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‘Too little too late’

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Issue 1726

Blair’s winter crisis plans

‘Too little too late’

DR STUART Withington from the Royal London Hospital this week gave a devastating response to Tony Blair’s plans to deal with the NHS winter crisis. “It’s just too little, too late. We are seeing crises every day in intensive care, cancelled operations, refused emergency admissions, non-clinical transfers to other units,” he said.

Blair admits the NHS faces another winter crisis, but says the press should be more positive about the government’s achievements over health. The truth is New Labour’s policies are starving the NHS of cash. Public investment is still LOWER as a proportion of gross domestic product than it was under the Tories.

Britain has one of the lowest numbers of hospital beds in Europe, with fewer than five for every 1,000 of the population.

The government is handing 20 million to the private sector to do routine operations this winter. And it is pushing more Private Finance Initiative (PFI) schemes which reap profits for companies while costing the government more money.

As Will Hutton pointed out in last Sunday’s Observer, “Bluntly, it is New Labour’s love affair with the private sector that has caused the predicament. “The wretched something for nothing PFI is what stands between the country and its urgent need to rebuild its public infrastructure.”

More staff?

THE government claims that it has created an extra 12,480 nursing posts as part of its pledge for an extra 20,000 nurses by 2004. But this is still 58,000 fewer nurses than there were in 1989 under the last Tory government.

There are still 24,000 nursing vacancies in the health service, according to the UNISON health union. Department of Health figures show a 50 percent increase in staff shortages over the last year alone. Britain has only half the European average number of doctors per patient. Last year the number of students applying to become doctors fell to an all-time low.

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