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Is Britain ready to defend its NHS?

Notts Indymedia | 03.10.2006 12:48 | Health | Cambridge

The National Health Service is in a huge crisis. Crisis can be an over-used word, but in the case of the NHS it’s difficult to get across the scale of the problem without using it. Three quarters of the NHS trusts in the UK are reporting that financial deficits are forcing them to make cutbacks. Massive cutbacks that is. Wards are closed down, hospitals shut and jobs cut around the country. Billions are going to restructure the NHS along market lines, with millions going on management consultants and financial advisors, and millions more in massive PFI payments to shareholders and bankers. In one example venture capitalists have pocketed an extra £81m million in profits from the £220 million PFI scheme to build the Norfolk and Norwich hospital. Billions more are being diverted into a new, expanding private network of profit-seeking 'Treatment Centres', which are paid at enhanced rates, and select out the profitable treatments and patients, leaving the unprofitable behind in the NHS.

Over the last few months unions, patients, activists and campaigners have hit back in a wave of protest to halt the NHS reforms around the country. Thousands of people took part in public meetings around the country: [1] [2] [3] [4]. Protestors took to the streets in Birmingham, Cambridge [1] [2], Huddersfield, Liverpool, Manchester [1] [2], Oxford, Sheffield, Shropshire and Stamford. Other protests have happened in Morecambe Bay, Bristol, the Costwolds and Wolverhampton. The largest demonstration took place in Nottingham and was joined by over 3,000 people. After the announcement that the government has awarded a £1.5 billion NHS contract to Germany-based courier DHL, NHS Logistics staff walked out at their depots.

See also: UK Indymedia Health Pages

Previous feature articles: The NHS in Crisis | Sheffield Children's Hospital: Save Ward S2 | Local Trusts Take Scalpel To NHS

Other media: Bad Medicine | NHS To Be Reformed By Using A Hybrid Approach | Unison wins over Labour on NHS reform

Links: Keep Our NHS Public! | Unison | British Medical Association | Wikipedia on the NHS | The history of the NHS | Wikipedia on Private Finance Initiative (PFI) | Community Hospitals Association | Save Townlands Hospital Campiagn | Save Bridlington Hospital Campaign

Photo by Alan Lodge
Photo by Alan Lodge

Locking up, closing down...

The 'Keep Our NHS Public' campaign has reported on a huge number of cuts, bedclosures, redundancies, facility-merges and jobcuts:

