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NHS under attack - Stop the closures, stop the cuts
Steve Wootton and Robin Clapp
Two Bristol health trusts are pursuing a 'money-saving' merger, it has been revealed. One of the most startling proposals would be the closure of the central A&E unit in the Bristol Royal Infirmary (BRI), leaving a city of over 500,000 people with just one emergency facility at Southmead.
Minor injuries units would be expected to cope with any overflows. This would be madness unleashed, catastrophic in its consequences for patients and staff alike.
This comes as 20 of the South West health trusts have formed a consortium to drive down NHS workers' pay and conditions. And in one of the Bristol trusts, the local press has announced that 1,000 workers are now on 'zero-hour' contracts.
None of these crude cuts were in the Bristol Health Services Plan that went out for consultation a few years ago.
It trumpeted the launch of two Private Finance Initiative (PFI) projects; the building of Hengrove Community hospital and the redevelopment of Southmead hospital, and the concurrent effective closing of Bristol's third hospital at Frenchay.
PFI schemes, expanded under the Con-Dems and Labour before them, must be paid for, over and over again by the public. It is this that in part lies behind the employer's attempts to cut services and attack the workforce. It is estimated that the initial cost of the Southmead PFI is to be £627 million, but over 30 years the NHS will pay £2.1 billion!
Financial advisors Operis reported: "The construction contract is valued at approximately £430 million, plus an additional £20 million in advance works.
Over a 30-year concession period, the construction and maintenance group also expects to earn a further £170 million for facilities management and lifecycle maintenance services"
£170 million would fund vital NHS services across Bristol for a 30-year period. Looks like it could instead be going to the private sector as profit!
It is clear that the Southmead PFI deal is unwieldy and this lies behind the attempt to seek a merger with the BRI trust. So could the Southmead project go bust?
Already the South London healthcare trust has effectively gone bankrupt due to PFI which costs the trust £1 million a week.
The coalition government, faced with the potential financial time bomb that is PFI has decided to embark on a review of its use. But existing PFIs will not be included or renegotiated. The lawyers' fees alone would be exorbitant.
New health minister Jeremy Hunt might be smiling now, having so far ridden out Murdochgate.
But he's about to learn what was meant by a former Tory chancellor who said, 'the NHS is the closest thing the British have to a religion'.
The trade unions and entire communities must rally to the defence of our imperilled hospitals which are being dismantled daily. The battle is on and the task is to link all these local struggles together around coordinated national industrial action and the urgent calling of a 24-hour general strike.
In The Socialist 12 September 2012:
Fight against austerity
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party feature: TUSC
Socialist Party youth and students
Socialist Party workplace news
Fighting NHS cuts
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
Reviews and comments