NHS: the deepening crisis

Richard Griffin summarises some of the effects the NHS funding crisis is having around the country.

John (an alias) works for a primary care trust in the north west of England. His partner is a nurse at a University Hospital NHS trust. John’s trust is about to merge with four other primary care trusts. He has been told that his job is at risk. His wife’s post could be one of the 1,000 jobs that will axed to balance the hospital’s books. “Morale is at rock bottom across the health service” he said.

“It is crazy for the health minister to say that patients won’t be hurt. Sacking hundreds of nurses, doctors and other frontline staff is bound to hit care. With the introduction of the market in health at the start of April things will get worse. Hospitals unable to attract enough patients will close regardless of local need” he predicted.

The list of trusts announcing redundancies grows day by day – 200 jobs at York Hospital, 720 at Worcestshire, 300 at the Royal Unit Bath, 100 at James Paget in Norfolk, “hundreds” to be shed at NHS Direct, 400 at the Surrey and Sussex and 160 at Kent’s Medway NHS Trust. A

ccording to health union Unison nearly 7,000 NHS job are being cut in England, with more expected to come. With job losses come service cuts. Some 30 community hospitals are under threat. In St Albans the local hospital is planning to close their mental health ward in a bid to save £1 million.

In London health bosses are trying to reduce the number of patients that are referred to hospitals by telling trusts that they have to cut GP referrals by 10% regardless of patient needs. Across the country wards are being shut.

In Walsall, for example, the local PCT has closed their 103-bed rehabilitation centre which includes a stroke unit, despite a petition signed by 16,000 local residents to keep it open. In Gloucester Tetbury Hospital has closed an 11-bed in-patient ward.

In North Yorkshire patients coming for surgery are no longer being admitted the night before. Local communities and unions representing health workers are though fighting back, angry that staff and patients are paying the price for poor management. Ian Ducat, the regional secretary for Unison South West, representing members at cash strapped Royal Cornwall said "I shall expect the resignations of NHS Trust chairs and chief executives and dismissal of finance directors before a single nurse, technician, porter or secretary is sacked."

Ducat added that if the union was notified of a single compulsory redundancy, it would immediately ballot its members. “We will not stand idly by and allow our members to pay the penalty for incompetence or political expediency," he added, a view shared by campaigners in Stoke fighting the proposed cuts there.

Jim Cessford, spokesman for the North Staffs NHS Save Our Staff Campaign said: “why should staff pay for management problems and government targets? Staff say they are already working to full capacity. They are saying this reduction will tip them over the edge, as well as putting lives at risk”.

North Staffs NHS SOS are organising a national demonstration in Stoke against NHS job cuts on Saturday 29 April with the march starting at the University Hospital (more details from 01782 213157).

On a flying visit to Stoke heath secretary Patricia Hewitt claimed that the cut package being introduced would improve patient services! Try telling that to John and his partner who with more than a decade’s service each to the NHS face the prospect of losing their jobs. Or the patients who will have to wait longer for treatment as a result.

For up-to-date information of job cuts and the government’s NHS privatisation programme, see: www.keepournhspublic.com