Trade unions must take action to stop A&E closures!


IN an attempt to shift the blame for the crisis in the NHS away from the massive cuts inflicted on it by the Tory-led coalition, the National Audit Office has produced a report stating that the real villains are doctors and a population that selfishly persists in living too long.

The report by these government bean counters bemoans the fact that Accident and Emergency admissions have risen sharply over the past five years by 12%, while the number of patients admitted via A&E departments for short stays has more than doubled. This is obviously one of the effects of the huge crisis of capitalism.

The impact of this crisis and the massive multi-billion cuts that the coalition has made and is making to the NHS are putting hospitals under extreme pressure. So much so that as the winter approaches when more elderly people will be rushed into hospitals suffering from the effects of cold – the talk is of an NHS winter breakdown.

The spectre is that, as energy bills shoot through the roof leaving pensioners with the choice between heating and eating, tens of thousands of them will end up in the A&Es, victims of the crisis of capitalism. It is not the NHS that is breaking down, it is the capitalist system that is bankrupt, bust and broken down!

According to the NAO, the dramatic increase in A&E admissions is ‘avoidable’ because these patients should be sent on their way by doctors on seven-day working, to be looked after by GPs also on seven-day working!

The NAO says patients admitted to A&Es are staying put in hospital for ‘longer than is needed’, selfishly taking up bed space.

It s answer to this crisis is simple – all the government needs to do is force hospital doctors to work seven days a week, mostly sending would-be patients on to their GPs whose treatment is to replace the work of A&Es.

GPs, of course, would have to be on duty seven days a week to cope with this demand but, as is being said, this is a price worth paying for savagely cutting the £10 billion currently being spent on A&E services.

The message for the elderly is that it is better for the good of the country that they die in their unheated homes rather than use up valuable resources – money that could be spent on more worthy projects like propping up the bankers.

The report fits in neatly with the whole thrust of the government’s argument that the only way to ‘save’ the NHS is to inflict even more cuts to its budget, and stop people using it.

Their answer to the A&E crisis is to close down A&E departments and leave the ill to die at home.

This week the Tory health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, announced that he will close at least two A&E departments in north west London claiming, without any evidence to back it up, that this would save 130 lives a year by centralising emergency services in five hospitals instead of nine.

This mass closure programme will not be limited to north west London – Hunt intends it to be carried out throughout the country.

Their completely unsubstantiated claim, that closing local A&E departments and replacing them with urgent care and minor injuries units helps healthcare, has been exposed as a lie by evidence from a Nottinghamshire hospital that lost its A&E department two years ago.

The figures from Newark General Hospital show that since closure there has been a 37% rise in emergency patient deaths.

But facts cut very little ice with a government that is determined to slash spending on the NHS to virtually nothing through a programme of mass hospital closures and privatisation in order to save money to pay the debts of the banks.

Now is the time to put an end to this attempt to destroy the NHS. Arguments and petitions will not sway this government. What is required is action by the trade unions. Every A&E department threatened with closure must be kept open through a campaign of union-sponsored occupations and industrial action to bring down the government.

Immediately, the TUC leaders must be told to call a general strike to kick out this government or resign. The only way to save the NHS is to bring down the government and replace it with a workers’ government and socialism.