Hospital doctors and GPs on Wednesday condemned health minister Lord Darzi’s plan for London as ‘a disaster waiting to happen’ whose effect on NHS hospitals would be ‘carnage’ and applauded a call for occupations and industrial action.
They were speaking at a special conference organised by the British Medical Association (BMA) London Regional Council under the title ‘Darzi’s “Healthcare for London” proposals – the reality behind the myth’.
The conference was open to the public, a first for the BMA.
Listed speaker, consultant surgeon Anna Athow was billed as addressing ‘What happens next?’.
She told the conference: ‘The Darzi Healthcare for London plan is about ending the NHS as we know it.
‘After ten years of privatisation reforms, the plan is now to destroy the two great pillars of the NHS – GP surgeries close to patients’ homes, and district general hospitals (DGHs) providing consultant-led care in the main specialties in a local area.
‘Put in context, the privatisation of public services is being pursued by governments all over Europe, as a response to the global economic crisis.
‘Here, it’s not just the NHS, it’s state education, the Post Office, and civil and council services, which are all being privatised.
‘We must oppose the Darzi Healthcare for London plan.
‘We cannot be bound by the outcomes of these sham consultations.
‘We must give full support to the BMA GPC “Save Our Surgeries” campaign.
‘We should call on the BMA’s Consultants and Juniors Committees to launch a “Save Our District General Hospitals” campaign and officially support local campaigns to keep DGHs open.
‘We should help build Councils of Action in every area to unite staff, local residents, local trade unions and community groups to defend hospitals and surgeries by all means necessary, including local industrial action and sit-ins, like that organised at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson hospital in the 1980s.
‘I think the BMA should call on all the health service unions in NHSTogether and all TUC affiliated unions to coordinate a day of industrial action.
‘This is the 60th anniversary of the NHS. We should demand the restoration of our NHS as a publicly funded and publicly run service, free at the point of use, with universal, equitable and comprehensive care, keeping out the private corporations.
‘If the government continues to privatise the NHS, with no mandate so to do, then we have every right to defend the NHS and change the government.
‘In my view only a socialist government can defend and restore the NHS on the basis of its founding principles.
‘To begin this fight, I propose that this London Regional Conference of the BMA call a march from BMA House to lobby Downing Street, inviting all those in NHSTogether and members of the public, to make clear that we are totally opposed to this destructive Darzi Healthcare for London Plan, and will not have it forced upon us,’ she concluded to applause.
Listed speaker on the impact of Darzi’s proposals on secondary care, consultant in emergency medicine, St Thomas’ Hospital, Dr Kevin O’Kane said: ‘What is Darzi doing to hospitals? – carnage.’
He added: ‘Darzi is repackaging old concepts.
‘Care closer to home, rehabilitation at home – we know that doesn’t work.
‘Polyclinics, the only new thing is they are privately provided.
‘ “Local hospitals” are DGHs with the heart ripped out of them.
‘A hospital with no acute surgery cannot maintain an A&E. That’s what is happening at Chase Farm.’
He warned: ‘Private firms are creaming off elective surgery, thus losing staff – that’s what’s destabilising the DGHs.
‘This plan for “specialist hospitals” – Darzi stands for closing hospitals.
‘Out of 33 acute hospitals in London, between 8-16 are to be closed.
‘The Darzi plan is not based on clinical need.
‘The plan to centralise acute services is to rationalise closures.
‘DGHs are doing most acute work at the moment – 75% of NHS work is done in hospitals.
‘Darzi means massive job cuts.
‘On the plan’s “local decisions”, the Gateway Review is a financial thing, chief executives and finance officers will take decisions not the community or doctors.’
He concluded to applause: ‘Aneurin Bevan said the NHS will exist as a public service as long as people fight for it.
‘Are you prepared to fight for it?’
From the floor, Frank Sweeney told the conference: ‘I’m speaking as a trade unionist.
‘People are prepared to take action to defend the NHS.’
He stressed: ‘Reasoned argument will not change the government’s mind.
‘It’s coming to the crunch at Chase Farm.
‘The Council of Action’s strong monthly pickets have played a role in holding off the rush to closure. We expect the independent reconfiguration panel to recommend to Health Secretary Johnson, the closure goes ahead. when it comes to the crunch we have to be prepared to challenge them.
‘That means occupation, together with the health staff, to keep the hospital open and running.
‘It’s happened before. Tenants are occupying homes against closure and people have occupied hospitals.
‘Finally, I’d propose everyone joining our march in Enfield for Chase Farm on July 26.’
Geriatrics consultant, Dr Natasha Arnold warned: ‘We are now seeing a situation where profitability is coming before healthcare.
‘We are physically having our admissions disallowed.
‘Elderly people are being denied choice – it’s a disaster waiting to happen.’
Speaking on the impact of Darzi on primary care, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA GPs Committee, said: ‘The Darzi plan is a political imperative, most people want their GP surgery to remain.
‘There has been a starvation of investment in GP premises, no new GP contracts and PCTs only offer APMS (Alternative Provider of Medical Services) contracts.
‘In London there is a target of one GP-led health centre per PCT as well as polyclinics.
‘The logical consequence of the proposals is the closure of GP surgeries.
‘Corporations will provide cheaper services with emergency nurses and may bring in nurses from East Europe who are not paid as well.’
He added: ‘Every health trust is rationing care with expensive treatments.’
He insisted: ‘Money should be spent on existing health services.
‘We need to oppose the Darzi plan, personal continuity of care is ultimately what is at stake.
‘The BMA poster campaign is calling on everyone to save our surgeries.’
Dr Ellie O’Sullivan asked earlier: ‘Why are we accepting polyclinics when there has been no evidence they will be better for health or financially viable?’
Barnet and Chase Farm GP Dr Geoff Hinchley warned: ‘They are saying the A&E will remain at Chase Farm but what it will be is a minor injuries unit.
‘It will not be an A&E in any sense of the word. It won’t have surgical wards or an ITU to back it.’
He stressed: ‘Rather than destroy A&E services, which is what Darzi does, we need to support A&E departments.’