Socialist Worker

Blair's NHS: no beds, long waits

Issue No. 1803

ONE IN five callers to the government's NHS Direct phone line have to wait longer than half an hour to speak to a qualified nurse. The government wants to massively expand NHS Direct, including taking non-emergency calls off underfunded ambulance services and all out of hours calls to GPs.

Health minister Hazel Blears has admitted some 20 to 30 percent of calls are answered by people without formal medical qualifications.

BOSSES AT the government's flagship PFI hospital in Carlisle, the Cumberland Infirmary, are planning to build a 15-bed extension because the PFI scheme cut too many beds.

'It is too little too late. There are simply not enough beds,' said Paul Dyson, chair of the hospital's senior doctors' committee. The hospital was at the centre of a scandal last summer when it was discovered that the building was crumbling, had faulty equipment and sewerage in operating theatres.

FIGURES FROM Scotland show that hospital patients are waiting more than a week longer to be treated compared to two years ago. The number of patients treated in Scottish hospitals each quarter of the year has dropped by more than 10,000.

PRIVATE HEALTH firms are making huge profits by taking on NHS patients. In the year after the government announced its 'concordat' with the private sector, 100,000 NHS patients were treated in private hospitals. Private companies are raking in profit margins of between 30 and 35 percent.

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Sat 8 Jun 2002, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1803
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