Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Why I’m standing up against NHS privatisation in Staffs - by a Stoke NHS worker        

The propaganda war has well and truly begun.

The massive NHS privatisation project ‘Transforming cancer and end of life services’ in Staffordshire is currently exciting the market and accepting offers of interest from private companies and NHS Trusts. Their website  presents the privatisation not only as inevitable but as a progressive move to benefit the people of Staffordshire, while whitewashing over the fact that one lucky company will stand to make hundreds of millions of pounds out of the service at the tax payers’ expense.
The deal has been split into two lots: a £687m contract to provide cancer services across Staffordshire; and a £535m deal to provide end of life and care for old people in the county. The affected services will include nursing; breast surgery; colorectal surgery; pain management; radiotherapy; oncology; diagnosis and investigation; radiology; breast screening and disease screening.
Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG’s) in Staffordshire are working with Macmillan Cancer Support, Stoke-on-Trent Council and Staffordshire County Council to embark on what the Financial Times call ‘the biggest and most wide-ranging outsourcing of [NHS] services so far’. Macmillan run the risk of ruining years of good will afforded to them by the people of Stoke on Trent. Their hospice has provided end of life care for many people in the area. However, people should rightly question why such a beloved local institution is so closely involved in the privatisation of NHS services.
The Financial Times also claim that the deal is being closely watched by other NHS Trusts across the country who are seeking to ‘redesign’ their own services. In reality, if this is allowed to go ahead it will give the green light to these Trusts to accelerate the privatisation of their own services.
It is no coincidence that Staffordshire is being used as a guinea pig in such a large-scale privatisation. The Mid-Staffs hospital ‘scandal’ is being used as a stick with which to beat NHS workers and services across the country. The main underlying factor at Mid-Staffs, largely unreported by the press; was of course the hospital trust’s growing financial deficit,  currently standing at £46.6 million, which led to over 260 front line staff loosing their jobs at the site. It stands to reason that standards would slip and basic care needs would not be met (for some) if a hospital couldn’t afford to staff wards adequately.
One lesson we can learn from the campaign to support Stafford hospital is that protests alone are not enough. Not even a protest with a conservative estimate of 50,000 people in a town with the population of 60,000 was enough to stop the breakup of Mid-Staffs Hospital. Industrial action taken by NHS staff, supported by the wider community may be the only way to stop the sell-off. To quote Arthur Scargill ‘what you need is not marches, demonstrations, rallies or wide associations, all of them are important. What you need is direct action’.
To this end, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition in Stoke and Newcastle are hosting a meeting (see poster below) on the 11th April to bring together members of the public with representatives from the affected union branches to discuss how the sell off can be stopped. I hope to see as many readers as possible there.