Socialist Worker

‘Blair’s legacy is cuts, chaos and closures in the health service’

Issue No. 2041

The full scale of the impending NHS crisis was laid bare last week. It emerged that three out of four primary care trusts (PCTs), which run GP clinics and health centres, are restricting patients’ access to treatment.

Last week the Health Service Journal magazine reported that 73 percent of PCTs are restricting access. Half are also delaying operations.

Seven out of ten PCT chief executives admitted that “patient care will suffer” as a result, while 61 percent of acute hospital trusts said that they were already closing wards.

Almost half of all trusts said that they had made, or intended to make, redundancies this year.

As the NHS crisis deepened, health secretary Patricia Hewitt issued new guidance to strategic health authorities. It urged trust managers to do more to “sell” their closure plans to local people.

Her report suggested the use of words like “adapting, developing, evolving and specialising” to explain away closures.

In a separate development thousands of young doctors, whose training cost as much as £2 billion, are without jobs because of a new NHS training system.

The crisis has come about because there are only 22,000 jobs available for 30,000 junior doctors.

Dr Faith Harries is a junior doctor who has not been able to secure an interview for a post because of the failure of the new system. She said, “I came out of medical school with £42,000 worth of debt.

“I thought I was guaranteed a job and that I would be able to pay it back. Now I am thinking of going abroad.”

Last week Tony Blair announced that the forthcoming health policy review will further dismantle the NHS.

It is reported that the review will say that individuals should be given money by the government to spend on healthcare – even if it is in the private sector.

“It is clear that Blair is ‘thinking the unthinkable’ on the health service,” said Alex Nunns of Keep Our NHS Public. “He is being reckless with the NHS, trying to cement some kind of irreversible legacy.

“But here is his real legacy – cuts, chaos and closures.”

Emergency health workers in Yorkshire have disclosed plans to merge the control centres of South, West and North Yorkshire ambulance services to Socialist Worker.

The plan is a result of the merger of three ambulance trusts, two of which are heavily in debt.

It will result in the closure of a control centre in Rotherham in South Yorkshire, with work moving to Wakefield in West Yorkshire.

All of the 60 control centre workers, who work rotating shifts, will have to reapply for jobs in the new centre.

They will be expected to relocate or commute long distances to work. Many controllers are expected to lose their jobs.

One ambulance worker, who did not want to be named for fear of management reprisals, explained why the proposal could cost lives. “Controllers have a lot of specialist knowledge of the area they cover,” the worker said.

“They can give us alternative routes quickly if we hit heavy traffic or road closures. And, unlike our computer systems, they don’t go down.

“Sometimes the advice they give can cut three or four minutes off a journey time.

“In our line of work, three of four minutes can be someone’s life.”

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