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The News Line: Editorial ‘NHS STANDING ON A BURNING PLATFORM’ – TIME TO DEAL WITH THE ARSONISTS! THE NHS is standing on a ‘burning platform’ is the stark assessment of Professor Sir Mike Richards, the Care Quality Commission’s chief inspector of hospitals.

His dire assessment of the crisis facing the NHS follows an inspection carried out by the commission into 136 acute non-specialist trusts and 18 specialist trusts across England. The CQC inspectors found that 81% of the 136 non-specialist trusts were ‘inadequate’ and in urgent need of improvements to ensure patient safety.

11% of hospital trusts were given the lowest possible rating for safety while none received a rating of ‘outstanding’ in the area of patient safety. According to Richards, the inspection had uncovered ‘very poor care’ in otherwise good hospitals saying: ‘The scale of the challenge that hospitals are now facing is unprecedented. Rising demand coupled with economic pressures are creating difficult-to-manage situations that are putting patient care at risk.’

He went on to say that: ‘The NHS now stands on a burning platform – the need for change is clear, but finding the resources and energy to deliver that change while simultaneously providing safe patient care can seem almost impossible.’

What the report also revealed is the dedication of NHS workers with Richards stating: ‘But compassion is alive and well … Overwhelmingly, we see staff behaving in a caring way, which is supported by what we hear from patients. The unwavering dedication and commitment of staff shines out from our inspection report.’

Also alive and well is the determination of the Tories to drive the NHS into complete bankruptcy regardless of the cost to human lives. This platform of fire was deliberately set alight by them in the drive to impose austerity cuts on the NHS along with every other public service that will force closures and open the way for the wholesale privatisation of every aspect of the welfare state including the NHS.

These are the ‘economic pressures’ that Richards alludes to. As for his call for ‘transformational change’ to meet this unprecedented crisis what exactly does this mean? The Tories are certainly preparing for a transformational change – they are demanding ‘efficiency cuts’ of £22 billion in the NHS budget by 2020.

At the same time, the Tories are using the Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) to smash the NHS, close hospitals and sell the health service off to the giant multi-national health care companies who are circling it like vultures looking to screw huge profits out of a fully privatised system of health.

Already 19 hospitals are earmarked for closure under these plans and more will follow. Driving the Tories is the absolute requirement of a bankrupt British capitalist system to end all state expenditure on the welfare state and turn the clock back to the conditions of the 1930s before there was a public health system free at the point of delivery, back to the days when if you were poor and sick you were left to die.

That is why the Tories will be unmoved by this report, just as they shrugged off every other report, including the recent warning from the Red Cross that the NHS faces a humanitarian crisis, detailing the savage effects of their austerity cuts on the lives and health of the people. No amount of protest or appeals to their humanity will divert the Tories from paying off the debts of the bankers through an all-out war on the NHS and welfare state.

This Saturday will see a massive march in London to defend the NHS. While this march must be given the full support of every worker and young person it cannot be left on the level of just a protest; this fight demands a strategy for winning.

Trade unions must organise that every hospital or ward closure be met with occupations that will keep them open. Above all, the TUC must be forced to call a general strike to bring down the Tories and bring in a workers government and socialism.

These are the demands that the WRP and Young Socialists delegation to the march will be fighting for and we urge everyone to join our delegation and organise a real fight to defend the NHS. It is time to deal with the arsonists!


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