Up to four accident and emergency departments could close at hospitals in Greater Manchester—along with ten maternity wards. Twelve hospitals in the area are “under review” as part of the attack.
NHS bosses claim the closures are clinically driven. They say centralising the NHS will make the service safer. But the community services that will allegedly fill the gap are being cut too.
It comes as Greater Manchester A&Es struggle with growing demand. There has been an extra one million visits to A&Es in the region this year.
Karen Reissmann is a nurse and Unison union member in the area. She explained, “This is driven by the government’s strategy. NHS bosses can’t claw the £20 billion demanded in NHS cuts through attacks on pay and conditions alone. So their ‘centralising’ is really about dealing with these cuts.”
The impact will be devastating. Once hospitals lose their key wards fewer people will visit them and it will be easier to make further cuts.
The attack comes in the context of sweeping cuts across the health service. It emerged last week that hundreds of cancer, heart and stroke specialists face redundancy.
The new NHS commissioning board has decided to slash clinical networks. It wants to replace the 28 cancer networks and 28 combined heart and stroke networks with 12 of each.
This will mean fewer specialists are available to see people. Six out of 10 deaths in Britain are caused by cancer, heart disease or strokes.
In their clamour to prepare the NHS for privatisation, ward closures are a central part of the Tories’ agenda. But people are taking to the streets to defend their hospitals.
In Flint, north Wales, over 1,500 people marched through the town last month. Its population is just 12,000. The protest was against plans to close and relocate services.
Neo-natal intensive care is being moved out of Wales altogether to Arrowe Park hospital on the Wirral. That’s a three-hour journey from some parts of Gwynedd.
Meanwhile there was a protest of over 1,000 in Hammersmith, west London, last Saturday. Health bosses plan to close half the A&Es across north west London.
Sandra and Liz are part of the Save Charing Cross wing of the united campaign. They helped to publicise the march.
Sandra told Socialist Worker, “We have to stand up and be counted—all the hospitals need to unite. We live in the estate by the hospital. If we don’t have the A&E, people who need immediate attention will die.”
Liz added, “It’s not fair to expect people to travel. We desperately need to keep these A&Es open—we’re proud of our hospitals, but they’re trying to privatise the NHS.
“When I took my mother to the Royal Brompton last week, they asked if she was a private or NHS patient. They’re already allowing creeping privatisation in, slowly. We need to stop them.”