THAT the record £2.1 billion NHS surplus should coincide with press headlines that the NHS is at breaking point is no accident.
The winter has brought a sickness epidemic with it that has seen A&Es up and down the country overrun with seriously affected patients, while once again ambulances are travelling over a hundred miles to try to find vacant beds for seriously ill patients.
People are being told not to call 999 unless it is an emergency as ambulance services and A&E departments cannot cope with the crisis.
These scenes have not been seen since the worst days of the last Tory government when Bottomley was health secretary.
It is also a fact that record amounts of cash have gone into the £80bn plus health budget.
These sums however have not been used for developing the NHS, but to privatise it.
District General Hospitals are being closed down, or are having their A&E and maternity departments ripped out of them, so that there is now a manufactured ‘surplus’ of thousands of nurses and junior doctors who can’t get jobs.
At the same time, billions are being handed to private hospitals in lush contracts whose only reason for existence is to undermine the NHS.
District General Hospitals are being replaced by non existent care in the community, and GP practices are being replaced by privately managed or owned polyclinics.
Both the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nursing are on record as insisting that the £2.1 billion NHS surplus must be reinvested in patient care ‘rather than clawed back by the Treasury’, to be used to prop up banks.
Dr Jonathan Fielden, Chairman of the BMA’s Consultants Committee, commenting on the NHS surplus said: ‘This money should not be clawed back by the Treasury, or wasted on poor value contracts with commercial providers. It should be reinvested in NHS facilities to drive up further improvements in the quality of care.’
Unison warned yesterday that ‘Ambulance crews and A&E departments are under enormous pressure because of accidents and ill-health brought on by the cold weather, and a major rise in cases of flu and the winter vomiting bug.
‘This is in addition to an overall increase in demand on ambulance services that has seen the number of ambulance responses double in the last ten years.’
It adds: ‘It’s clear that ambulance trusts need more resources to get them through and it’s not fair on staff to pile on the pressure when they have families too . . . . It is clear that if any additional demand presents itself, such as an epidemic or a natural or other disaster, services will not be able to cope.’
The reality is that the Labour government has downsized the NHS and closed so many beds in recent years that it cannot cope with the health demands that winter brings.
Dr Jonathan Fielden, (chairman of the British Medical Association’s consultants committee), stated: ‘We have actually now shrunk the service to a point where we do not have the capacity to flex up during busy periods. We need an urgent review of this system across the country.’
More than a review is needed. What is required is action by the trade unions to halt the NHS cuts and closures and to stop the privatisation of the NHS.
Trade unions must demand that the NHS surplus is used to provide more hospital beds and to keep NHS hospitals open and fully staffed.
The NHS privatisation programme must be stopped and the closure of District General Hospitals halted.
The private medical industry parasite must be thrown out of the NHS.
Instead of less hospitals, nurses and consultants, there must be more of them.
The Labour government has shown in its conduct towards the banks where its priorities lie.
It must be brought down and a workers government brought in that will obtain the revenues needed to expand the NHS by nationalising the drug industry.