The NHS safe in their hands?
So this is how the coalition works: in the General Election the Conservatives promise “no top-down re-organisation” of the NHS. Having failed to win the election, the Tory-led government then pushes forward plans for a top-down re-organisation of the NHS, which leans heavily on GPs spending their budgets with the Tories’ friends in the private health care sector.
A south London LibDem MP in the new ConDem government is appointed as a junior minister in the Department of Health. The Health department then oversees proposals to close the maternity ward and accident and emergency at St Helier Hospital, in said junior minister’s own borough. This would leave no A&E departments in south London between Tooting and Croydon.
Meanwhile, the maternity and A&E departments in the hospital in the neighbouring consistuency of a Conservative MP are “saved”, to much crowing from said Tory MP about what a fine job he and the other posh boys are doing.
At the first opportunity, the LibDem junior minister is reshuffled out of his position, and from the back benches he proceeds to oppose the proposals that he had helped to introduce. At the same time, his LibDem MP colleague in the same borough is given a government job and his opposition to the hospital closures is compromised.
While all this is going on, significant parts of the Croydon hospital are “outsourced” (that means privatised) to Virgin Care, while aspects of its operation that create cause for serious concern continue to be monitored by the Care Quality Commission.
It is the renowned left-wing firebrand newspaper, the Sunday Telegraph, which reports today that there are 26 “health providers” across England, including the London Ambulance Service and Mayday, with inadequate levels of staff. This is according to the Care Quality Commission’s latest report.
Mayday, 16 other hospitals across England, the London Ambulance Service, and eight other health providers have been told that they do not have enough staff “to keep people safe and meet their health and welfare needs”. This is a basic standard which every health provider must meet.
The inclusion of the ambulance service in the report should be particularly concerning for all of us who, if a maternity wing or A&E is closed in their area, might in an emergency need to travel further afield for urgent medical care. When every minute counts, even “blues and twos” cannot solve south London’s gridlocked traffic.
Following the inspections, held as recently as November, the CQC told each hospital it had failed to employ enough staff “to keep people safe”.
Mayday is one of four hospitals in London on the warning list, with Queen’s Hospital, Romford, Queen Mary’s and Chase Farm, .
The Torygraph states: “Poor staffing levels, particularly involving nurses, were a factor behind the problems at Stafford Hospital, where up to 1,200 patients died needlessly while managers cut their budgets in pursuit of NHS foundation trust status.”
Andy Burnham, the Labour health spokesman, described the findings of the CQC as the consequence of a “toxic medicine of spending cuts and reorganisation”.
He says, “Almost 7,000 nursing posts have been lost since David Cameron entered Downing Street. The public has a right to know if their local hospital is taking risks with staffing levels.”
The Telegraph also reports that a whistle-blowers’ line for doctors and nurses to report concerns about risks to patients was receiving more than 700 calls a month.
Safe in their hands?
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- Seventeen NHS hospitals have dangerously low numbers of nurses (telegraph.co.uk)
- Stafford Hospital scandal: deaths force NHS reforms – Telegraph (telegraph.co.uk)