THE TORY government has launched its new offensive in the war against the NHS, and this time it is an attack by stealth.
Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) have been drawn up by 44 STP boards. However, what these plans entail remained a secret until some of the details were leaked last week.
Under huge pressure from campaign groups, and alarm by some councillors, four of the 44 plans have been published. These plans show that by ‘Sustainability’ they mean further deep and savage cuts to the NHS and by ‘Transformation’ they mean privatisation.
STP boards were silently created between January and March at the beginning of the year to implement the Head of NHS England, Simon Steven’s ‘Five Year Forward View’. The ‘Five Year Forward View’ boasts that the NHS will deliver £22bn of ‘annual savings’ (cuts) in five years’ time.
‘Efficiency targets’ are to be reached by cutting NHS staff, meaning that there will be many more patients for every nurse, by selling off NHS assets and by closing down any service which is deemed as ‘unsustainable’.
In a document produced by NHS England in July entitled: ‘Strengthening Financial Performance and Accountability in 2016/2017’, NHS England writes: ‘By the end of July STPs should have reviewed services which are unsustainable … They should have developed plans to reprovide these services in collaboration with other providers.’
In other words, bring in the private providers to run ‘unsustainable’ NHS services – wholesale privatisation! This has made it clear that all the cuts and closures that the NHS has suffered in the last six and a half years since 2010 are not the main cuts – they were the pre-cuts, the big cuts are coming in now.
In the last few years, we have seen the closure of the A&E, maternity and children’s departments at Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield, the closure of the A&Es at Central Middlesex and Hammersmith Hospitals in west London, the closure of the Maternity and Charlie Chaplin Children’s Ward at Ealing Hospital in west London. The London Chest Hospital in Bethnal Green east London, established in 1848 was completely shut down in April 2015.
These are just some of the closures in London alone. The complex heart surgery for children at the Glenfield Children’s Heart Centre in Leicester, the children’s heart surgery at the University Hospital of South Manchester and the children’s heart surgery at the Royal Brompton in London are all under threat of closure.
Now we face the STP offensive to cut, close and privatise the NHS. The working class fought tooth and nail to establish the NHS built on three founding principles: that it meet the needs of everyone, that it be free at the point of delivery, that it be based on clinical need, not ability to pay.
Every single man, woman and child in this country relies on the NHS from cradle to grave, and the entire weight of the working class must be mobilised to defend it.
However, the great weakness of the Tory government is being exposed by the fact that they have had the Sustainability and Transformation Plans drawn up in secret.
The STPs mean the mass closure of A&E, maternity and children’s services. They must be put a stop to at all costs. New findings from a poll of 99 clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) reveal that one in three intends to close or downgrade Accident and Emergency departments, while one in five expects to close consultant-led maternity services, forcing women in labour to travel further. One quarter anticipate job cuts in hospitals.
The Tories know that they will have to fight a national movement of millions that will defend the NHS. What is lacking is the leadership necessary to win the struggle. This is shown by the fact that all of the TUC-led trade unions were willing to stand by and watch the junior doctors fight alone.
This is why a revolutionary leadership must be built in the trade unions prepared to lead the working class in a general strike to smash the Tories and bring in a workers government. This is the only answer to the STP onslaught!