Socialist Worker

In brief

Issue No. 1806

£500 bill after NHS treatment

A DORSET woman's experience is a stark warning of the dangers of letting the private sector deal with NHS patients. The evidence comes from a shocking report from the official health ombudsman (watchdog) this week. The woman needed surgery on her back.

There was no bed for her in an NHS hospital. So under New Labour's scheme she was sent to a private hospital, with the NHS picking up the bill. The woman was discharged after the surgery. A few days later she started suffering severe pain.

Again she was told there was no bed at the NHS hospital for at least five days. The woman, now 'in severe pain and by now quite desperate', went back to the private hospital and was readmitted there for the five days before being transferred when an NHS bed became available. The private hospital then billed the woman for £500 for her five-day stay.

Mountain of debt is the issue

THE GOVERNMENT has an official target of getting 50 percent of all youngsters into higher education by 2010. It is way below that target at the moment, reaching a figure of just over 30 percent.

Ministers say the key problem is that students from a working class background are not going into higher education. But it is the government's own policies that are deterring students from a working class background from going to college.

New Labour's imposition of tuition fees and the abolition of student grants mean students face a mountain of debt if they go on to higher education. In Scotland, where political pressure forced the abolition of upfront tuition fees, young people's participation in higher education has already reached 50 percent.

Danger in the air as cash rules

AN EQUIPMENT failure at the new Swanwick air traffic control centre brought two British Airways jets close to collision last week. A trainee controller mistakenly directed a plane to descend through the flight level of another plane.

The trainee's instructor pressed an override button, but the device failed. Swanwick came into operation six years behind schedule. Reports last week also showed the pressure pilots from low cost airlines like Ryanair and Easyjet are under to land quickly and get the planes turned around to make more profits. This leads them to argue with air traffic controllers and cut corners.

Terrible stress of the exams

ANOTHER report last week added to the mounting evidence that the insane exam system is damaging children. The new report from the Association of Teachers and Lecturers focused on the fiasco of AS-levels. It argued that the stresses on students are leading to an epidemic of depression and panic attacks, and ruining the experience of education for 16 and 17 year olds. 'Sixteen year old students are becoming fed up with schoolwork and exams,' says the report.

Crackdown on 'cheats' is failure

NEW LABOUR'S benefit fraud hotline has been an absolute failure. Tony Blair set up the hotline in a bid to scapegoat and crack down on benefit 'cheats' who the government claim cost £2 billion a year. The government spent £9 million urging people to 'shop a cheat'.

Over 200,000 people rang the hotline last year, leading to 108,986 investigations. There were just 768 successful prosecutions, many of them for trivial amounts of money.

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Article information

Sat 29 Jun 2002, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1806
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