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From The Socialist newspaper, 26 May 2010

NHS cuts: The Con-Dem sting in the tail

MANY LONDONERS will have been relieved to hear the recent announcement that the Con-Dem coalition will scrap plans made by the Labour government to close hospital A&E departments across the capital. But on closer inspection it is clear that the NHS in London, as well as the rest of the country, is far from safe.

Sarah Wrack

The coalition also guarantees that spending on the health service 'will rise in real terms' as the Tories try to appear to make good on their election promise to 'not let the sick pay for Labour's debt crisis.' However, as price inflation in the NHS is higher than in the general economy (due to the cost of drugs and expensive treatments, for example) then NHS spending in real terms will be cut.

Moreover, Andrew Lansley, the new Health Secretary, gave away the government's real agenda when he said: "What is sustainable for the NHS is that we deliver efficiency savings in the same way as the rest of the public sector."

In other words, he wants to cut jobs, pay and conditions of NHS staff and expects us to believe that there will be no negative impact on patient care as a result.

20 billion of these so called efficiency savings are set to be made over the next three years which leaves little doubt that doctors and nurses will be amongst those in the firing line.

A special fund of 2 billion has even been set up to pay for things like redundancy pay in order to carry through the cuts. Lansley has warned NHS workers that their pay will also be subject to "efficiency savings".

While the government boasts that it will offer more patient choice on which GP they register with and which drugs they receive, they also promise to scrap the 18 week maximum wait for treatment.

It's obvious that although the coalition will try its best to avoid an open all-out attack on Britain's most popular institution, they care little about providing the public with free and decent health care.

They say they will give more power to GPs and end cuts by central government but this just means they will be forcing local trusts to make the cuts themselves.

We need a mass campaign of health workers, the trade unions and local campaign groups to defend jobs and the service which millions of working class people rely on.

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