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The News Line: News Stop NHS privatisation! Stop bed cuts! Unions must act!
Junior doctors taking strike action against an imposed contract said they were fighting to save the NHS. Now everybody must join this fight
THE GMB has demanded answers over a plan to privatise services at Barnsley Hospital in a desperate bid to save cash.


The trust which runs the hospital lost a massive £16.2 million last year and is now embarking on a frenzied drive to slash costs. But the lion’s share of these losses come from ‘contractual penalties’ from private firms and ‘additional spend on agency staff’.

Unbelievably, these are not the issues addressed in the plan for cut-backs. Instead, the trust envisages even greater out-sourcing of jobs and services to the very same private companies that were responsible for the mess in the first place.

This initially involves the out-sourcing of estates maintenance, portering, procurement and other non-clinical departments, but will eventually involve all non-clinical staff. However, the directors of the private company – Barnsley Hospital Services Limited (BHSS) – are directors and non-executive directors of Barnsley Hospital NHS Trust – exposing a fundamental conflict of interests.

GMB says this raises huge questions over what the directors stand to gain from the new company. Stacey Booth, GMB Organiser, said: ‘Privatisation does not work in health care and it’s not right to inflict this on the people of Barnsley. The Trust claims the new company will actually save money for patient care – but they haven’t explained how.

‘The best way to save money is to keep things in-house and work with us. The fact that the directors of BHSS are directors and non-executive directors of Barnsley Hospital NHS Trust raises a fundamental conflict of interest – not least questions over what these directors can potentially gain from this plan.

‘If savings are to be made, then they should come from executive pay packets that have never saved a single life, or enhanced the care of a sick child or pensioner. GMB believes that those who do the work on the frontline every day to keep the NHS going should not have to worry about their jobs and conditions; and that all hospital services should be brought back – within house – as the first step to financial prudence and simple decency. This is privatisation through the front door – and GMB demands answers from the trust over why they are pushing it through.’

Meanwhile, the RCEM has slammed NHS Chief Stevens’ call for more planned bed cuts.
It stated that, ‘While NHS England’s proposed criteria to mitigate the closure of beds is well intentioned, it should be redundant; the Royal College of Emergency Medicine remains sceptical of any initiative that could further erode the bed base.

‘With attendances and admissions ever increasing, patients presenting at a later stage of life with more acute symptoms, and bed occupancy currently over 95% – way above the safe limit of 85% – all the evidence points to the need for more beds. This is not to mention the impact cuts to social care have had.

‘We already have the lowest number of acute beds per capita in Europe, along with a poor ratio of doctors to patients, yet we appear to be on a downward trend. If we are to get back to safe levels of bed occupancy it should be obvious that we need more beds.

‘There are now so few beds that departments are having to ask patients to sleep in corridors. This cannot continue. The frail and vulnerable should not have to be subjected to such undignified conditions.’

The BMA responded with Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, stating, ‘While the principle of this move sounds sensible, it is astounding that NHS leaders are still talking about cutting the numbers of beds even though we know that patients are being already unfairly let down by a huge lack of beds in our hospitals.

‘Improving patient care must be the number one priority for any service changes and the decisions around providing services should be based on clinical needs.‘At the moment this isn’t happening and there is a real risk that the sustainability and transformation plans are instead being used as a cover for delivering cuts, starving services of resource and patients of vital care.’

Anna Athow, London BMA Deputy Chair told News Line, ‘The time has come when all trade unions must fight to stop the NHS being dismantled and privatised. Trade unions must occupy hospitals where closures are threatened to stop them taking place.
‘Trade unions must make the TUC call a general strike to bring down the Tories and bring in a workers government and socialism.’
 
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