  • East Suffolk PCTs have decidied to close Hartismere Hospital in Eye and to cut 16 beds from Aldeburgh and District Community Hospital. The devastating cuts have also closed day hospitals, occupational therapy centres and clubhouses currently used for the provision of mental health care services.
  • In Oxfordshire, there are plans to close a 15-bed older people's acute unit for mental health care. The Townlands Hospital in Henley, Bicester Hospital in Oxfordshire and the Walnut Tree Hospital in Sudbury are all at risk of service cuts.
  • In Cumbria, County Councilors, with cross party support, are fighting the threat to cut 118 beds at community hospitals in Brampton, Alston, Keswick, Maryport, Cockermouth and Millom. Meanwhile plans for a new hospital to replace the Cumberland Infirmary have already meant a reduction in acute hospital beds that were intended to be part of a shift towards more community-based care. Local GPs have warned that this will leave elderly people in rural areas vulnerable and isolated and will be unlikely to save money due to the knock-on effects. Morecambe Bay PCT proposes shutting two mental health wards at Kendal's Westmorland General Hospital - one of the wards is for elderly patients. The North West News and Star has launched a petition to save these hospitals. Hundreds of people are already attending meetings, signing petitions and protesting outside PCT offices.
  • In Lincolnshire, hospital wards have already closed in hospitals in Lincoln, Grantham, Stamford and Skegness to reduce a £50 million deficit.
  • In the East Midlands, over 5000 jobs are currently under threat throughout the region. Up to 200 jobs could to be lost over two years from Peterborough District Hospital and the Edith Cavell Hospital in Cambridge because of debts. 300 jobs are to be lost in Lincoln, with more being proposed. In Chesterfield 47 senior nursing staff will go. In Nottingham the City Hospital and the Queens Medical Hospital are expected to be merged, thus closing more wards and units. 186 beds will be lots at the newly merged 'Nottingham University Hospitals'. See East Midlands Unison for more info.
  • In Walsall, the PCT has approved the closure of Goscote Hospital, a 103-bed rehabilitation hospital with a stroke unit, despite a long-running campaign by residents. Campaigners collected a petition of more than 16,000 signatures to prevent the closure.
  • In North Yorkshire, the Airedale NHS Trust near Skipton has adopted an "immediate vacancy freeze" and is only admitting patients on the day of their surgery, not the night before. Money is also to be saved from radiology, cardiology and pharmacy services.
  • In Yorkshire, the Yorkshire Wolds and Coast Primary Care Trust is planning to close Hornsea's Minor Injuries Unit, cut the number of beds at the town's hospital from 22 down to 12 and reduce the number of doctors on call after hours. Read Westminster motion. Around Yorkshire, Barnsley hospital has been forced to lose 35 posts. Rotherham hospital is planning to slash pay costs of non-clinical staff by 10%. Hospitals in Sheffield are trying to save £20m due to losses resulting from payment by results and the extra costs of meeting targets, and 30 staff at a Sheffield hospital cardiac unit have been told their jobs are to disappear. Selby and York PCT has predicted debts of £23.7m, and Sheffield's PCTs have deficits of £17m Airedale NHS Trust has had to sell former staff residences and increase car parking charges. Up to 300 physicians, nurses and surgeons could be cut by the Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals Trust as part of an attempt to make £13.5m savings demanded by the SHA. Scarborough, Whitby and Ryedale PCT, facing a £6.5m overspend, is interrogating hospitals as to why operations are being performed so soon after referral. Staff morale is also reported to be suffering as Bridlington hospital is wound down and patients transferred to Scarborough. See campaign website.
  • In North Lincolnshire, hundreds of operations have been being delayed. 500 campaigners marched through Stamford to demand assurances over the future of the town's hospital after the announcement that 200 jobs are to go from the three main hospitals managed by the Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Trust.
  • In Gloucestershire, an 11-bed in-patient ward at Tetbury Hospital has been closed.
  • In Leicester, Herrick Ward, part of the Brandon Unit of Leicester General Hospital, has been closed with a loss of 30 beds while its future is decided.
  • In Surrey and Sussex, a district auditor's report says that the entire health economy is at risk. The NHS in Surrey and Sussex has a predicted collective deficit of £75m. One hospital in the area has already lost its A&E, and other services have closed.
  • In Hampshire, Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust has lost 109 beds and 650 jobs in eight months.
  • In Shropshire petitions in defence of Whitchurch, Bridgnorth and Ludlow hospitals with 30,000 signatures have been handed to the Department of Health. 1,000 people protested against the closure of Bridgnorth Hospital. 600 people attend public meeting to halt the closure of Whitchurch Hospital. The closure has been proposed as one element in tackling Shropshire's £36m deficit. There is also a proposal to shut either Shrewsbury or Telford's A&E.
  • In Staffordshire, a number of surgical wards, including gynaecology, are under threat in a review of services at Staffordshire General Hospital. The gynaecology and women's health ward and the orthopaedic ward will close as part of controversial plans to save £600,000. 500 posts are to be shed at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire. North Stoke and South Stoke PCTs are also considering closing hospital beds, cutting health visitor and district nurse posts. North Stoke PCT is reviewing all its services and is set to limit the number of people GPs can send for specialist hospital care. The proposed cuts include the temporary closure of 10 beds at Westcliffe Hospital; a reduction in the number of beds and suspension of X-ray services at Longton Cottage Hospital; and a reduction in services at Haywood Hospital walk-in centre. The financial crisis has led to the closing of four beds at a psychiatric hospital that deals with substance abuse. The community group, North Staffordshire Healthwatch, said the cuts would hit the elderly and the vulnerable particularly hard, but would have knock-on effects for the whole population. In addition, a quarter of the population of the Staffordshire Moorlands have put their name to a 20,000-signature petition urging the government not to merge Staffordshire Ambulance Service. Hundreds of operations are being postponed because of the financial crisis in North Staffordshire. Fifty newly trained nurses at Keele University have had their job interviews cancelled at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire and been told to find work in London instead. In Stoke-on-Trent the PCT has told the University Hospital of North Staffordshire that it will refuse to pay for gynaecological treatment unless the women were kept waiting for the target maximum of six months.
