Plans to send patients abroad
Gimmick which won't save NHS
NEW LABOUR'S latest proposal over the crisis that is gripping the NHS will end up benefiting the rich more than ordinary patients. That was the reaction of Stephen Thornton, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, to plans to allow some patients to get treatment abroad. Thornton heads the body that represents hospital managers and trusts.
He said, "My greatest worry in all this is the impact on what we might call health inequalities. "It is a very attractive proposition maybe to affluent middle class people, but to poorer, elderly people who may never have been abroad this is very daunting."
Health secretary Alan Milburn announced last week that the government will allow some patients who have been waiting over 18 months for an operation to get treatment in another European country.
The government is under pressure as the chronic state of the NHS is regularly splashed across newspaper front pages. The Daily Mail ran two front page headlines on Thursday and Friday of last week condemning the long waits patients endure.
It revealed that a 78 year old man waited 42 hours on a trolley in casualty at the Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother Hospital in Kent. A 74 year old man died after waiting nine hours for treatment at London's Whipps Cross Hospital. Milburn's proposal to export some patients will not stop this horror.
Most people don't have relatives who can afford to jump on board a plane or Channel Tunnel train to visit them in hospital.
Many patients will be scared stiff of going through the trauma of an operation and convalescence in a country whose language they may not speak. The real problem in the NHS is lack of funding. But New Labour refuses to raise taxes on the rich to provide the money needed.
NO ONE should swallow the government's figures about reducing NHS waiting times. Alan Milburn's directive that no one should wait more than four hours on a hospital trolley is encouraging NHS trusts to massage the figures.
Managers are moving beds into casualty units because waiting on a bed does not count in the trolley statistics. "People on beds are waiting 50 or 60 hours. It's all a matter of redefinition," said Malcolm Alexander, chief officer of Southwark Community Health Council.
Poor die seven years earlier
THE GAP between the health of rich and poor in Scotland has grown wider under New Labour. Those in the poorest parts of Scotland are more likely to die up to seven years earlier than those in richer areas. When Blair was elected in 1997 men in the largely well off area of East Renfrewshire could expect to live an average 75.7 years while men in Glasgow could only expect to reach 68.4 years. That gap has grown by three months according to latest figures from the Office of National Statistics. The figures also reveal the class divide across Britain. Women in the affluent Kensington and Chelsea area can expect to live to be 82 years old, while women in Glasgow only have a life expectancy of 76 years.
protest @ new labour' s conference
Called by Globalise Resistance, Green Party, Socialist Alliance
DEMONSTRATE, MIDDAY, SUNDAY 30 SEPTEMBER, BRIGHTON
Globalise Resistance counter-conference
SATURDAY 29 SEPTEMBER, LONDON
New speakers include journalist Gary Younge and Luca Casarini of the White Overalls Movement
For more details phone 020 8980 3005