Local AFL-CIO leaders and trade unionists from across the United States were in Washington on Tuesday and Wednesday to ask members of Congress to get rid of tax cuts for the top two per cent and say no to cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
The lobby fly-in day coincided with a new state by state report released by the AFL-CIO detailing how many Americans across the country would be negatively impacted if Congress makes cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
After labelling NHS staff as little more than monsters Hunt proceeded to offer up his solution to the crisis in the NHS, a solution that revolves around getting another private health think-tank, the Nuffield Trust, to look at the feasibility of introducing an ‘Ofsted-style’ system of grading for hospitals and care homes.
This system would be similar to the grading system used in schools where Ofsted inspectors regularly descend upon them to ‘assess’ individual teachers and the overall performance of the school.
The result of the inspection is a grading of either excellent or failure – Ofsted has recently dispensed with the category of ‘satisfactory’ and placed these schools in the ‘failure’ bin.
These Ofsted reports form the basis for driving schools out of the local authority control and into Academy status where they are taken over and run by private companies or church groups.
This is the real aim of Hunt’s vicious attack – to lay the ground for a system that will enable him to declare hospitals and staff as ‘failing’, and forcing through closure or privatisation and mass sackings of staff.
In handing the review to the Nuffield Trust, Hunt has picked with care; they have been calling for increased productivity in the NHS to meet the £20 billion cuts forced on the health service by the government, while last October they issued a report insisting that the NHS had much to learn from the American private health care-for-profits system.
Hunt singled out the crisis in Mid-Staffordshire hospital trust that came to light in 2007 as justification for his attack.
That crisis – in which an estimated 1,200 patients died unnecessarily as a result of inadequate treatment – was the subject of an independent inquiry, the results of which, far from supporting Hunt’s crusade to slash NHS funding and privatise hospitals, stands as a complete rebuttal to him.
The report found that the deaths were due to a mixture of low staffing levels, inadequate nursing, lack of equipment, poor training and bad management, all compounded by making huge cuts in order to get Foundation Trust status.
The Final Report Of The Independent Inquiry Into Care Provided By Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust found that: ‘Problems at the Trust were exacerbated at the end of 2006/07 when it was required to make a £10 million saving. The Board decided this saving could only be achieved through cutting staffing levels, which were already insufficient. The evidence shows that the Board’s focus on financial savings was a factor leading it to reconfigure its wards in an essentially experimental and untested scheme, whilst continuing to ignore the concerns of staff.’
It strongly criticised the ‘obsession’ managers had with meeting government-imposed targets ‘to such an extent that patient care is no longer a priority’.
Now Hunt proposes to impose an even more draconian regime of targets through Ofsted-style inspections designed to fail hospitals and provide a smokescreen for hospital closures and mass sackings and the privatisation of what remains.
The NHS, and the working class as a whole, has no future under this government. It must be brought down and replaced with a workers government that will increase NHS funding to meet all medical needs through expropriating the bosses and the bankers.