Hardly a day goes by without some report outlining the crisis facing the National Health Service. This crisis is a consequence of the drive toward privatisation and the most severe financial cuts in the NHS's history under the government's health 'reforms'.
Health workers demonstrate at Whipps Cross hospital in East London, photo Paul Mattsson
Roger Davey, Unison, Health Service Group Executive (personal capacity)Even NHS financial directors are predicting massive job losses, ward closures, and drastic service cuts as they struggle to make savage 'efficiency cuts' and prepare for the re-organisation of the NHS - ie privatisation. In fact, primary care trusts (PCTs) are already frantically cutting services in order to balance the books before they are due to be replaced by GP consortiums.
One of the ways that cuts are being made is the 'rationalisation of operations', a move that has been severely criticised by the Federation of Surgical Speciality Associations (FSSA), which represents about 15,000 surgeons.
According to FSSA an increasing number of patients are being denied surgery, including hips, spinal and even some cancer surgery.
In order to cut costs some PCTs are even restricting the number of patients who can have a hysterectomy, or even have babies with a planned caesarean section. Increasingly these surgical procedures are deemed to have a low or no clinical value, despite evidence to the contrary. It can safely be predicted that the definition of 'low value surgical procedures' will be expanded to cover much of what the NHS provides as the financial crisis deepens.
Of course this is all good news for the private sector.
One major health company, Spire Healthcare, recently conducted a survey of over 500 GPs which discovered that not only were cuts being made to the so-called 'non urgent' operations, but also waiting times were rising remorselessly for a whole series of treatments, including cardiology and oncology (cancer treatment). Increasingly, more patients will go private in order to receive care, creating demand and profit for the ruthless health care corporations.
Foundation trustsAlso, anticipating this development, foundation hospitals are planning to expand the provision of private health care now that the Tories have lifted the cap on it. This all adds up to the end of comprehensive NHS provision, and the acceleration of a two-tier service - one for the rich, and one for the rest of us.
Although the government is now saying it will 'pause and listen', in reality there is no slowing down in the implementation of their plan. While it may be slightly modified, the thrust and goal remain the same. That is, NHS finances will be transferred to GP-based consortiums, themselves likely to be absorbed by private companies.
These organisations, accountable only to shareholders, will purchase the cheapest possible care from the private sector, or foundation trusts, who themselves are in transition towards private health care companies. In effect it is a complete programme of privatisation which will have a devastating impact on all our lives.
The government has declared war on the NHS and in response the health unions should be mounting a massive campaign, including strike action, to defend the NHS and those who work in it. Socialist Party members will continue to demand a one-day public sector strike as part of an overall strategy to defeat this rotten coalition government.
- Stop the cuts. For a fully funded, publicly owned NHS
- End all privatisation through GP consortiums or other methods
- Return privatised services to NHS control. Publicly fund and integrate them with the rest of the NHS
- For united action to defend the NHS involving trade unions, anti-cuts campaigns and service users