As bank bosses, think tanks and politicians of all stripes united this week in arguing for public spending to be slashed, a London doctor said that cuts in the health service are likely to lead to services being slashed – and potentially the loss of life.
Kambiz Boomla heads a GP practice in east London and campaigns in defence of the NHS.
He told Socialist Worker that the predicted £15 billion public spending cuts from 2011 onwards could see a raft of ward and department closures, combined with yet more privatisation.
“We are likely to see cuts on the scale of those brought in by Margaret Thatcher’s Tory government, only this time combined with much greater use of the private sector.
“No one in government will want flagship hospitals built under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) to go under, so there will be a lot of pressure to ‘rationalise’ other local services.
“That could mean local hospital trusts are forced to merge. Whole departments, like accident and emergency units could close.
“These will be the first things that people notice, but there are other implications too.
“Wholesale ward closures could lead to under-capacity, meaning if there were a sudden increase in the number of flu cases, for example, our hospitals might find themselves unable to cope. That is potentially a very dangerous situation.”
Kambiz says that these problems will be made worse by privatisation.
“Recent government plans for the NHS have increasingly involved handing outpatient services to the private sector.”
But most of the buildings that are supposed to house these don’t exist yet. And because of the economic crisis, few of them are likely to be built any time soon.
“The funding crisis will also lead to thousands of job losses, and many more workers finding their posts are ‘outsourced’ to private companies.”
With warnings as dire as these it is little wonder that many health workers are both fearful and angry about the future.
Surely it is time for the leaders of the health service unions to put their loyalty to their members above that of their loyalty to Labour and start to organise a serious campaign to defend the NHS.