FIGURES publicised by Labour’s shadow health secretary, Andy Burnham, have shown that one third of England’s hospitals have been completely full at some time in this new year.
The average occupancy rate of NHS hospitals stood at close to 95 per cent throughout January – and on one single day one in six hospitals were all full to capacity.
Meanwhile, scores of A&E’s, maternity, paediatric and even heart units are set to be closed, enormously slashing capacity, and ending specialised care for millions. Entry into A&E care is to be by ambulance only. For the rest there will be very long journeys over crowded roads, dicing with the lives of patients who need urgent care.
This situation has developed during both Labour and Tory governments. Labour introduced the PFI gold mine for the bankers, under which they have made billions while PFI hospitals have got deeper and deeper into debt, with many of them to be closed.
Labour also introduced Foundation Trusts as a major step towards privatisation, where independent status leading to a relationship with banks and business, outside of the control of the Department of Health, could be achieved provided debts were wiped out.
It is this drive to Foundation Trust status that led to the Staffordshire deaths, where staff were sacked, workloads increased, and untrained workers were made to perform tasks that they could not properly carry out. Under this government-imposed regime, patient care ceased to be primary and gave way to achieving targets at all costs.
One of those involved in the Staffordshire drive to Foundation Trust status, Sir David Nicholson, has risen to become head of the NHS where he has imposed £20bn of cuts in the NHS, with the full support of the government.
The Coalition government has now adopted the tactic of using the crisis that governments have created to try and prove that many more hospitals should be closed and the service privatised.
Health Secretary Hunt has emerged to say that whistle blowers must not be gagged by compromise agreements, when in the case of sacked whistleblowing NHS manager Gary Walker it was the government, the Department of Health, that threatened legal action if he spoke to the BBC in defiance of the gag.
Hunt has now written to all English health trusts calling for a culture of ‘openness’ and urging the NHS not to use gagging clauses to prevent staff from raising concerns about care.
Gary Walker, the former head of a health trust in Lincolnshire, has said he had been forced out of his job and gagged from speaking out about his concerns over patient safety.
In fact, Walker is insisting that any inquiry into the gagging, and his allegation that he was sacked because he refused to put Department of Health targets first, before patient care, be carried out by an independent body and not the government.
He is right. A Department of Health inquiry would be like the situation where the police inquire into complaints against the police force.
The truth is that both Labour and Tory governments have been seeking to engineer the privatisation of the NHS and are responsible for the NHS crisis.
This has now reached the stage where health service workers may be put on trial for manslaughter, to pay the price for the crisis that government policies have caused.
Workers in the UK are determined to defend the NHS and not allow their great gain to be smashed.
To secure the NHS the working class must organise its trade unions to fight all hospital closures with occupations and mass strikes, leading to a general strike to bring the coalition down.
A workers government must be brought in that will secure and develop the NHS by nationalising the banks and all of the major industries, putting them under workers management to be run as part of a socialist economic plan.