The emergency crisis at hospitals across Northern Ireland has reached new highs. An effective recruitment ban and the closure of A&E services has meant fewer and fewer staff are being told to deal with more and more patients.
The result has been a nightmare for patients and staff, and needless deaths. At least five patients have died in the past year waiting for treatment. Who knows how many deaths have gone unreported. Bosses on the health trusts have admitted that clocking records have been ‘changed’ in an attempt to meet completely unrealistic targets for waiting times. Even with fake recording, waiting times have surged. In this issue of The Socialist hospital staff speak out on the conditions which they are expected to work in. Not only do they reveal the horrendous pressures from trying to attend to patients but also bullying and threats from management.
Austerity is costing lives
In real terms, the current Stormont Executive has made cuts of £178 million from our health service. That means reducing staffing levels and closing down services. The crisis in our hospitals is not a medical crisis – it is a political crisis. All the parties in the Executive voted for the Budget on March 2011 which contained these cuts. Poots may get the flack for being specifically responsible for carrying out these cuts, but he is acting on behalf of all the main parties who set the health budget.
Stormont’s privatisation agenda
Faced with public outrage at the health crisis, Poots though has vowed to continue to wreak havoc. At a recent conference Poots stated that the recent “difficulties” makes even more determined to implement ‘Transforming Your Care’ – a programme to make deeper cuts and privatise heath services.
Speaking alongside Poots, Finance Minister Simon Hamilton maintained that “reform” of health care is consistent with “my vision for reform across the wider public sector”; politico code for privatisation. He went on “We must optimise available resources, from central and local government, voluntary and community services and the private sector, if we are to achieve reform in our service delivery to meet both citizen expectations and government demands for efficiency.”
The conference Poots and Hamilton addressed was called NICON 2014 and organised by an organisation called NHS Confederation which campaigns for privatisation of NHS services and includes private healthcare companies. It’s current chief executive was once a director for David Cameron’s Delivery Unit in the Cabinet Office and has led privatisation projects in Britain. Entrance to the conference cost £125! These are the people who the politicians in Stormont are working for – not us!
Join the Socialist alternative
The Socialist Party is calling on the trade unions to call a Northern Ireland-wide major demonstration against the cuts and privatisation of the health service. A serious, energetic campaign aimed at mobilising staff and the general public would receive a huge response which would send a clear message to Stormont that there is no support for cuts. Linked to this, a mass political alternative which represents the common interests of ordinary people – Catholic & Protestant – which stood for an end to austerity and cuts would be a serious challenge to the austerity consensus in Stormont. The Socialist Party is campaigning within the trade unions, amongst young people and in communities for the development of this alternative. If you agree with us, then join us today.