Seventy per cent of the £13 billion NHS contracts negotiated last year were given to private providers. This is an unprecedented sell off, of the staff, resources and bricks and mortar that make up our National Health Service.
The scale, and pace of the change is staggering. From “111 helpline” to maternity services, diabetes management to stoma care and even sexual assault services and palliative care, little is safe from market forces. And with real-terms cuts to the overall budget and efficiency savings of over £20 billion to be made, the NHS is being cut to the bone.
With increasing waiting times for GP services, surgery and hospital appointments, police cars being used as ambulances, and now talk of monitoring critically ill patients by video link, it is clear that the NHS is at breaking point. If we do not act now, and quickly, there will be no NHS left to fight for.
The Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign mobilised tens of thousands from the local community, took on the Secretary of State for Health and won. They still have an Accident and Emergency at their local hospital. Others have not been so lucky.
Gloucestershire PCT had planned to outsource all 8 of its community hospitals and all its health services. This was halted by campaigning from the local community. In East London, staff and patients at a number of GP practices have come together to fight to save those faced with closure in the coming year. Cuts to GP funding are now a national issue thanks to their hard work.
This has not been enough to stem the tide. 20% of GP surgeries face closure within the next five years. Money which used to be set aside for disadvantaged and rural communities is being taken from them, putting many in jeopardy. Their contracts will be replaced by short term Alternative Provider Medical Services contracts, to be re-tendered on a regular basis.
Surgeries that used to be the centre of the local community will be torn apart. Continuity of care laid waste by the demands of the market.
We must take the fight to the Labour Party to demand they commit to reverse cuts made to the NHS.
There have been some positive moves. Andy Burnham, Shadow Secretary for Health, has called for a halt to the privatisation, “until the public is consulted”. This is a positive step, but it is not a commitment to stop all privatisation, let alone reverse the cuts.
The Labour Party needs to be bold and recognise its own mistakes with the NHS. It should call for the cancelling of the disastrous Private Finance Initiatives to free hospitals from debt.
Call for the end of the market in health and for the patient, not profit, to be put back at the centre of health care.