  • In Suffolk, the chief executive of East Suffolk Mind has said that the charity might have to reduce services to tackle a possible budget shortfall of £200,000 next year, because of PCT cuts. The West Suffolk Hospital NHS Trust intends to shed a total of 10% of its 2,500 strong workforce. Campaigners are urging West Suffolk PCT to abandon proposed cuts at the West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds and Newmarket Hospital, and the closure of the Walnuttree and St Leonard's hospitals in Sudbury. Newmarket Hospital is reducing its number of in-patient beds from 16 to 6. The church is lobbying Suffolk MPs over the funding crisis in the local health economy - 40 chaplains and parish priests from all denominations have shared their concerns over mental health services, poor rural provision and the national distribution of resources. The churchmen say they are having to "pick up the pieces" left by inadequate NHS funding. East Suffolk PCT has decided to suspend certain treatments in an attempt to eliminate a £47.9m deficit.
  • Near Bristol, campaigners are protesting against the closure of Keynsham Hospital until a decision what health services will replace it is made clear. Meanwhile, Bristol South and West PCT has told United Bristol Healthcare Trust, which runs Bristol Royal Infirmary, Bristol Children's Hospital and St Michael's Hospital, that it will only pay for operations that are clinically imperative or where the patient has been waiting for more than five months. Conditions affected by this ‘slow-down’ will include hernias, varicose veins, gall bladder and gynaecological problems.
  • In Chesire, there are fears for the future of Macclesfield Hospital after Eastern Cheshire PCT launched a review that includes children's in-patient, maternity and neo-natal services. Campaigners are worried that the hospital may be downgraded to cottage hospital status, and that the A&E will be closed.
  • In the Cotswolds, there is a campaign against Cotswold and Vale PCT's decision to cut 15 beds at Fairford Hospital.
  • In Oxfordshire, the Oxford Radcliffe NHS Trust has chosen not to offer cardiac catheter ablations as a cost saving measure. It is also closing down its renowned pain relief centre. Hernia and varicose vein patients have been told they may not be eligible for operations because the NHS priorities forum has ruled that they no longer "fulfilled clinical criteria".
  • In Weston super-Mare, the Weston Area Health NHS Trust is axing 29 jobs as part of its bid to reduce its £5.5m deficit.
  • In Swindon, a leaked copy of Swindon PCT’s financial recovery plan suggests that doctors should make no referrals whatsoever for any routine outpatient appointments to hospitals for a period of time in order to save £350,000.
  • Near Coventry, 50-60 posts are to be cut from the George Eliot Hospital in Nuneaton.
  • In Wiltshire, all the beds at the Malmesbury and Devizes hospitals are due to close in the New Year. Cuts are also planned at Westbury hospital.
  • Near Birmingham, Kidderminster hospital's emergency unit will be closed down at night. There are also proposals to axe vital services at Alexandra Hospital in Redditch. Cut proposals aimed at saving £20m include downgrading the Alexandra Hospital. A council organised vote in Redditch saw a 99% majority against the closure of the A&E.
  • In London, St George's hospital has stopped employing all but the most essential staff and has closed wards. Another group of London hospitals has been told by Harrow PCT to postpone surgery to cut the trust's debt. The PCT, facing a deficit of £8-£12 million, has asked the hospitals treating its patients to do "the minimum required" to meet national targets.
  • In Coventry, Walsgrave Hospital has closed three wards and is to shed 250 jobs.
  • In Worcestershire, the Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust is facing the closure of 195 beds.
  • In Cambridgeshire, 27 top consultant psychiatrists have written to the Cambridge Evening News warning of the dire consequences of a £3m cut to the mental health budget. A ward for the elderly has closed at Addenbrooke's which will limit the places for people to go, and which has been condemned by local nursing staff.
  • In Wolverhampton, the proposed closure of the Eye Infirmary building in Chapel Ash has prompted local protests from staff and patients alike.
  • Avon, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire SHA has confirmed that its trusts have been forced to make "clinical capacity reductions in some areas" and "reductions in the numbers of staff employed". Despite drastic measures, including closures of wards and services, recruitment freezes and reductions in clinical capacity, deficits remain.
  • In Cornwall, the North and East Cornwall PCT has told all providers of hospital care that for a short period they can fund only urgent cases or patients about to wait longer than maximum waiting times.
  • In Somerset, patients with non-emergency and outpatient appointments will not be referred to hospital throughout January in an effort by North Somerset PCT to save £3.5m.
  • In Leeds, the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust has axed more than 150 full-time posts. Nursing shortages now mean the trust - which runs Leeds General Infirmary and St James's Hospital - has a bill for temporary agency and bank workers of around £12m a year.
  • In the North East, more than 100 jobs have gone at the County Durham and Darlington Acute Hospitals NHS Trust.
  • Trafford Healthcare Trust intends to close Altrincham General Hospital, which serves 20,000 people a year in its outpatient clinics and 11,000 people in the minor injuries unit.

