Where more is less and less: Blair's "profitable" NHS

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12 December 2006

This Monday the BBC reported that the NHS will be asked to make a £250m surplus. But how on earth will the NHS make this "surplus"? Or even balance its books by March 2008, as Health secretary Hewitt claims?

Especially when the picture today is of 103 Hospital Trusts in the red, 13 of these bankrupt and a £1.6bn predicted deficit? Over 21,000 NHS jobs have disappeared since February.

So will the profits of the private health sector now be counted as "NHS" surplus? Because NHS bosses are at present forcing doctors to refer patients to private centres for treatment. NHS Trusts are to be told that by March 2008, 85% of inpatients must receive treatment within 18 months. Yet, on top of the reduction in NHS staff, under the guise of "reconfiguration", there is an ongoing programme of closures of A&E units, downgrading of maternity and paediatric provision in district hospitals, ward closures and even the closure of whole local hospitals! So where will patients get treatment, except in private centres?

Two weeks ago, Blair himself said that patients would just have to get used to travelling further for their emergency and specialist care! What is more, he had the nerve to claim that this would allow patients to get scans and clot-busting drugs for strokes, which are not available in local A&Es!

So fewer facilities will be better? Even if the obvious question which Blair should be answering is why such basic emergency investigations and treatments are not already available in all A&E departments? As anyone knows, after waiting hours in A&E to be seen, it is not as if there are too many A&E facilities as it is! In fact simply upgrading existing facilities would improve things! But that is not on the agenda. Thanks to even more cuts and closures, if patients are to receive treatment at all, it will be in private treatment centres seeking to make a profit on NHS funds.

The "record investment" in the NHS was always meant to be diverted to the private sector and that is where it went. As if the fancy new buildings built under PFI can somehow take care of the sick, while infection rates soar, and staff are sacked!

This attack on the NHS is unprecedented. It highlights, once more, the dire need for a concerted fight against all of this government's pro-business, anti-working class policies. But in this case, it is also a fight for our lives.