THE Tory Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, announced yesterday that, following the legal period required for consultation, he was implementing the threat made last month to put the South London Healthcare NHS Trust into administration.
From 16th July Lansley’s chosen ‘special administrator’ – Matthew Kershaw, at present the national director for provider delivery at the Department of Health – will ‘assume full control of South London Healthcare NHS Trust replacing the functions of the trust board and assuming the role of the accountable officer’.
This bureaucrat is charged by Lansley not with cutting back on the £150 million deficit that the trust has run up since it was created in 2009 through the amalgamation of three hospitals but with the wholesale privatisation of healthcare in South London.
The cause of this huge deficit is down to the policy of funding major NHS projects through the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) under which private capital was raised on the finance markets to pay for hospital buildings.
These loans then had to be paid back at usurious interest rates over huge periods of time – hospitals and trusts were legally locked into binding contracts that simply could not be repaid.
In the case of the South London Trust, two of its three hospitals – Orpington and Woolwich – were built under PFI, resulting in the trust facing repayments totalling £61 million for this year alone.
Final payments to the banks that own the debt are not due until 2032.
In an effort to bring down the escalating debts, the NHS Trust has already cut costs to the tune of £47 million, but this is not enough for Lansley who has now effectively declared that the NHS hospitals in South London are bankrupt.
What the appointment of an administrator means is quite clear: the NHS, as far as the government is concerned, is just another business and when businesses go bust an administrator is appointed to salvage as much profit as possible for the banks out of the wreckage.
This means closing down those parts that can never be run for a profit and selling off those parts that could be made profitable along with realising any assets by selling off assets such as land, equipment and buildings.
Doctors and nurses will also be sacked as part of the cost cutting.
It has already been noted by health ‘economists’ that one of the problems of the trust, especially the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Woolwich, is that it is sited in a deprived area of London and experiences a very high amount of emergency cases – these emergencies are the most financially expensive.
The drive will be to flog off the potentially profit-making parts of the trust to private medical corporations and close down the expensive A&E departments forcing patients to travel for miles out of the area to get emergency treatment.
In this way the banks can be assured of their profits and the sick can be assured of an early death.
South London may be the first trust to be placed in administration but it won’t be the last.
At its Annual Representatives Meeting last month the BMA stated that between 20 and 50 NHS trusts are at risk.
At this meeting the BMA voted unanimously for an emergency motion calling on the doctors union to campaign for the trusts to ‘remain owned and run by the NHS’.
Lansley’s announcement must be the signal for such a campaign to be launched immediately by the BMA and every other health sector union. It must be a campaign to occupy all threatened hospitals to keep them open and fully functional, and to organise a general strike to bring down this government, to go forward to a workers government and socialism. Only this campaign can defend the NHS today.