HEADING FOR MAJOR CRISIS! – says BMA’s ‘London’s NHS on the Brink’

North East London Council of Action demonstration in Enfield last June demanding that Chase Farm Hospital be kept open
North East London Council of Action demonstration in Enfield last June demanding that Chase Farm Hospital be kept open

Hospital services in London will be closed and down-graded as healthcare in the capital heads towards ‘a major financial and organisational crisis’, a new BMA report said yesterday.

The report, ‘London’s NHS ON THE BRINK’ says that it is expected that from 2011 there will be a freeze on NHS budgets, with real term cuts of £5 billion by 2017. Last year’s London NHS budget was £13 billion.

London has 14.8 per cent of the English population, but could face a much higher share of expected cutbacks.

The capital has more mental health patients per head of population than other English regions, a rising patient activity and a number of very expensive Private Finance Initiative (PFI) hospital schemes.

Repayments to PFI projects will have a lifetime cost of around £16.7 billion – more than six times the basic cost of the buildings.

NHS London proposals include:

• To reduce the number of people going to hospital accident and emergency departments by 60 per cent and the number going to hospital out-patients by 55 per cent.

• Diverting millions of patients to unproven ‘polysystems’ that haven’t yet been built, which would cut £1.1 billion from hospital budgets in London, forcing wide-scale cutbacks and closures.

• A 66 per cent reduction in staffing of non-acute services, includes community services for older people and district nurses, and a 33 per cent cut in the length of GP appointment times.

• Many of London’s district general hospitals would be reduced to a lesser ‘local hospitals’ network leaving just a handful of ‘major acute’ hospitals.

• There are to be annual reductions in ‘tariff’ that determines how much hospitals are paid per item of treatment.

Requests to release the confidential report by US-based consultancy McKinseys under the Freedom of Information Act, were refused by NHS London.

Chairman of the BMA’s London Regional Council, Dr Kevin O’Kane, said today: ‘While we recognise that there are problems with healthcare delivery in London, we are extremely worried that plans to cut services are being kept secret.

‘If people realised we are heading for a financial meltdown involving cuts in bed numbers and hospitals closing or being down-graded, they would demand the opportunity to make their voices heard.’

The London Regional Council believes that NHS market reforms are partly to blame for the damage to the health service in London and elsewhere.

The BMA’s campaign, Look After Our NHS, is calling for an NHS that:

• Provides high quality, comprehensive healthcare for all, free at the point of use.

• Is publicly funded through central taxes, publicly provided and publicly accountable.

• Significantly reduces commercial involvement.

• Uses public money for quality healthcare, not profits for shareholders.

• Cares for patients through co-operation, not competition.

• Is led by medical professionals working in partnership with patients and the public.

• Seeks value for money but puts the care of patients before financial targets.

• Is fully committed to training future generations of medical professionals.