Tory policies to defund and privatise the NHS responsible for Shrewsbury maternity disaster!

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THE INDEPENDENT Ockenden inquiry into maternity provisions at the Shrewsbury NHS Trust has revealed a horrific catalogue of failures contributing to the deaths of 300 babies.

Senior midwife Donna Ockenden who led the review said: ‘The reasons for these failures are clear. There was not enough staff, there was a lack of ongoing training, there was a lack of effective investigation and governance at the Trust and a culture of not listening to the families involved.’

Her investigation also found a culture of bullying, anxiety and fear of speaking out among staff at the Trust ‘that persisted to the current time’.

Bernie Bentick, who worked at the Trust as a consultant obstetrician for almost 30 years, was amongst those who raised numerous concerns with managers about the maternity provisions. He said: ‘I believe there were significant issues which promoted risk because of principally understaffing and the culture.’

He accused hospital bosses of prioritising activity – the number of patients seen and procedures performed – over patient safety.

The Ockenden report is not an indictment of the midwives, nurses and doctors at the Shrewsbury Trust but a massive indictment of the Tory governments that have systematically cut NHS funding and wages to the bone while at the same time imposing unattainable efficiency demands on hospitals.

Hospital bosses demanding ever increasing productivity from a rapidly diminishing medical workforce while threatening and bullying anyone who raised the alarm is the responsibility of successive Tory governments determined to smash the NHS and open the way for private medicine to take over.

According to the Royal College of Midwives (RCM): ‘Midwives and maternity support workers are at breaking point’ with over half of RCM members considering leaving within the next year at a time when England is already suffering a shortage of 2,000 midwives.

In anticipation of this damning report, NHS England earlier this week announced £127 million in funding for maternity services but, as the report has said this is ‘still significantly short’ of the £200-£350 million recommended last year.

This is yet another cut for the maternity services that demonstrates the complete disregard of the Tories for the lives of workers and their children in their never-ending drive to cut spending on the NHS and open the door to the privateers.

The Tory plan to ‘fix’ the NHS by privatising NHS hospitals was revealed yesterday, when new draft guidance to NHS hospitals from NHS England were leaked to the Health Service Journal.

The new guidance instructs NHS hospitals to expand ‘private patient opportunities’ urging them to ‘grow’ more income from private patients as this could be a ‘significant source of material opportunity’.

A number of trusts already make money from private patients and the Tories are intending that this will grow until every NHS hospital in the country is reliant on wealthy private patients, while those who cannot afford to even pay for the essentials of life, let alone expensive medical treatment, will be abandoned.

Professor Pat Price, a leading cancer specialist, said this guidance was ‘shocking and morally outrageous’.

Sally Gainsbury from the Nuffield Trust condemned the guidance, saying: ‘Scarce NHS capacity should be focused and prioritised on treating NHS patients and bring these unacceptable waits down, not capitalising on the growth of the private treatment market on the back of this unprecedented backlog of care.’

This is exactly what the Tories are planning – to turn NHS hospitals into almost exclusively private hospitals by demanding that they fund themselves as government funding is slashed in order to save the money desperately needed to keep this bankrupt capitalist system from collapse.

The Ockenden report and now the latest plans to privatise the NHS out of existence make the question of the trade unions taking action to put an end to the Tories and capitalism a matter of extreme urgency for every worker.

The only way to defend the NHS is for the unions to organise a general strike to kick out the Tories and bring in a workers’ government that will drive the privateers out of the NHS and go forward to building a fully funded health service as part of a socialist planned economy.