Axe the privateers – Defend NHS beds

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THE BMA yesterday condemned the Reform report, ‘Fewer Hospitals, more competition’, stating in response to the Reform privatisation manifesto that ‘bed closures will be disastrous’.

Dr Mark Porter, Chairman of the BMA’s Consultants Committee, continued to say that ‘Cutting beds for purely financial reasons would be immoral and catastrophic for patient care.’

In fact the Reform ‘experts’ have a novel line that the best way to improve healthcare is to close hospitals and get rid of 30,000 beds. This is in fact the recipe for contracting out ‘care in the community’ to private companies and privately owned or managed polyclinics.

This change, we are asked to believe, will increase the standard of care, when all it is meant to do is slash the NHS to pieces, because both Labour and the Tories are no longer prepared to finance the NHS.

The Reform ‘Alice in Wonderland’ propaganda, on behalf of the government and the privateers, which argues that spending less on the NHS will improve treatment, is a very sick, cynical joke.

Reform states that hospital closures are vital to the survival of the NHS. It wants care shifted into the local communities to prevent costly hospital admissions.

In the spirit of ‘Reform’, the London Strategic Health Authority has already published a plan to reduce bed numbers in the capital by a third.

In fact Reform, and all of the others who are seeking to destroy the NHS and restore the primacy of private medicine in the UK, are banking on the capitalist crisis, and the savage cuts policy, leading to the mass closure of NHS hospitals and their replacement by privately-run and privately-owned polyclinics. Their propaganda is to prepare the way for taking the axe to the NHS!

The sick and the old and the infirm will have to endure care in the community, i.e. being visited once a week or month by the employee of a private contractor to see if they are still alive. That’s all the care they will get!

2010 will be the last year of growth for the health budget and it has been estimated by the Institute for Fiscal Studies that by 2017 the service will face a ‘black hole’ of up to £41bn.

The NHS has already reduced hospital beds by nearly half since 1987, from 270,000 to 160,000 in England, now a new slashing of tens of thousands of beds is being prepared.

In fact, special bodies have for a number of years been simulating scenarios, or playing war games, to work out where the NHS budget has to be slashed and the means for doing it.

The King’s Fund is one of these bodies. Their recent ‘war game’ resulted in the ‘Windmill 2009 – NHS response to the financial storm’ report.

It begins its exposition with the following statement: ‘The health service is about to enter a new era.

After years of unprecedented growth, it faces the prospect of unprecedented austerity. Many of those responsible for running and paying for local health care services are aware that the good times are coming to an end, yet, understandably, there is uncertainty about the nature and extent of the challenges ahead.’

A functioning NHS that is able to provide free quality care at the point of need is here cynically labelled ‘the good times’. The reality is that ‘unprecedented growth is to be replaced by ‘unprecedented austerity’, the ‘bad times’.

It is not that hospital-led care has become the cause of illness and disease, it is merely a cash question, that British capitalism is broke and wants to see the NHS terminated. Organisations like the King’s Fund are developing tactical scenarios, drawn up by civil servants, including high officials of the Department of Health, for replacing the NHS with private health care.

The King’s Fund observes that in the current situation ‘it is clear that the normal process of delivering NHS “efficiencies” will not be enough. Given the scale of the savings that need to be made, doing a bit more of the same is not a viable option. There is a need in each area for a radical step change in how services are provided, where, and to whom.’

Their ‘storm scenario’ simulation event concludes with a handbook of policies for NHS privatisation to be carried out after the next general election. However, workers will defend the NHS. They understand that it is capitalism that has failed, not the NHS, and that it is capitalism that will have to go!