The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 14th April 2006




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Lead

BLAIR & HEWITT DENY NHS CRISIS

by Daphne Liddle

TONY BLAIR
and Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt last Wednesday announced their intention to carry on their NHS “reforms” regardless and refused to accept that the health service is in crisis.

 Hewitt claimed that the NHS has just had its best year ever – without any of the winter crisis and patients on trolleys waiting many hours for a bed that has happened just about every winter for the past two decades.

 Blair said that most NHS trusts did not face financial problems and that most people’s experience of the NHS was positive.

 But within the last month NHS trusts have already been forced to cut 6,000 jobs to balance their books and thousands more jobs are likely to go within the next few weeks.

 The pro-market think tank Reform has predicted that at least 100,000 NHS employees will be made redundant if Blair presses ahead with his reforms – increasing the involvement of the private sector.

 The think tank report speaks of the job cuts leading to a more efficient service, greater productivity and a more highly skilled workforce and claim that these job cuts will not affect standards of patient care.

 Patricia Hewitt spoke of a “short-term pain” and a “year of turbulence” to ensure the NHS remained free at the point of use. She said there would be “no quick fix” as NHS trusts acted to eliminate deficits that have been hidden for years but have now been exposed by the reforms.
 
small number

Blair said: “This is no time for the NHS to be shying a way from reform. This small number of deficits has existed for some time, it is just that they have been concealed.

“Organisations that spend more than they receive can no longer hide this by moving money around the system.”

Health unions have rubbished these claims. Unison head of health Karen Jennings described the plans as “a coordinated attack by private sector interests against the NHS”.

She added: “It is ridiculous to suggest that with fewer staff we’d all enjoy better patient care. The UK is still trying to catch up with the disastrous reduction in training during Tory years, and the demand for health services is growing.

 “The report misses a huge factor out completely – the changing face of the workforce.

 “There are 650,000 nurses registered in the UK – more than half are over the age of 40 and one in four is over 50. I 10 years time many will be due to retire and we need to plan ahead to make sure we have enough staff to keep the service running.”

 She said that the solution to NHS challenges must not be to “go back to the days when patients had to wait for years in pain at the bottom of long waiting lists unless they could afford to jump the queue and go private.”

 The Government claims it has invested record sums in the NHS in recent years – implying that the NHS trusts have been irresponsible with their budgets.

But these trusts have been saddled with unreasonable debts from when they were first founded by the Tory government in the early 1990s.

 The trusts were obliged to buy the land and buildings of the hospitals from the Government, paying interest on these debts. Since then huge private finance initiative contracts have saddled NHS trusts with more heavy long-term debts.

 Furthermore in many of these contracts the ownership of the land and buildings of the hospitals have been transferred to the PFI companies. The full details of the contracts are closely guarded commercial secrets.

 More recently, many NHS trusts have been pressed to take on foundation hospital status and given total autonomy in budgeting. But they were misled into taking into account an expected steady income from routine operations which have since been farmed out to the private sector and the income has gone with them.

 The total NHS deficit is now around £1 billion. Wards are being closed all around the country.

 Now the Government has announced that the number of strategic health authorities in England is to be cut from 28 to 10.

 The problem is that Blair, Hewitt and the Reform group want to run the NHS as a business and not as a public service. In business the inefficient can be ditched – and that’s what they are now trying to do with people who are old and ill, the patients.

 *************
Editorial

The winds of change

THE WORKING PEOPLE and the youth of France have inflicted a humiliating defeat on the French ruling class; the Italian people have rejected imperialist war and Blairism and the struggle for democracy in Nepal is now being fought out in the streets of the capital, Kathmandu.

In the face of weeks of mass protests and strikes the French government has back-down over the reactionary youth jobs law that would have allowed employers to sack anyone under the age of 26 without reason within the first two years of their employment. The united force of millions of workers, students and unemployed youths compelled the Chirac government to drop the proposal which, had it been passed , would have unleashed a wholesale attack on all the other rights French working people have gained through struggle since 1945.

This week millions of Italian voters rejected the reactionary platform of Silvio Berlusconi, the billionaire media mogul who took Italy into war against Iraq at the behest of American imperialism and, like his good friend Tony Blair, set out to rob the Italian workers of their hard-won rights during his past five years in office.

Though the centre-left bloc led by Romano Prodi won by the narrowest of margins this was no mean achievement given the power Berlusconi wields through the media he largely controls and the support he gets from Anglo-American imperialism. Prodi, a trusted Eurocrat, pledged to withdraw all Italian troops from Iraq and it is clear that this played a major part in Berlusconi’s defeat.

Berlusconi is demanding a recount but he can’t be too optimistic about the outcome because he is also calling on his centre-left rival to agree to form a grand coalition with the right. But whatever the composition of the new Italian government turns out to be it is almost certain that Italy will now end its shameful role in Iraq.

The French people took their demands to the street and the Italians used the ballot box. In Nepal, where neither option exists, the masses have taken up the gun to bring the tyrant to his knees. The guerrilla army of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) controls vast swathes of the countryside and the constitutional communist forces and bourgeois democratic parties are now closing ranks around the Maoist demand for the end of King Gyanendra’s autocracy and the establishment of a democratic constitution.

The Maoist guerrillas, who called a cease fire to allow the civil protests to proceed unhindered, have ordered the destruction of all royal emblems and symbols and called on the people to withhold their taxes. A general strike has paralysed all the major cities in the Himalayan kingdom and in the capital tens of thousands of protesters are defying the curfew in street battles with the King’s police and army. Gyanendra’s days are clearly numbered.

The socialist countries of Asia and the Caribbean stand firm. The peoples of Latin America are on the march demanding civil rights and social justice. The Palestinians, Syrians and the Iranians remain steadfast in the face of imperialist threats.

Blair’s “Third Way” is dead. Bush’s “new world order” is finished and the “Project for the New American Century” is dying on the streets of Iraq as the heroic resistance battles to drive the imperialists out of their land.

Wherever there is oppression there is always resistance. If anyone doubted it the momentous events of the past few days have proved them wrong.


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