Across the country, cutbacks are contributing to an acute shortage of intensive care beds for children; a shortage of specialist nurses and winter increases in respiratory infections have been compounded by the common policy of cash-strapped trusts to ban the use of agency nurses. Over a nine -month period, Birmingham Children's Hospital alone turned away 159 referrals as a result of such problems.

Across the country, the Mental Health Act Commission, the inspection and advisory body for mental health law, says mental health is being squeezed by the financial management crisis in the NHS. It reports that "risky" patients are being sent home, that NHS psychiatry is in a state of "permanent crisis management" and that three quarters of wards breach occupancy safety margins and more than half are overflowing. Rethink, the mental health charity, has announced that mental health services are facing a funding crisis, revealing "worrying cuts" in mental health budgets.

Across the country, the National Childbirth Trust says at least 10 birth centres are now considering closing, or are definitely set to do so due to lack of funds.

Across the country, the reorganisation of PCTs and SHAs, designed to save £250m, will result in the loss of many frontline public health staff. Furthermore, a report compiled by Sir Nigel Crisp and Patricia Hewitt for the National Leadership Network, shown to the Financial Times, has indicated plans to essentially bring to an end the idea of the district general hospital. Professor Chris Ham, who left the Department of Health last June and was one of the principal architects of NHS reform, has admitted that health policy has veered into "incoherence" and reforms are dangerously "out of sync" between provision and commissioning. He said it was not clear whether the government was "willing to live with the consequences of the creative destruction" it has unleashed on the NHS. A Health Service Journal survey of 117 chief executives of NHS trusts revealed the depth of concern about the destabilising impact of government reforms. 75% of chief executives said that the current financial squeeze will adversely affect patient treatment. Two thirds of hospitals had closed wards for financial reasons. 58% of mental health trust chief executives have had to close wards, and nearly 80% said they had implemented recruitment freezes or made redundancies.

But pressure is building up...

