Socialist Worker

A&E cuts will hit the poorest

by Julie Sherry
Issue No. 2323

Ealing meeting to save the local A&E (Pic: Raymie Kiernan)

Ealing meeting to save the local A&E (Pic: Raymie Kiernan)


A new report has revealed the devastating impact that hospital A&E closures will have on working class people.

The report reveals that patient deaths go up by a shocking 20 percent for every ten miles travelled in an ambulance to hospital. This adds to campaigners’ claim that halting the closures “is a matter of life and death”.

The report exposes bosses’ spin that “centralising” will improve the NHS as a wave of A&E closures hit Britain. The report states, “In emergency medicine, treatment is usually more effective the earlier it is given.”

Professor Jon Nicholl, a researcher specialising in evaluation of emergency and urgent services, carried out the research. He looked at the outcomes of 10,000 serious 999 calls and gives an example of a “drug given in A&E that reduces deaths from bleeding injuries by 15 percent”.

If given at a one hour delay, “the reduction is only 1 percent.” The revelation flies in the face of claims that closing half the A&Es in north west London will improve patient care. The area covers three million people.

Advocates of the closures argue that urgent care centres will deal with patients who currently use the A&Es marked for the axe. This could mean immense pressure on already threadbare ambulance services.

If the closure goes ahead in Ealing, west London, up to 50 patients a day will have to travel to an alternative A&E because the Urgent Care centres are not able to provide adequate care. They will require an ambulance for the journey.

These extra, longer trips could cost the London Ambulance Service around £6 million a year. At the same time it has to make £53 million cuts by 2015.

One paramedic explained that in any given 12-hour shift, even if ambulance workers didn’t take breaks, they would struggle to manage less than ten of these transfers.

Dozens of closures are planned across Britain. Transfers to the next nearest A&Es are up to 31 miles away. The four A&Es earmarked for closure across north west London are those that are in the poorest areas.


Satisfaction plunges at private hospital

Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Huntingdon has seen its patient satisfaction ranking go into freefall since May 2012. The Cambridgeshire hospital was the first to be totally taken over and run by a private company.

Circle Healthcare began a 10 year contract at the hospital in February and was celebrated as rescuing it from financial troubles. Some 24 cleaning jobs at the hospital were announced for the axe earlier this month.

Steve Sweeney from Huntingdonshire trades council described the cuts as “exactly what we warned would happen if Circle took over”. This is in addition to plans already announced by Circle to cut nearly 50 nurses at the hospital.

On Sunday of last week it was also revealed that the company has donated over £1.4 million to the Tory party. And the links don’t stop there. New health secretary Jeremy Hunt has appointed Circle Healthcare’s Christina Linnet as his new media chief.

New research shows that this is part of a wider trend. The Tories have received more than £10 million from firms and individuals linked to private healthcare.


Serco’s shortcuts exposed

Private company Serco’s running of pathology services at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospitals Trust has seen a string of clinical and financial failures.

Pathology services are a vital part of the healthcare system and are involved in 70 percent of all patient diagnoses across the NHS.

Newly diclosed documents reveal 400 incidents that include losing or mislabelling samples and going over agreed turnaround times for tests throughout 2011. This happened more than 50 times.

Serco’s takeover allowed the company to grab NHS deals worth some £800 million over the next ten years.


Trusts cut night and weekend care

A third of NHS Primary Care Trusts have cut night and weekend care in the last year. This has resulted in out of hours GPs covering hundreds of square miles.

At Serco’s out of hours centre in Cornwall, some nights saw one doctor responsible for 535,000 patients. In Mid Essex, only one doctor was available for 370,000 people for 13 hours during the night.


Health bosses face scorn at meeting

Around 600 people attended angry meetings in west London last week. Up to 200 turned out on Friday night when an unforgiving audience clearly rattled those defending the closures.

John Lister exposed North West London NHS bosses’ plans to get rid of 5,000 workers by 2015, and cut 391 beds. Anne Drinkell, a community health worker, described the closures as “not clinically driven, but budget driven”.

Medical director of North West London NHS, Mark Spencer, tried to dismiss Lister’s figures. But laughter rippled around the room when it emerged that the figures were from his own consultation document.

Panicking, they tried to argue that there may be “1,000 extra staff by 2015”. But this too was exposed against the thousands of planned job cuts. The consultation was denounced repeatedly as “not fit for purpose” and “verging on fraudulent”.

The meetings are another sign that NHS bosses, as well as the Tories, are feeling the heat of opposition to the closures.


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Article information

News
Tue 2 Oct 2012, 18:32 BST
Issue No. 2323
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