Trade Unions Must Stop Labour Destroyng NHS

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Youth in London burning the US flag in October 2001 after the war on Afghanistan began
Youth in London burning the US flag in October 2001 after the war on Afghanistan began

THANKS to the Labour government’s health market the NHS is on the brink of a large number of hospital trust closures and thousands of redundancies.

Even three quarters of NHS bosses have had to report in a recent survey that patient care will suffer because of the current cash crisis. A quarter of trusts consulted said they had made recruitment freezes, while two-thirds of acute trusts have had to close wards, the survey of 117 acute, primary care and mental health trusts in the ‘Health Service Journal’ revealed.

A feature of the health market is the building of new hospitals utilising the Private Finance Initiative. Under it, entrepreneurs build the new hospital, always with less beds than the hospitals that it is replacing, plus a number of private wards. They then lease the hospital to the NHS for 30 years, leaving the NHS trust to pay tens of millions a year, over the 30 years, to them, making a huge profit on their expenditure.

NHS trusts cannot cope with this and go into deficit, heading for bankruptcy. This crisis has reached the point where Labour is reviewing the deal whereby a new ‘Bart’s and the London NHS Trust’ is to be built at a cost of £1.2 billion (double the original estimate), a huge burden that the trust will have to carry over 30 years and repay with interest.

Labour’s solution to this crisis of their own making is to consider shutting down the world famous Bart’s – not abandon the PFI.

Another feature of the health market is payment by results. The John Radcliffe NHS trust in Oxford recently reported that this meant that it ‘received’ £2,000 for a heart treatment that cost it £4,000 to carry out, while the government paid the private sector, under its partnership policy, £8,000 for the same operation.

The government is consciously starving NHS hospitals of cash to fatten up the private sector.

It is already negotiating with the private sector to take over groups of ‘failed’ NHS hospitals, and to be rewarded with big fees and fat contracts out of the NHS budget for doing it.

At the same time as the NHS is being starved and the private sector fattened, Labour is seeking to turn the centre of NHS health care away from hospital treatments, to prevention by care in the community.

By financially starving the NHS, Labour is encouraging the closure of A&Es all over the country, saying that at least one third of A& E patients have no need to go there for treatment in the first place.

The government itself predicts a £620 million deficit in the NHS for the 2005-6 financial year, while the Royal College of Nursing says the deficit will reach £1 billion and that over three thousand jobs will be lost.

Earlier this week Treasury officials warned the Health Secretary to prepare for a spending squeeze.

Gordon Brown’s Treasury says the NHS is likely to see real term growth of less than four per cent after 2007-8 – this compares with the seven per cent increase it has enjoyed since 1999.

This cut in expenditure will usher in a mass of hospital closures. Now is the time when the trade unions must act to defend the NHS. Labour must not be allowed to destroy it and prepare the way for the Tories to restore health care based on health insurance with private companies.

There is only one way to defend the NHS and that is for the trade unions to bring down the Blair government to go forward to a workers’ government that will carry out socialist policies.