|The News Line: Editorial
Saturday, 10 January 2015
Answer NHS crisis with general strike and occupations
THIS week saw the crisis in the NHS reach breaking point with at least 17 hospitals in England declaring they faced a ‘major incident’ over A&E services and were being forced to resort to emergency measures to cope with the number of patients seeking emergency treatment.
Performance targets achievement, for patients in A&E to be seen within four hours, dropped to its lowest level in ten years as hospitals tried to deal with an influx of patients at a time when staffing levels and resources have been cut to the bone by the Tory-led coalition.
Behind this crisis lies the simple fact that since 2010 it is estimated that in excess of 30 A&E and maternity units have closed across England – in October plans were revealed for this number to be rapidly increased before the general election by a further 33.
This toxic mix of cuts and chronic underfunding has led the NHS to breaking point.
The response of the Tories was predictably to blame the patients themselves for going to A&E departments in the first place.
As for Labour, Miliband was quick to blame the Tories for the crisis, citing cuts to social care, the closure of walk-in centres and the ‘damaging’ reorganisation of the NHS under the coalition.
What Miliband didn’t dare say, was that this ‘damaging’ reorganisation was started under the previous Labour governments – the Tories were carrying on policies instigated by Blair and Brown.
It was back in 2007, under a Labour government, that their leading health advisor, Lord Darzi, announced his ‘Framework for Action Plan’ which proposed smashing the fundamental institutions of the NHS – GP services and District General Hospitals – and replacing them with ‘Polyclinics’.
The plan envisaged that 50% of A&E patients could be shifted from hospitals to walk-in centres, allowing expensive A&E departments to be closed wholesale, along with entire hospitals.
Under the Darzi plan, the number of hospitals in London would be cut from 32 to 8 acute hospitals!
As for the ‘Polyclinics’, their structure left them wide open to being taken over by private health care companies – the Darzi plan was nothing short of a blueprint for the privatisation of the NHS.
The Labour government had already flung the NHS open to the privateers when the then Labour chancellor, Gordon Brown, gleefully adopted the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) started under the Major government.
Under PFI, the banks lent big business the cash to build the hospitals, which they then leased to the NHS over 30 years making a gigantic profit in the process, as massive interest payments accumulate.
This left hospitals sinking under the weight of insurmountable debt – just ripe for Labour or Tory governments to declare them bankrupt and in need of a full takeover by the private health care companies.
It was the Cambridgeshire hospital of Hinchingbrooke – which although not subject to PFI had been artificially loaded down with debt – that was to be the first NHS hospital to be completely privatised.
The privatisation process was started by the Labour government which put the hospital out to tender in 2009 and drew up a shortlist of three private bidders.
The contract to run Hinchingbrooke was finally awarded to Circle by the coalition in 2010, since when it has consistently been praised by the Tories as a great privatisation ‘success’.
This success story ended yesterday when Circle announced that it was dumping the contract because it was ‘unsustainable’ due to pressure on A&E and government ‘funding cuts’.
Unable to screw a profit out of the hospital, the privateers are running away, leaving the NHS to pick up the pieces.
This is the grim reality of public sector cuts and privatisation, enthusiastically embraced by Labour and relentlessly pursued by the Tories in order to bail-out a bankrupt capitalist system.
For the working class there is no choice between the NHS and saving capitalism – capitalism must go.
The demand must be for the TUC to call a general strike to bring down the government and go forward to a workers government and a socialist society.
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