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The News Line: Editorial Defend the NHS – kick the government out THE final report into the crisis at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Hospital Trust is due to be published in January after a considerable delay.

In fact, the results of the inquiry into the crisis in the Trust, a crisis which came to light in 2007 and which resulted in up to 1,200 patients dying needlessly, have been known for a considerable period of time – this final version names those the public inquiry considers responsible and makes recommendations for NHS reforms to prevent any repetition.

The inquiry found that the deaths were the direct result of a mixture of low staffing levels including a shortage of nurses, lack of equipment and a management regime that was obsessed with achieving targets set by the then-Labour government.

These targets, which had to be met to achieve the governments’ demand for hospitals to become Foundation Trusts, included making cuts of £10 million to the hospital’s budget.

In a damning section, the report found that: ‘Problems at the Trust were exacerbated at the end of 2006/07 when it was required to make a £10 million saving. The Board decided this saving could only be achieved through cutting staffing levels, which were already insufficient. The evidence shows that the Board’s focus on financial savings was a factor leading it to reconfigure its wards in an essentially experimental and untested scheme, whilst continuing to ignore the concerns of staff.’

In November, the Tory Health Minister, Jeremy Hunt, used the Mid Staffs hospital crisis to launch a vitriolic attack on NHS workers branding them as having nothing but ‘contempt and cruelty’ for patients.

This was despite the fact that the inquiry report had clearly pinned the blame on the cuts to staffing, training and equipment allied to the drive by managers to achieve huge financial savings in order to prepare the trust for foundation status and eventual privatisation.

Yesterday, on the eve of the publication of the final report, Hunt was still attempting to divert blame away from financial cuts as the main culprit and place it squarely on the shoulders of NHS staff and an alleged culture of indifference towards patients.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph he states: ‘...but the fact that as many of these problems happened when budgets were rising shows it is not a question of money but of values.’

The fault is still pinned on NHS staff and the ‘culture’ of brutality that Hunt insists exists throughout the NHS.

This defence of spending cuts is scarcely surprising given that the coalition is demanding £20 billion in cuts from the NHS budget – cuts that can only be achieved through massive staffing reductions, ward and bed closures and indeed the mass closure of hospitals – something that the boss of the NHS called for just last week.

In fact, as the report makes clear there was no real increase of funding for front line services under the Labour government, all the money went into gearing hospitals up for Foundation Trust status and introducing private competition into the NHS.

The crisis at Mid Staffs hospital trust was a direct result of the drive by the Labour government to cut the NHS budget and prepare hospitals for privatisation – this drive has been accelerated by the Tory-led coalition to the point where the very existence of the NHS is under threat.

Behind the crisis in the NHS lies the crisis of the entire capitalist banking system and the determination of both past and present governments to end all public funding for the Welfare State and use it in a futile attempt to prevent the banks from sinking into the abyss of complete bankruptcy.

The only way to defend the NHS and every gain of the working class today lies in bringing down this government and going forward to a Workers Government and socialism.
 
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