Hospitals shut services

Submitted by Matthew on 23 February, 2011 - 9:01

Many hospitals are losing funding from several streams, both central and local government, as well as from Primary Care Trusts.

For example, Homerton Hospital in Hackney, north east London, faces cuts of at least £15m. First in line are midwifery and language advocacy services.

The cuts to midwifery are all the more senseless given an annual growth of 19% of births at the hospital. According to the hospital’s Unison branch, “Particularly shocking is the dissolving of the Shoreditch Group Practice which was set up in an area known to have high deprivation and infant mortality rates, along with high rates of difficulties experienced by women during pregnancy or after birth.”

Language advocates help non-English speakers receiving treatment at the hospital. Turkish language advocates (the most-used service) are being reduced from four to three, and the Kurdish service is being abolished entirely. This will reduce the amount of face-to-face time patients have with health-workers; instead they will have to rely on a standardised service provided by a telephone interpreter.

Unions at the hospital held a demonstration at the hospital on 5 February, and union activists from Homerton attended the large Hackney anti-cuts demonstration on 19 February. The Unison branch has made clear that it opposes all cuts and is discussing further action.

Homerton is only one example. NHS South West Essex has summarily cancelled all hip operations. NHS Warwickshire will no longer be offering “low priority treatments” (which it claims include injections for chronic back pain). Several Trusts, including West Kent, Bury, Medway, and Warrington, are suspending, deferring or cancelling IVF treatments.

A number of Trusts are also suspending or cancelling treatments such as tonsillectomies.

Comments

Submitted by stuartjordan on Fri, 25/02/2011 - 13:07

The standard justification for privatisation is that it means "choice". However, the introduction of markets and privatisation into the NHS has always curtailed choice and limited the scope of clinical judgement. This is becoming particularly serious now.

Pulse magazine has recently published a survey that shows an increasing number of GP referrals are being blocked for financial reasons. 1 in 8 patients requiring hip and knee replacements, cataract operations, allergy services, IVF or tosillectomy are being denied treatment.

80% of the 32 Primary Care Trusts that responded to the survey have got "referral management centres" which filter out GP referrals on the basis of "clinical appropriateness". These centres are blocking people who smoke or who are obese from having surgery such as knee and hip replacements, because are less likely to have a "successful outcome". At the moment GPs are in an antagonistic relationship with the referral management centres. However, with GP commissioning, GP's will have to perform this role themselves - balancing the patient's clinical need with financial limitations.

NHS South West Essex have told GPs that 213 procedures will no longer be funded except in exceptional circumstances. 50% of GPs have seen access to varicose vein treatment drop.

The conditions that are being targetted are painful and disabling but non-life threatening. The government wants these procedures to be taken on by private health firms who may charge for treatment. The "choice" being offered is to live in unnecessary pain or to buy a treatment that used to be free on the NHS. For those who cannot afford it this is no choice at all.

After 63 years of free universal healthcare, the British working-class is set to rejoin our brothers and sisters across the world who die and suffer from treatable diseases. The reason is an international healthcare sector run for profit not human need.

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