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Changes the NHS really needs

This article is over 23 years, 11 months old
Issue 1701

Changes the NHS really needs

NEW LABOUR says it is going to change the way NHS consultants behave. This week a second consultant gynaecologist, Richard Neale, was accused of botching operations. This follows the report into gynaecologist Rodney Ledward which accused consultants of “acting like gods”.

And in a separate scandal some 200 patients were wrongly diagnosed by James Elwood, a 78 year old consultant pathologist who worked freelance for four hospitals. This led to one woman having her breast removed to treat breast cancer she did not have.

The government will have to come up with much more far-reaching proposals to deal with such problems. It needs to give much more money to the NHS and to drive out private practice. A survey by the Consumers’ Association found that more than three quarters of hospital chiefs think there is a potential conflict of interest when NHS consultants also deal with private patients.

One in five of them also think that private practice could damage the quality of care for NHS patients, and nearly a quarter believe it could mean more cancelled operations.

Decent wages

THE MSF trade union has warned the government about the massive staff shortages and underfunding of pathology labs. The union says:

  • There is a 10 percent shortage of pathologists, which leads to work being taken on by freelance pathologists like James Elwood.
  • Pathology labs are severely underfunded and understaffed. A lab assistant gets a starting salary of just 7,500 a year.

Dump PFI now

A DEVASTATING report this week showed that the billions of pounds the government promised for the NHS is going to pay the “financing costs” of the disastrous Private Finance Initiative (PFI) schemes. Research led by respected health academic Dr Allyson Polloc, shows how PFI schemes are costing the government much more than if they built new hospitals with public money. The report looks into the rebuilding of Worcester Royal Infirmary under a PFI deal. This has meant:

  • A 17 percent cut in the number of nurses and a 31 percent cut in ancillary staff who will have to be “admitting and discharging patients faster than ever before”.
  • The scaling down of Kidderminster Hospital, including the axing of the accident and emergency department, and all inpatient beds.
  • The “financing costs”-the money paid to agents and interests on loans-is nearly 30 million.
  • Every year the hospital will have to meet a charge of up to 16 percent of its annual income to pay off the extra costs.

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