ON Thursday midwives handed in a petition to 10 Downing Street condemning the government on the grounds that it was putting the lives of mothers and babies at risk by its failure to provide adequate funding for midwifery services in the UK.
They were demanding that 10,000 additional midwives be trained to provide the minimum of midwifery services that are required, and warned that unless this is done mothers and children will die.
Yesterday the Association of Surgeons in Training (AST) issued a statement that British hospitals are ‘running out of surgeons’ and that out of 1,096 trainee surgeons surveyed by the body, 90 per cent said they were working more than the maximum of 58 hours a week.
In August when the European Working Time Directive will be applied to the UK, the maximum working week will be 48 hours.
This means that hospitals will have to be closed, and patients turned away.
The AST says: ‘There are simply not the surgeons in the UK to fill the gaps when every doctor’s hours are cut to a 48 hours per week maximum.
The survey showed that at the moment there is a significant under-reporting of hours worked by trainees, and that only 25 per cent of surgeons think their human resource departments accurately reflect their actual working hours.
85 per cent come in to do surgery on their days off, and more than two-thirds reported a deterioration in the quality of training and operative skills as a result of the new working patterns.
The NHS is in fact being downsized with thousands of nurses and junior doctors losing their jobs to clear the way for privatisation.
That the NHS is now being thrust backwards, is being proved by the inability of the service to return to single sex wards.
This has reached the point where the Labour Health Secretary has been ‘rattled’ by the fact that Labour has been unable to end mixed sex wards despite the election pledges of three Labour governments.
According to a leaked document, Health Secretary Alan Johnson has spoken in the cabinet of his frustration that Labour’s pledge has proved beyond its capacity to deliver.
It seems that Johnson is on the brink of resignation after his reported remark that ‘sane and rational arguments about why it can’t be done no longer cut it with me, it’s going to happen’.
Labour pledged to end mixed-sex accommodation in both its 1997 and 2001 manifestos. Almost eight years later the task is beyond a Labour government whose number one aim is to privatise the NHS, close up to 26 District General Hospitals in the Greater London area and replace them with polyclinics and care in the community.
The capitalist financial collapse has hardened the government’s conviction that the country can no longer afford to run the kind of NHS that was brought in in 1948.
This crisis means that midwives, junior doctors and nurses have to be culled in order to remove the district generals, and to drive forward NHS privatisation.
Yet two weeks of severe winter weather has shown how badly a proper NHS is needed, with thousands of people flocking into accident and emergency departments requiring treatment and requiring beds that are no longer there.
The bulk of NHS funding has been diverted into preparing the privatisation of the NHS and its downsizing, with health rationing and even payment for treatment now being openly raised, and to be tested in pilot schemes.
The answer to the 48 hour limit to the working week is to train more doctors, surgeons, midwives and nurses.
To do this, the privateers must be driven out of the NHS, the drug industry must be nationalised to slash drug prices, and the PFI financial scam ended, with the PFI hospitals being taken back into the NHS.