From cradle to grave?

This is a recent article I wrote for the socialist newspaper on the state of the NHS in Leicester and the need to fight against cuts and privatisation.

The Chief Executive of University Hospitals Leicester is being paid over £200,000 a year to slash jobs and services. He is planning to cut maternity services at Leicester General Hospital, so that care for “low-risk pregnancies only” may be delivered at the hospital – he says that a full maternity service is not viable in the future. As well as this, intensive care will be reduced from the three hospital sites in Leicester to just two. This is to avoid a projected £400m funding gap by 2019.

These cuts will inevitably cost lives – critically ill patients and women with complications in childbirth will have to travel from one side of the city to another. A pregnancy can start off normally, but complications can be fatal. The loss of beds will have a further impact on the hospital’s ability to treat patients, especially in the winter. Locally, hospital services are already hugely stretched and the waiting time for A&E treatment is more than four hours. At a recent public meeting on the state of the NHS organised by Keep Our NHS Public, a nurse spoke of patients having to be sectioned, not because they needed psychological treatment, but simply to ensure that they would get a bed.

The Trust gives excuses for the cuts, talking about a move towards “care at home”. When it was set up, the NHS was intended to provide a “comprehensive” health care service, “from cradle to grave”. This responsibility was torn up under the Tories’ infamous Health and Care Act. But would Labour do anything any different? They introduced “Foundation Trusts”, making hospitals compete with each other for funding,rather than co-operating to deliver the best possible care and opening up the NHS to the private market. Labour also expanded the use of PFI, or “Profit From Illness” as Dave Nellist has called it. This has allowed private companies to take over the running of facilities and services. The profits of companies such as Capita, Serco and Interserve are the real reason for the cash crisis in our hospitals.

The Socialist Party would end our reliance on PFI, and kick out fat cats from our NHS, without any compensation. If capitalism is not willing to pay for decent healthcare, then it is not the NHS we cannot afford, it is this rotten economic system itself, which puts profits before people.

The Socialist Party stands for the complete renationalisation of NHS services and democratic control by workers and patients in the NHS. The NHS has had its funds frozen by the government, breaking promises made in 2010 that front-line staff would not be affected, and there would be no major top-down reorganisation of our hospitals – just before the government pushed through a major privatisation of services, seeing billions of pounds of funding going to the private sector. That money could instead be invested to meet the needs of the people of Leicester, but it is only going to happen if rapacious companies are kicked out of our public services for good. This would get rid of costly middle-men and reduce bureaucracy in our NHS.

Trade unions on July 10th, representing 1.5 million workers, are taking part in the biggest strike action since the pensions dispute of November 2011, in defence of members’ terms and conditions. We must pressurise the leadership of unions to keep up the pressure this time and refuse to climb down. Health workers have faced the same squeeze on our wages, with years of below-inflation pay rises, outsourcing and underfunding and therefore their unions also need to take part in joint strike action. It is difficult in a caring profession to abandon your job, but the reality is that the NHS will be destroyed unless we fight to keep it.

Support TUSC and join the Socialist Party to campaign to save our NHS services.

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