A pensioner in Langwith, Derbyshire, has won a victory for public accountability in the NHS. At an appeal against the award of a local GP contract to United Heath Care, the local Primary Care Trust was found to have been guilty of not consulting local people. UHE, the largest private healthcare corporation in the US, was thought to have put in the bid as a loss-leader to give the multinationl a toe-hold in the ongoing privatisation of the NHS. KONHSP has called the decision ‘a complete and total victory’ which provides a ‘model for other communities’ in their fight against privatisation.
More than 10,000 people have signed in protest to threatened services at North Manchester General Hospital. A hugely successful campaign prompted thousands to make their mark by signing petitions and sending letters of complaint. Due to the wealth of responses the decision, which was expected in September, has had to be postponed until December. The proposed move could see accident and emergency services and maternity services moved from North Manchester General Hospital to hospitals in Bury and Oldham, putting hundreds of people at risk. Collectively, campaigns and petitions across the city have generated an unprecedented 50,000 responses from the public, patients and staff during the four-month consultation period between January and May this year.
An acrimonious dispute over staff car parking and charges for childcare at Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital is threatening to escalate into strike action. Unions held a rally outside the hospital to draw public attention to the situation, which has left some nursing staff and other workers without anywhere to leave their cars at work — in effect wiping out the benefits of this year’s pay award.
The Commons Health Select Committee has promised to investigate claims that more than £30 million has been plundered from mental health budgets to bail out deficits in other sectors. Cuts are being reported across England from Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Cornwall, Nottingham, London and Sussex. Mental health is able to be singled out as a soft target for cuts as it is not seen to be as popular with the public as other services. However with one in five of us requiring treatment and help with mental health problems at some stage during our lives it is not a service that can be ignored. The cost of depression and other treatable mental illnesses is small compared to the amount of distress, work and family time lost to them. The failure of the government to include mental health as a national target has just served to reinforce to managers that these services can be cut with impunity at a cost to some of the most vulnerable and at risk in our communities.
Despite the evidence of their own National Audit Office New Labour remains committed to PFI. Eleven NHS hospital projects, which are currently under review, will receive a decision in the autumn. That’s another couple of billion handed over to the private sector for mortgages on hospitals that even when paid off they keep the keys. Anyone who stills believes that the NHS is not being privatised should consider that in twenty years time a large proportion of the biggest hospitals will be owned not by the NHS but the private sector as these deals come to fruition.
Plans to pour still more public money into private pockets continue with the government’s commitment to “Connecting for Health”, the new national IT programme for the NHS. Despite sharp criticism from a number of IT professionals, lack of detailed planning and continued delays, the project marches on.
On a more positive note September sees a number of demonstrations in amongst other places Sheffield, Liverpool, Nottingham, Pontefract and Lancaster — for more details see www.keepournhspublic.com