Saturday, 1 November 2008


Hospital beds are currently being cut back at an alarming rate, comparable to the Thatcher onslaught in the 80s.

Over 7% of emergency and acute short stay beds have disappeared in the last 2 years, and long stay specialist beds, particularly needed by the elderly, which have been in short supply for many years, have had further cuts amounting to over 20% loss in four years.

The cuts have not been evenly made and some areas have fared worse than others; London has been particularly targeted and has lost 11% of acute beds and 37% of long term and elderly care beds in the last six years. Mental Health and maternity beds have also had severe cuts.

As pensioners, the disabled and poorer families struggle to pay their heating and fuel bills, the likelihood of hospital admissions due to cold related illnesses this winter increases, but the Government seems to have its fingers crossed for a very mild winter (with snow in October?)!!!

The streamlining of hospitals and services is all part of the unspoken intention to make the NHS attractive to the private sector, hospitals are now run like a private business with talk of accumulating surpluses! This does not provide a more accessible service in spite of the platitudes of managers and politicians. The private sector cherry picks the easier conditions and treatments of the less complicated surgery, but chronic illness, major surgery and emergencies plus all the complications will still be left to the NHS. The Private Treatment Centres already operating to much applause because of the lack of waiting are undercutting the NHS and taking money and staff from the NHS. The Private Finance Initiative built hospitals and services which present the private sector with rich pickings for many years with very little risk, is destabilising the monetary control of the NHS hospitals, some of which will be downgraded, some will close, others will be handed over for the privateers to manage. Scrutiny of what is going on apace all over London and the South is difficult,- no elected representatives,no community health councils.

The Primary Care Trusts are not amenable to community pressure, the members being more afraid of the loss of their own positions and salaries if they do not toe the line as set down by Ministers; however, persistent pressure and campaigners can and does have an effect in some cases, and there is also a body unpublicised and little known called the OVERSIGHT & SCRUTINY COMMITTEE" who should be approached by campaigning groups who are trying to save hospitals and services and are underwhelmed and suspicious of alterations in community provision.


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