The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 30th March 2018


by Daphne Liddle

“WE USED to have something called winter pressures — but it is now spring and it is still just as pressured.” The are the words of the Labour MP for Cambridge Daniel Zeichner, reporting on an ongoing crisis at Addenbrooke’s Hospital after his constituents raised concerns about the hospital

One man had reported 50 patients having to wait at least 12 hours in the Accident and Emergency unit to be seen. There were also reports that the hospital has had to cancel elective operations and sent patients home just to deal with the numbers coming through A&E and a growing shortage of staff and resources.

Zeichner told his local newspaper: “I get fairly regular concerns raised from constituents, but this sounds particularly bad.” There were reports that Addenbrooke’s had reached the state of ‘black alert’ — the most serious level of crisis when the hospital cannot give even life-saving emergency treatment. But the hospital did not confirm this report.

“It’s a double Tory whammy, cuts and Brexit,” Zeichner said, adding: “I have huge admiration for the staff, in my experience they are working themselves into the ground, but there is only so much they can do if you’re not given adequate resources. “What it needs is a step change in the resources.

“I have been campaigning on NHS issues in Cambridge for the last decade.

“I see the county council and senior NHS managers on a regular basis, and they have been under no illusion about how difficult it was. “We used to have something called winter pressures — but it is now spring and it is still just as pressured.

“They are really struggling to recruit staff, and we all know why that is — a significant proportion of their workforce come from the European Union, and they’re leaving, and new people aren’t coming in.”

Zeichner reported that transfers from the county council are running at a much higher incident rate than last year, leading to a shortage of beds. He added: “There is a political side to this, which is this is what austerity looks like. If you start making this level of cuts to the county council and don’t maintain the money going to the health service, this is an inevitable consequence.”

But Addenbrooke’s is not alone. It was bad enough regularly having an NHS crisis every winter. Now the crisis situation has become the norm — and those waiting for vital operations are forced to wait longer and longer.

A new report from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has found NHS resources “in a perilous state.” Meg Hillier, who chairs the committee, warned that “Rescue packages are no substitute for a coherent, properly funded strategy.” The PAC accused the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and NHS England of being “too focused on propping up the system” and neglecting to plan ahead.

“The National Health Service continues to scrape by on emergency handouts and funds that were intended for essential investment,” said Meg Hillier.

“We have said it before and we will say it again: rescue packages and budget transfers are no substitute for a coherent, properly funded strategy that enables NHS trusts to plan, focus on patient care and lay the groundwork for long-term financial sustainability.” The committee cited last winter’s NHS crisis as evidence of the Government’s short-term approach because, despite early warnings of a looming healthcare emergency, Chancellor Philip Hammond waited until November to announce additional funding.

“The Government’s last-minute response to what were entirely predictable winter pressures is just the latest vivid demonstration of why fresh thinking is so desperately needed,” Ms Hillier said. NHS trusts forecast a deficit of over £900m in 2017/18, meaning the NHS “has a long way to go before it is financially sustainable,” the committee found.

The PAC’s warning came amidst growing calls from MPs to increase funding for healthcare, with some suggesting a ring-fenced “NHS tax”.

Meanwhile the “pay rise” announced two week ago by the Government of 6.5 per cent over three years, and which is in effect a pay cut when inflation is taken into account, is likely to increase the rate of staff losses. This is a much bigger issue than securing a little extra money for workers. It’s about securing a future for the NHS. Agreeing to this deal will not alleviate the struggles staff face to pay bills, it won’t solve the NHS staffing crisis, and could even accelerate it as overworked, underpaid staff leave rather than stay working for a government and health service that doesn’t value them.