THE Chief Executive of the NHS, Sir David Nicholson, had a stark message for hospitals when he told the BBC yesterday that they would either ‘change or die’ in the immediate period ahead.
Nicholson, who takes over as the man responsible for overseeing the Tory coalition plans to transfer 80% of the NHS budget to GP consortia (see page1), in an attempt to soften this pronouncement said that the combination of government reforms and a ‘squeeze’ on finances meant that some hospitals would find the future ‘difficult’.
He further tried to pour oil on troubled waters by insisting that he didn’t ‘expect’ any hospital in England to close completely.
What Nicholson does expect is that ‘Those hospitals whose business model is based on increasing capacity have got to seriously look at the way they operate’. This would entail, according to him, some hospital trusts having to merge with their neighbours leading to a ‘scaling back of services’.
Behind all this civil service mandarin-speak is the reality that hospitals will indeed face closure, either outright or disguised as a merger.
When Nicholson talks about hospitals being faced with the choice ‘change or die’ he is saying unless they accept the government’s new model of privatisation they will certainly die.
The very language of ‘business model’ when applied to the NHS is repulsive.
It places hospitals on the same level as a supermarket trying to decide whether to expand its store capacity to generate more profit, rather than a hospital serving the health needs of a locality.
What Nicholson knows, and what all his soothing words cannot hide, is that the savage cuts made by the Tory-led coalition have already meant that 50,000 jobs have gone in the NHS as local health trusts are forced to cut £20 billion from their budgets.
According to figures obtained from local health trusts in England under the Freedom of Information Act, 24,000 jobs will be lost in hospitals, 10,000 in primary care trusts and 6,000 from mental health trusts.
These jobs are not those of mythical ‘back room’ functionaries, they are doctors, nurses, dentists and administrative staff who play a vital role in running hospitals.
All this, of course, is taking place before Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ initiative for the NHS kicks in.
The white paper on this, outlined earlier this week, makes it plain that the NHS, along with every other part of the public sector, will be forced to accept privatisation.
And that private companies, with their ‘business models’ designed specifically to extract the maximum profit from human suffering, will be given free rein to take over hospitals and GP consortia.
Under these circumstances it is not a question of hospitals facing the choice of ‘change or die’, it has become a choice between the continued existence of the NHS or of this government and the capitalist system.
Working class and middle class families who depend on the NHS have been given no alternative but to take the revolutionary road to defend health care by getting rid of capitalism.
Fighting job losses and the inevitable closure of hospitals, and defeating the destruction of the NHS through the mass privatisation of health services can only proceed through a mass campaign of occupations and mass strike actions to bring down the coalition.
Every hospital or ward closure must be met with an occupation to stop the physical liquidation of the most precious gain made by the working class in the 20th century.
Councils of Action uniting trade unionists and the local community must be built to organise and sustain these occupations and defend the NHS.
At the same time they must mobilise the trade unions for a general strike to bring down the Tory-led coalition, and replace it with a workers’ government and socialism.