Thursday, September 14, 2006

New Labour and the NHS: not safe in their hands

New Labour is set to implement the biggest round of hospital cuts and closures since the Tories took the axe to the NHS in the eighties, according to the pressure group London Health Emergency.

The news comes on the day the Liberal Democrats release the names of the 16 most cash-strapped NHS trusts around the country.

According to London Health Emergency:

‘Highly-secretive reviews of services have been set up by Strategic Health Authorities with PR-friendly titles like "Fit For The Future". Management consultants and accountants have been engaged at massive cost to the taxpayer to draw up the hitlists.’

Many trusts have recently reduced jobs and services, and many more are expected to do so over the next six months, in order to meet government-imposed requirements to balance their books by March 2007.

‘The new NHS Chief Executive has confirmed this week that there will be a wave of closures of major services over the next few years giving the green light to the Strategic Health Authorities to let the cuts rip this autumn,’ the pressure group adds.

Geoff Martin, Health Emergency Head of Campaigns, said:

‘Our organisation was set up to fight Nigel Lawson's cuts to health care services back in 1983. We are now staring down the barrel of the biggest wave of cuts since the Tories wielded the axe 23 years ago, and all this under a Labour Government.’

Lib Dem spokesman Steve Webb argued: ‘The last nine years have seen money pumped into the NHS at a record rate, yet we are still seeing almost daily stories of closures and cutbacks in front-line services.

‘The worry for patients and the public has to be how the NHS will cope over the next three years when the money starts to dry up.’

Among the trusts identified by the Lib Dems are the West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs St Albans City, Hemel Hempstead General and Watford General hospitals.

Ashford and St Peter's NHS Trust, in Middlesex, has a £7.5m deficit and has bought in a 'turnaround director. to find £16m in savings over the next two years.

The accident and emergency unit at Ashford Hospital has already been replaced with a walk-in centre for minor injuries.

East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust is sack 500 people and reduce the number of beds at its hospitals.

Its Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Welwyn Garden City has already lost its children's ward and will lose its A&E and maternity services.


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