made.
Last year a 'turnaround team' was sent into Whipps Cross hospital costing over £200,000. Hospital managers closed three wards, with a brief to axe around 450 jobs including nurses and doctors.
Mothers and babies at risk
THE CRISIS in the NHS, the staff shortages and pressures on budgets, are harming the health and welfare of pregnant women and their babies.
In the first review of maternity units in England, one in five of NHS Trusts was found to be putting mothers and babies at risk by failing to carry out scans, discharging them too quickly or failing to follow up with postnatal visits.
London's hospitals were rated worst in the country on issues such as tests during antenatal care and staffing levels on labour wards. Nationally, the survey found that, not surprisingly, Trusts with the lowest number of midwives performed worst.
Health secretary Alan Johnson promised that extra funding of £122 million annually would be available for maternity services. But this crisis highlights this government's real health priorities, such as encouraging privatisation and trying to get patients to use private hospitals.
From this April, for instance, patients will be able to choose to go to any private hospital that agrees to be paid NHS prices. The government has set aside £200 million in this year's NHS budget to pay for that option.
In The Socialist 30 January 2008:
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Debt and Housing Feature
Marxist analysis: history
Socialist Party workplace news