Socialist Worker

‘Health cuts are destroying lives’ — voices from the front line

Issue No. 1964

Steve Sweeney member of Cambridge Health Unison

Frontline services at Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mental Health Partnership Trust are to be cut in order to balance the books.

Measures include the closure of rehabilitation wards, stopping admissions and transfers, halting planned investment in child and adolescent services and a review of all vacancies and recruitment.

The trust says that it could end up with a deficit of £1.5 to £2 million unless cuts are made.

Pressure is being put on staff to run wards with fewer staff. Unison members have been quick in organising a campaign against the cuts, organising a lobby of the trust board.

Staff affected were to meet Unison representatives this week to start a Fight the Cuts campaign. Industrial action is also being considered.

Mike mental health nurse in Suffolk

At a recent meeting of the Suffolk Mental Health Partnership board, hundreds of people turned up jeering and shouting about decisions to cut vital community services.

One furious person shouted, “You are destroying lives. We have already lost one this week.”

Ward closures and mergers have been proposed to deal with debts of £47.9 million.

Sarah hospital secretary in Cardiff

An initial hit list of closures has been withdrawn in the area, but there still £6 million of cuts to NHS services in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan.

There was an outcry after plans were announced to close clinics, shut hospital beds and one particularly nasty measure — slashing health spending for asylum seekers.

Andy a porter in Leeds

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Leeds General Infirmary, is facing a debt of around £10 million.

It has imposed a recruitment freeze in areas which are “overspending” — such as accident and emergency.

Very important cuts are being pushed through with almost no public discussion.

Sandra Miah nurse in Dacorum, Hemel Hempstead

The borough health authorities have agreed £7 million of cuts.

Dacorum Primary Care Trust (centred on Hemel Hempstead) will be cutting the number of operations it commissions by 5 percent.

The trust also hopes to save £689,000 by cutting the number of people who go to accident and emergency and a further £400,000 by switching heart patients to less costly drugs.

Unison union steward in Worcestershire

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust is to make cuts of £15 million.

One of the contributory factors to the deficit is that the PFI scheme which funded Worcestershire Royal Hospital is fundamentally flawed.

Mary Parke nurse in Felixstowe

Health chiefs have suggested closing the town’s Bartlet hospital — to be sold for £3.5 million to help pay off debts. 

Maria cleaner in Isleworth, West London

There is a £4 million debt at West Middlesex Hospital. Management are cutting 30 acute beds and making dozens of staff cuts. This is designed to reduce spending by £7.4 million in 2005/6.

The PFI hospital building programme has proved very expensive.

A senior nurse in King’s Lynn

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital is facing an £8.5 million debt.

The hospital has announced 30 elderly beds will be axed as West Newton and West Dereham wards merge into one.

It also wants to tackle “bed blocking” by speeding up the discharge of elderly patients who no longer need acute hospital care.

These cuts are an insult to nurses who are working so hard to keep the place afloat. Staff are thoroughly miserable.

Mike Unison union member in Portsmouth

The NHS Trust, which is currently £1 million in deficit, has restricted recruitment, causing nurses who have just graduated from courses difficulty in finding jobs.

By March, bosses are hoping to trim their workforce of 8,000 by up to 500 by only filling essential nursing and administration posts.

A doctor in Boston, Lincolnshire

The Pilgrim Hospital is faced with making massive cuts and ward closures and job cuts are being examined.

Management has already said Ward 8A is to close and this has put 60 jobs at risk.

Terri catering worker in south London

St George’s Healthcare Trust in Tooting, south London has frozen almost all recruitment in order to make cuts of £20 million.

It feels like there are parallel worlds — you read in the papers about all the extra cash for the NHS but then you see cuts in your local hospital.

Why is there a funding crisis?

The root of the crisis is Labour’s creation of a competitive health market including private providers.

By 2007 the amount spent by the NHS on private hospitals will have increased tenfold compared to spending under John Major’s Tory government of 1992-7.

Hospital buildings have also been privatised. Private Finance Initiative (PFI) schemes worth more than £5 billion have been completed since 1997 or are being built.

Competition, which brought fragmentation, dislocation and widened inequalities under the Tories, is coming back as “payment by results” from next April.

This will bring about more closures.

Do you work in the NHS?

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All comments by health workers are in a personal capacity

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Article information

Sat 20 Aug 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1964
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