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Beyond a crisis

Is our NHS past saving?
Jody Whitehill, Monday, December 21st, 2015


GP surgeries are bursting at the seams, ambulance staff are leaving in their droves, NHS waiting times continue to rise drastically, junior doctors were set to walk out in a series of strikes and nurses in seven hospitals are took strike action on December 15.

 

The Tories NHS reforms have been labelled as ‘deeply flawed’ by Michael Mansfield QC, one of Britain’s leading lawyers.

 

Mr Mansfield chairs the Independent Healthcare Commission responsible for the probe in to the devastating impact the reforms have had on the NHS in North West London.

 

The closures, which the report says ‘threaten the fundamental principles of a universal NHS, are a problem right across the country.

 

“The catalogue of failings we have seen in North West London acts as a microcosm of a wider malaise across the English NHS,” said Mr Mansfield.

 

Mr Mansfield also says there could be a legal challenge if the government ploughs on.

 

“The fragmentation of health services is a direct result of the health and social care Act, which opens the door to privatisation of public services,” said Colenzo Jarret-Thorpe, Unite national officer for health.

 

The government last week also announced that it is scrapping student nurse bursaries meaning anyone wanting to train as a nurse will now have to take out a loan and face starting their career with thousands of pounds worth of debt.

 

“Recruitment and retention is a huge issue within the NHS,” said Barrie Brown, Unite head of health.

 

“Long and unsocial hours and pay that doesn’t reflect this make it difficult enough but now they’re closing the door to anyone less than privileged from entering healthcare professions,” he added.

 

Other professions covered by the bursary include speech and language therapists, chiropodists, midwives, occupational therapists and radiographers.

 

Meanwhile across London dozens of maternity and A&E units have been downgraded or closed since the Tories first came in to power in May 2010.

 

“Accident and Emergency units are being downgraded to urgent care centres, which are minor injuries units and unable to deal with anything more serious,” said Colenzo.

 

“Consultant led maternity units are being downgraded to midwife led so anyone high risk or needing serious medical attention are now being forced to travel to get the correct healthcare,” he added.

 

The cracks in the NHS are now more like canyons and there is serious concern that the damage done is beyond repair.

 

“Whether it is trust deficits, cutting maternity, A&E services, removing bursaries for student nurses and midwives or failure of privatised contracts to deliver public facing services, the NHS is going through its most challenging period,” said Colenzo.

 

“Funding is effectively being decreased as trusts struggle. We urge people to lobby their MP to support the NHS reinstatement bill,” he added.

 

NHS England figures published at the end of November also showed that 12 trusts have run out of beds and are unable to admit any more patients.

 

This is even before the NHS faces its toughest time during the bleak winter months of flu season when the number of people requiring treatment surges.

 

But Colenzo strongly feels that we still have the power to save the NHS. “Our NHS is in crisis but it isn’t beyond saving,” he said.

 

“It needs urgent front loaded investment to tackle the deficit that many trusts face. We must also scrap the health and social care Act to stop profit coming before people and safeguard critical bursaries that allow people to train to be healthcare professionals,” he added.

 

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