Demonstrations were held in Cambridge, where NHS services are suffering some of the worst cuts ever seen. These include: savage reductions in mental health services, with wholesale closures of wards and centres, cuts and closures at community hospitals in Newmarket, Sudbury and other towns, ward closures in major hospitals including Addenbrooke's, West Suffolk and Peterborough, where 200 jobs are under threat, severe reductions in services at Ipswich, including banning 'obese' patients from certain operations on cost grounds and the possibility of some NHS organisations not being able to pay staff next year. See photos: [1] [2]

Manchester saw health workers and NHS users in a street protest regarding the Pennine Acute Trust crisis that threatens more than 1,200 NHS jobs in the region. The protest, led by the samba band Rhythms of Resistance Manchester, started at Victoria station and ended at Castlefield arena with a rally. The job cuts threat is due to the current NHS debt, which is less than 1 percent of its total budget. If jobs are cut, patient care will suffer. Protestors demanded that the government gives the money as it could easily afford it, rather than cut jobs which will have an impact on health services. Service users raised concerns regarding recent privatisation policies concerning the NHS and demanded that the NHS remains public. Service users and health workers stated that the NHS is not for sale. A protestor said “it is more than disappointing to see the government keen to spend money on war and killing people but not willing to give money to maintain NHS services. It is scary to realise how ‘human and life unfriendly’ this government is. We say ‘no to war; no to the privatization of the NHS, no to NHS job cuts!’ The government has messed up enough times - do not let it mess things up this time too!”. See photos: [1] [2]

In Sheffield hundreds took to the streets to oppose the closure of a ward at the Childrens Hospital and against NHS cuts and privatisation in general. Previously people picketed outside Sheffield Town Hall on the 58th anniversary of the founding of the NHS to protest against its privatisation. Read feature article.

In Nottingham over 3,000 people took part in a demonstration that stopped the city in its tracks as it passed through the city centre. A packed Albert Hall was the site of a rally after the march. Creative activist collective The Mischief Makers build a giant syringe which lead the march. The syringe read 'Inject more into the NHS' and was made in an effort to show solidarity to NHS workers as well as acknowledging that the ongoing cuts in and privatisation of the National Health Service is something that should concern everyone. The Mischief Makers also hoped to add a more creative element to march and rally, organised by UNISON. One patient from Queens Medical Hospital left her bed to join the protest. The East Midlands is an the area badly affected by the proposed cuts. This year the East Midlands faces 5,000 job losses (with 1,200 to go in Nottingham), £200 million worth of cuts, the sale of NHS Logistics, hospital ward closures, a review of NHS Direct and Patient Transport Services, and operations undertaken by private health firms run solely for the profit of shareholders. See photos: [1] [2] | full set

In and around Liverpool various announcements of cut backs were met by anger and frustation. Some 200 local people packed the public meeting in Lydiate, near Maghull in response to the threatened privatisation of GP services in Sefton East Parishes. The proposed £50 million of cuts to Liverpool's Alder Hey Children's Hospital mean that plans to rebuild the hospital in Springfield Park are in chaos, amid cuts to budgets forced by the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) scheme. The original scheme was set to cost an estimated £350m - but has now been scaled back to just under £300m. The planned new hospital has had to shrink by almost a fifth in size, as health chiefs try to save money. Wirral Hospital Trust has announced it will slash its budget by £21.5 million. It was also announced that a FTSE 100 company was to 'help' run another Liverpool hospital under controversial plans and ambulance staff on Merseyside took strike action after their employers - the Merseyside Regional Ambulance Service Trust - double-crossed them over a new pay deal. Following hard on the heels of the Liverpool Women's and the Countess of Chester hospitals, two more local hospital trusts were awarded 'foundation' status, thus opening healthcare up for private profit.

Welcome to the Birmingham area with North Stafordshire University Hospital set to lose 600 beds and 1200 NHS jobs, Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS trust facing 820 cuts; thousands more jobs are to go in areas such as local blood services. Workers, nurses and patients demonstrated against cutbacks and privatisation in the West Midlands NHS services. The demo was coordinated by North Staffs NHS SOS campaign and brought together a number of different campaigns.

