Reject Hunt’s hit squads – act to defend the NHS

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TODAY Tory health minister, Jeremy Hunt, is unveiling his plan to send ‘hit squads’ into ten NHS hospital trusts to carry out a witch-hunt against doctors and nursing staff.

Using a report he commissioned from Sir Bruce Keogh, the NHS’s medical director, into the alleged ‘failings’ in fourteen trusts, Hunt had already signalled over the weekend that he intends to use its findings as justification for an all-out onslaught against the staff in these hospitals.

The report, commissioned in the wake of the public outrage over the crisis at Mid Staffordshire NHS trust where up to 1,200 patients are estimated to have died needlessly between 2005 and 2009, is already proving contentious even amongst those who were responsible for compiling it.

According to the report, Mid Staffordshire was not a ‘one-off’. all of the trusts investigated are claimed to have had unacceptably high death rates with the figure of 13,000 ‘needless’ deaths since 2005 being much quoted.

Hunt immediately jumped on this finding claiming: ‘Poor care in the NHS is completely unacceptable’ adding piously: ‘We will act in the best interests of patients and ensure that where problems are found we will take action immediately.’

According to members of the actual inquiry team none of the hospitals investigated posed problems of the magnitude of Mid Staffs.

One inspector was quoted as saying: ‘There wasn’t one where we said: “Oh God, if we’d not gone in there it would’ve been another Mid Staffs”,’ while another said: ‘Some of the problems we found at some of the trusts were things that you could easily find if you looked at any batch of hospitals, even good ones.’

Their fear – that Hunt will misrepresent the inquiry findings and use them as the launch pad for an all-out onslaught against doctors, nurses and hospitals as part of the government’s drive to privatise the whole of the NHS – is entirely justified.

Following the report into mid Staffs, Hunt immediately blamed ‘uncaring’ nurses and claimed that there exists a ‘normalisation of cruelty’ in the NHS.

The only people who do not stand accused by Hunt and the coalition government are the real culprits.

As the inquiry into Mid Staffs clearly showed, the crisis was caused by the drive by management to slash spending in the hospital in order to make it ready for foundation status.

Savage cuts to staff and equipment in order to fulfil the Labour government’s push to prepare hospitals for foundation trust status and their eventual privatisation were directly responsible for all those needless deaths.

Hunt will, however, use this inquiry to set up ‘hit squads’ who will go in and turn hospitals upside down searching for anything that will justify declaring a hospital to be ‘failing’ and placed in ‘special measures’ – in much the same way as Ofsted reports have been used in schools to force them into academy status and open them up to private business taking over.

While the senior managers, who faithfully carry out government orders to close A&E departments and cut staffing to the bone, will be left unscathed, doctors and nurses will be held to blame, and the whole ethos of the NHS as a free at the point of delivery service will be held responsible for any failings unearthed by Hunt’s team of witch-finders.

The fact is that under this bankrupt capitalist system the NHS is viewed as simply a luxury that capitalism can no longer afford.

Equally, the working class and middle class can no longer afford to keep this rotten system going any longer.

The time is more than ripe to defend the NHS in the only way possible, by demanding that the TUC call an immediate general strike to bring down the government and replace it with a workers government that will ensure the future of a national health service.