Winter of Discontent

Health Secretary Hunt is well used to making reassuring noises during the destruction of the NHS, which his administration drives relentlessly forward. His latest response to the Francis Report into the Mid Staffordshire Hospital gives ample evidence of this tactic. He hides behind rhetoric about individual medical practitioners being open about errors and failures, and being forced to pay some compensation claims rather than the NHS.

In the meantime, Hunt’s hatchet men are planning to cut 7,000 nursing jobs by 2016 when one of the main thrusts of the Francis Report is the implementation of minimum staffing levels on all wards. Trusts are aiming to employ 3,000 more nurses this year, while planning to cut numbers sharply in the next two years. The cuts would result in the closure of whole wards to avoid breaking new minimum staff-patient ratios.

Various NHS leaders have repeatedly warned government of deteriorating patient care. Outsourcing, another name for privatisation is taking its toll. The danger to A&E departments this winter has been highlighted by Labour, but what is also at stake is the basic delivery of patient services through this winter and beyond. Who will defend the NHS from these dead-end politicians? No one but ourselves.

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