Socialist Worker

Latest NHS cuts compound crisis

by Joseph Choonara
Issue No. 2009

Over 300 health protesters marched through Leicester last Saturday to oppose NHS cuts in the area (Pic: http://www.keepourNHSpublic.com

Over 300 health protesters marched through Leicester last Saturday to oppose NHS cuts in the area (Pic: www.keepourNHSpublic.com)


Analysis by Socialist Worker shows that the NHS trusts driving through cuts and job losses are already failing to deliver for patients.

Trusts across the country were asked to assess whether they would reach 44 basic standards of care by the Healthcare Commission, the NHS’s independent inspectors.

Many of the trusts that felt they would fail to reach the required standards are the ones worst hit by the NHS funding crisis - and many have already announced major cutbacks. The report makes a mockery of health secretary Patricia Hewitt’s claim that job losses will not affect the patient care.

The Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust recorded the biggest financial deficit across the health service, overspending by £40.8 million.

On 4 April it announced 400 job losses. The trust reported there was insufficient assurance that it had reached the government’s core standards in:

lEnsuring that reusable medical devices are properly decontaminated.

lKeeping patients, visitors and staff safe by handling medicines safely and securely.

lEnsuring that staff are appropriately recruited, trained and qualified for the work they undertake.

lProviding healthcare in environments that promote effective care and optimise health outcomes by being a safe and secure environment.

The trust also reported it had not met or had insufficient assurance on six other basic targets.

Deadly

Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, which has announced 325 job cuts - 7 percent of the workforce - in an attempt to claw back £10 million, reported that it had not met six of the targets.

These included putting in place systems to ensure hygiene and cleanliness, and achieving year on year reductions in infections from the deadly MRSA bacteria.

Mid-Staffordshire General Hospitals NHS Trust also said it had not met this target. The trust, which announced over 150 job cuts in March, also reported it had not met eight other targets.

They included providing “safety notices, alerts and other communications concerning patient safety”, ensuring that clinical workers update their skills and putting in place adequate health promotion programmes.

The Healthcare Commission report also covered primary care trusts (PCTs), the public bodies that plan and provide the most basic health services for communities.

Both the Kennet and North Wiltshire PCT and the West Wiltshire PCT reported they had not met or had inadequate assurance on 26 of the 44 basic standards.

Casualty

Each of these PCTs is also faced with a shortfall of over £10 million and both plan sweeping cuts to claw back these deficits.

Evidence is also emerging to show how accident and emergency services have been hit by the crisis. The British Association of Emergency Medicine (BAEM) this week claimed that casualty departments are being closed as part of the drive to cut back on spending.

BAEM president Martin Shalley said, “As well as leaving some patients miles from essential services, these plans are putting too much strain on nearby hospitals.

“The motive is to save money and that is not right. If we keep stripping these services, we will put patients at risk.”


What’s behind the financial deficits?

Across the country both acute trusts and PCTs face a downward spiral of deficits, cuts to staff and services, and declining patient care. Overstreched and demoralised workforces have been left struggling to treat patients.

The government claims that it is spending unprecedented amounts on the NHS. But the money spent on health is leaking out into the hands of private companies or goes towards “transactional costs” to pay for services.

Professor John Yudkin, director of the International Health and Medical Centre at University College London, pointed out this week that Independent Sector Treatment Centres (ISTCs) which are pushed by the government, harm the NHS.

He said that ISTCs often perform substandard work, leaving the NHS to pick up the pieces. ISTCs also take services such as hip replacements and cataract operations away from the public sector. They tend to cherry pick the most lucrative and simple procedures, leaving the more complicated and expensive to the cash strapped NHS.

New Labour’s commitment to the market means it would prefer these services were performed poorly and expensively by the private sector, than being done cheaply and well by the NHS.


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News
Sat 15 Jul 2006, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 2009
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