The Socialist 10 December 2008 |
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Save our NHS
The Socialist Party's 'Grim Reaper' joins a 'fat cat' on the Keep Our NHS Public 'Defend our health service' protest outside the Department of Health on the 60th anniversary of the founding of the health service, photo Paul Mattsson
OVER THE last four years, the health service's national management board has been expanded from eight to 24 people. Over £3 million a year is now being spent on the wages of these top managers, while nurses and other health workers suffer from low pay and below-inflation increases. And despite their ample rewards, rather than improving the NHS, this well-paid board is presiding over privatisation and cuts.
Last week it was reported that ten of the 38 London NHS trusts are in severe financial difficulties. An emergency bailout package is being concocted to save them, but only on condition that they show they can break even in the future. This means that they have to promise to make cuts, which may include closure of an accident and emergency department.
If this was not bad enough, the bailout for hospitals with deficits is to be at the expense of hospitals with surpluses, so these better-off hospitals will have to axe planned improvements.
A London health authority spokesman explained that this is all part of the effects of introducing market conditions in the health service.
As hospitals are paid according to the number of patients they take, some are "locked in a vicious circle". They have to choose to make cuts to pay off debts, losing patients in the process, or to run up greater debt and keep more services going, both of which can lead to failure.
Another piece of NHS news in the last week was that health 'hit squads' will swoop on hospitals that have particularly high rates of death, infection and 'botched' operations. Nobody wants to be treated in such hospitals, but we all know what the main cure for these ailments is.
Poor performance is usually closely linked to lack of adequate funding for beds, equipment and staff.
For instance, Mid Staffordshire NHS foundation trust was assessed as providing a poor A&E service. The likely cause of the problem was revealed by the remedy that was ordered; the hospital was told to recruit more A&E consultants to tackle a lack of senior staff.
A new report by the College of Emergency Medicine says that only a minority of emergency departments have enough A&E consultants to ensure patient safety.
The continuous introduction of cuts and market measures to the NHS, including privatisation, has been destroying our health service step by step. Patients would have no desire to themselves choose a hospital for their treatment if every hospital and health centre could provide a fully funded, excellent service.
It is time to say enough is enough, and build strong campaigns in every area that can link up into a mass national campaign to reverse the on-going decline of our health service.
Private contractors and business-style competition must be kicked out, and the NHS be rebuilt to provide for everyone's needs - free at the point of use and under democratic control.
- For all NHS services and buildings to be under public ownership.
- Abolish the business competition of internal market, trusts, and 'payment by results'.
- Run and plan the NHS by committees involving health workers and patients as well as government representatives.
- Cancel the debts. Inject immediate cash into the NHS to end the crisis of under-funding.
- Stop cuts and job losses and pay all health workers an above-inflation pay increase.
- Nationalise the pharmaceutical and medical supply industries to end the inflated amounts of money these private parasites drain from the NHS.
- For a socialist programme to end poverty and inequality - the biggest killers and causes of ill-health.