‘THE TUC must take action including a general strike and be prepared to call out workers to defend our NHS.
‘It is the most precious thing we own in this country and the labour movement must take a lead in defending it,’ President of the Bakers Union Ian Hodson told News Line yesterday.
Hodson added: ‘If we don’t stand up and defend it, we we will lose it, it is the most important public service anywhere in the world.’ Hodson was responding to a leaked Tory government plan to make the biggest cuts in the history of the NHS – £23bn – uncovered by an investigation by campaigners 38 Degrees yesterday.
This has caused immediate alarm and anger across all communities and health unions at the prospect of nationwide hospital closures. Wards, A&E’s and entire District General Hospitals are to be axed under the proposals. As many as 44 hospitals’ essential services across the country would be forced to close if the £23bn cuts go ahead.
Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs), have been drawn up for each area of England to axe the hospitals and accelerate the formation of ‘new models of care’ – market-style structures as in the US. They are designed to be rapidly privatised. The STPs are to be used to privatise the NHS!
Lara Carmona, RCN Associate Director told News Line: ‘Until NHS finances can be placed on a better long-term footing, there is a danger that poor long-term decisions could be made in order to plug financial gaps in the short term.’
Dr Mark Porter, BMA chair of council, said: ‘This is a consequence of a health service which is cripplingly underfunded. We’re still seeing hospitals and GP surgeries at breaking point, waiting times too high, crushing pressure on mental health services and cuts to the public health budget.
‘The majority of trusts are in the red and the NHS doesn’t have enough staff or resources to meet demands. It doesn’t have to be like this – spending on healthcare is a choice. It’s simply a case of how much the government wants to prioritise the NHS in England.
‘While it’s important for the NHS to be financially stable, we simply cannot do this in a way that risks quality of care and will increase demand in the future. We absolutely do not want to see health funding being diverted to cover shortfalls in other areas.
‘This is also completely at odds with government plans to expand seven-day services. On the one hand you have the government saying they want to expand services across the week but then trusts are being asked to make plans to scale services back.
This just shows the widening gulf between what the government is saying, versus what it is actually doing, with our health service.’
Head of Health and Social Policy at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) Sean O’Sullivan said: ‘In England we remain 3,500 full-time midwives short and services are being kept afloat by the sheer hard work and dedication of staff.’
l In the Black Country, there are plans for major STP changes to frontline services at Midland Metropolitan Hospital including the closure of the hospital’s A&E. The plans also propose to close one of two District General Hospitals as part of a planned merger. By 2021, the health and social care system in the Black Country is projected to be £476.6m short of the funds it needs to balance its books while maintaining the same level of care for patients – this means privatisation!
• In Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, there are plans to reduce the number of hospitals in the area from three to two. By 2021, the health and social care system in the area will be £700m short of the money it needs to balance its books while maintaining the same level of care for patients.
• In Suffolk and North East Essex, the plan refers to STP ‘reconfiguration of acute services waithin the local hospital, Colchester Hospital University Trust’.
• In Dorset, hospital beds are at risk and a funding shortage of £158 million is predicted in five years. Consideration is being given for ‘consolidation’ of hospitals and acute services.
• In West, North and East Cumbria, the public plan refers to ‘reconfiguration of all of the services … including for acute and community hospital services, maternity services and mental health services’.