Workers and students at Bart’s and the Royal London hospitals are shocked and angry over the private finance initiative (PFI) crisis that threatens the existence of Bart’s and the development of the Royal London.
News Line spoke to several of them last Tuesday.
Bart’s radiography student Daniel Shoebridge said: ‘They told us PFI was the only game in town, but now they are saying it’s too expensive.
‘The scheme was started in 1998. Everyone said at the time it was too expensive.
‘The phrase at the time was it was “like getting a mortgage on a credit card”.
‘It seems the cards really were stacked.
‘Now we’re being told it’s too expensive bit it’s gone on too long now, we can’t afford to go back on it.
‘We would lose a hospital. And our department is very good.’
Fire alarm engineer Chris Kavanagh was working at Bart’s on Tuesday with a team of contractor’s engineers.
He said: ‘It’s rubbish what’s happening to the hospitals.
‘You’ve got to keep them open.
‘It’s not just here, it’s all over the country.
‘We had the same thing in Sheppey. The old hospital was closed down.
‘They built a new one and now it’s down to two wards.
‘The TUC should take a lead on this and take action.
‘There should be a national demonstration at least.
‘The NHS has been messed up for years, it’s time it was sorted out.’
First year medical student, Ellie Hyde said: ‘It’s unfair to put the hospital under threat and, especially from our point of view, the medical school.
‘For us, after paying fees, we at least want a job at the end of our studies.
‘But if you stop the courses halfway, you’d have to start all over again somewhere else.
‘Shutting the medical school may save money in the short term but in the long term everyone will lose out.’
Fellow student Bernadine Murtagh added: ‘It’s important to keep Bart’s open, because it’s the oldest medical school in the country.
‘We think it’s the best.
Paul Anwyl, a dialysis equipment engineer, told News Line: ‘There are obviously a couple of issues to address here.
‘One is PFI – whether it’s the right route to go down. If you don’t really agree with PFI, you might see this as the inevitable result of PFI.
‘But we face a situation where, not even at the eleventh hour but almost the twelfth, we are having the plug pulled.
‘These are circumstances that are not really under control of the people at the hospital.
‘The hospitals are going to be kept open. Whether the new hospitals will be built or not is the question.
‘I think it will be a bad thing if it doesn’t go through.
‘The plans have been made for a long time in the making to address the needs of the people of east London.
‘It will be a blow if they don’t proceed.
‘When the Labour government came to power we thought that was going to be the end of PFI. We’re paying for it now.’
Speaking for doctors, Scott, an assistant consultant, referred to the letter from 1,000 doctors appealing to Blair: ‘Everyone would be in agreement with the letter that went in the Times.
‘It would be very unjust to the people if they want to destroy the hospitals that serve them.
‘It’s a huge area and Bart’s and the London is the only cardiac and cancer centre serving east London.
‘There’s no capacity at the other hospitals to take the huge amount of work that goes on at the trust.
‘The PFI and full redevelopment has been proposed with government backing and should be re-instated.’
Former Labour health minister, St Pancras and Holborn MP Frank Dobson was being interviewed by a TV crew at Bart’s.
He told News Line: ‘It’s a scandal and it’s a betrayal.
‘Lots of people are concerned with the diminished trust in politicians.
‘The prime minister stood on the steps of Bart’s when when he was leader of the opposition and promised it would be saved.
‘When he came to government, he said it would be saved – now it’s in danger again.’
At the Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel, catering worker Raja Lingham said: ‘We don’t know what will happen to us.
‘They’ve told us they will keep our NHS pensions.
‘The company Skanska has taken over the hospital.
‘They’ve already re-built part of the hospital.
‘Skanska says they have been a success around Europe.
‘The NHS is good. We don’t know what will happen to it.
‘The Labour government has come in and is selling off everything. Nobody knows what’s going on.
‘Bart’s is closing down. They are bringing it all here – very soon.
‘The contract goes on till 2043.
‘They are cutting down on staff.
‘Two or three years ago, the government said it had waiting times of 4-6 hours. Now they’ve got a Walk-In centre. It’s quicker but it’s not a good service.’
A London hospital doctor who did not wish to be named because of trust police, said: ‘It’s a shame that the facilities are not going to be adequate for this population, that is my concern as a doctor.
‘It’s one of the poorest regions in the UK.
‘The hospital has been starved of resources for years. It was hoped there would be a development.
‘Now I’m worried for the community.’
Catering worker Rosales added: ‘I didn’t think this was going to happen.
‘There are so many changes and they are not good.
‘There’s more managers than the labourers.
‘It should be more labourers than managers because we do all the work.
‘They’ve cut too much. They’ve cut the hours.
‘When I started working in the NHS, it was forty hours a week but now its thirty-seven and a half hours.
‘Our wages stay the same but everything else is going up – fares, bills, food are all going up.’
Refuse porter Bill Hall declared: ‘It’s a shambles!
‘Our working conditions are dangerous.
‘The laundry is coming down. The restaurant is coming down next week – it’s a brand new building, I don’t know why they’re taking it down.
‘I don’t want to know anything about PFI, I want to stay in the NHS. I want the pensions to stay in the NHS.
‘They want to close Bart’s.
‘The government has never put enough money into the NHS.
‘The doctors say there is going to be a new hospital, now the government says it could close down.
‘The unions should be taking action over this but the union leaders don’t do anything.’