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From The Socialist newspaper, 5 July 2007

Manchester health

Surplus cash yet cutbacks continue

AS THE health service reaches its 60th year, cuts are still on the order of the day in greater Manchester. Trust bosses who closed two in-patient wards at Altrincham General broke even their own rules on 'consultation'. Campaigners forced a new consultation, to which 80% (over 800 people) responded demanding the wards re-open.

Hugh Caffrey

At the time of writing, the Trust Board has yet to announce a decision on the hospital. Bosses claim it is only viable to keep the wards open with major refurbishment, £2.5 million investment and five extra medics.

But the regional NHS is now £161 million in the black. Why can't this money be found immediately? North West NHS trusts have been amalgamated and centralised in order to ram through cuts. This shoddy structure should be replaced with democratically elected representatives of staff, patients and public to effectively allocate resources and rebuild the health service.

"Making it Worse" is how everyone describes proposed closures of maternity and baby units misnamed "Making it Better". "Healthy Futures" is a sick proposal to slaughter acute care facilities across northern Greater Manchester. Such was the outcry that an Independent Reconfiguration Panel was called in to re-examine these cuts plans and make recommendations to the Health Secretary.

That body reported on 26 June. A week later, it has yet to make public its conclusions but North Manchester General Hospital management are making the cuts a reality on the ground. So much for democracy!

Instead of hoarding cash while units close, NHS managers should use the £161 million to safeguard all threatened facilities. Incompetent boards should be sacked. We should build support for the planned health union-led national demonstration on 13 October and fight to rebuild the NHS to one run by and for the people who rely on it.

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