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4 May 2001

Stop the fat cats making a killing out of health

Public Health Not Private Profit

AT A time when GPs are having to take action to protest about their workload, ROBIN CLAPP describes the state of hospital services in Bristol, a situation repeated throughout Britain.

Over 17,000 people in Bristol are now waiting for treatment. At Frenchay hospital, ranked tenth worst in the country for its waiting time, someone requiring a hip replacement has to wait six months to see a consultant, then up to 18 months for treatment.

Bristol Royal Infirmary (BRI) has been slammed for its abysmal cleanliness record, another privatisation disaster.

With over 250 unfilled posts in qualified nursing and midwifery, 212 operations had to be cancelled in March. A consultant at the BRI, anticipating the 2.5 million budget deficit, told me if you become ill in Bristol, you had better hope that it's in the spring or summer, before cash runs out.

Thousands of nurses have left after years of low pay and poor conditions. BRI managers jet off to places like Australia, China or Finland, to entice nurses to Bristol.

Increasing salaries and improving conditions is passed over in favour of these headline-grabbing stunts.

The Bristol Evening Post recently showed what really happens when you need treatment after paying in all your life.

A worker in his 40s tells of needing an angiogram after a heart attack. Because of the long delay, he was forced to go private. He was told his life was at risk without an immediate quadruple bypass.

Another man was warned that his prostate cancer operation would take six months on the NHS. Terrified of the implications, he paid 7,000 to go private.

A 37-year-old hears it will be 18 months before his crumbling vertebrae can be operated upon. He says bitterly after paying 10,000 to go private: "Though we couldn't afford the private op, we had to find a way."

Each story reveals pain, frustration and anger. Ordinary people, workers who pay their stamp, are increasingly the victims of health rationing.

New Labour's forces us through propaganda and circumstance into private medical schemes, while allowing the private sector, through the PFI, bigger opportunities to make a killing out of health. What an argument for Socialism!

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