Huddersfield defends the NHS. Proposals in Huddersfield to close a Hospital and several wards at another were condemed by protestors. A demonstration opposed the closures, and the wider privitisation of health care in the country. The number of protestors who turned up outside the Royal Infirmary was larger than organisers had hoped, drawing in support from passers-by. The protest is continuing to build a petition to make the council have a referendum on the issue. See photos and report.

In Oxford protests started to happen early August. Another demonstration is planned for the 14th October 'The situation is really desperately serious. The new healthcare market is corroding the NHS fast. Unless we act swiftly the Health Service will be destroyed and a costly private system will be introduced. It will be too expensive to fund from the public purse. Perhaps top-up fees will be introduced for those wanting decent healthcare and then perhaps healthcare will be like any other commodity – we will just get what we can pay for – except of course it isn’t – often it’s a matter of life and death.'

270 UNISON members employed by Initial Rentokil at Whipps Cross Hospital in London held a three day strike as part of a continuing campaign for justice and the implementation of an agreement to harmonise the pay of privatised workers with NHS colleagues.

Related articles by region

Birmingham: Dunlop Strike - NHS Demo | North Staffs NHS-SOS Needs Your Help!

Cambridge: Some More Photos From The Cambridge Demo Against NHS Cuts | Bury St Edmunds strikers in frontline battle against Privatisation of NHS | NHS Data Base | Riot Bunny Subverts some Minors

Liverpool: £50m Cuts To Liverpool Children's Hospital | Maghull Meeting Debates NHS Sell-Off | Consultants ripping off NHS | NHS Privatisations Rouse Sleeping Giant | Wirral NHS Cuts Boost Private Sector | Plans for NHS are 'Economics of the Madhouse' | The NHS? We'll Take It From Here! | Keep Our NHS Public meeting in Merseyside | Defend NHS Demo - Victoria Station 11:30 June 24th | FTSE 100 company to 'help' run Liverpool hospital | Mersey Ambulance Staff Fight Employers' Hypocrisy | More Mc Hospitals for Merseyside! | Patients Must Travel Further To See GPs | Private GP Surgery criticised in Liverpool | Patients Dying To Balance Books in Southport and Ormskirk | Hospital Staff Protest In Southport and Ormskirk | Spare Beds Seen as Problem in Chester Foundation Hospital | 200 NHS Staff Walk Out In Runcorn | More Mc Hospitals for Merseyside! (part 2)

Leeds Bradford: Huddersfield defends NHSSOS NHS | Leeds Primary Care Anti-Privatisation Campaign

London: Strike at Whipps Cross Hospital

Manchester: Save the NHS demo:24th June 06 | Photos- NHS Demo against Job cuts in Gtr Manchester hospitals

Nottingham: The NHS is on its knees. Get on your feet to save it! | 'Protect the Patients March' NHS Nursing / Unison March against job cuts Pics 1 | 'Protect the Patients March' NHS Nursing / Unison March against job cuts Pics 2 | Mischief Makers build giant syringe in support of NHS march on Saturday

Oxford Protest to mark the loss of the NHS | Demo to defend the NHS Sat 14 Oct Oxford

Sheffield: Sheffield Protest Against NHS Cuts and Privatisation | Sheffield Keep the NHS Public Protest

Notts Indymedia



06.10.2006 12:42


Save Huddersfield NHS Services.

Saturday 7th october

Assemble outside st lukes hospital, blackmoorfoot road, 11am for a feeder march to st. georges square at 12:30p.m. around huddersfield.

More info: 07920162323

Or email:

mail e-mail:


Display the following 4 comments

  1. Miallocation of cash — steve
  2. NHS Fan — nhs supporter
  3. On the SWP and where the money is going — Andrew Walton
  4. positive — nhs fan
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