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Is our NHS now on a life support machine?

Tories admit NHS reforms "our worst mistake"

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This week David Cameron has admitted that his Government has made severe mistakes with the NHS. Despite all the raised voices at the time of the reorganisation (which he promised in opposition not to carry out), only now has the penny dropped for the Tories about the damage that has been done.

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Kailash Chand, Deputy Chairman of the BMA has written a devastating critique of the state of the NHS after just four years of a Conservative and Liberal Democrat Government.

It makes terrible reading but I know how important our NHS is to residents so I wanted to share some of his thoughts with you.

But first I wanted to assure you that I am in the fight for its future. I have already met with Dr Paul Williams from our Clinical Commissioning Group, Dr Mark Reilly from Public Health, the Chairman and Chief Executive of North Tees and Hartlepool Hospital Trust, local GPs, dentists, nurses, midwives, district nurses, care workers, speech therapists, paramedics, NHS trade union branches and many more....to hear first hand what their concerns are locally.

In the summer I walked a leg of the Jarrow to London People's March for the NHS. Here is a photo of the Stockton South contingent:

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And on Monday I was on the picket line with the dedicated workers at North Tees hospital who are calling for fair pay.

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The Independent Board recommended a 1% pay rise but the Government said it was not affordable. Mr Wharton called the strike "wrong"; but so far in an Evening Gazette poll around 86% of people disagree with him. (Do vote yourself)

But what does Dr Chand think? He is after all at the centre of the NHS.

The NHS is now on the brink of extinction. I’ve got 35 years’ experience of working in the NHS, from a junior doctor to a GP, and then chair of a Primary Care Trust. I’ve learned that most things can be made to work – even across organisational and local authority boundaries – if you have the right working relationships. Such relationships develop over time through honesty, openness, co-operation and trust.

This government’s management of the NHS is a stunning example of how not to do things. Letwin and Lansley’s roadmap is leading to the complete privatisation of the NHS. The first full year of the Health and Social Care Act is a bumper year for multinationals and their lawyers and accountants. A majority of new contracts to provide NHS services went to private companies.  

Few realise the extent of the rot, as most of these private companies hide behind the NHS logo whilst siphoning off a profit. Collectively, such providers received more than £10bn from the public coffers in 2013. And according to the Financial Times, around £5.8bn of NHS work is currently being advertised to the private sector, a 14% increase on a year earlier.

In the past two years, £11bn worth of our NHS has been put up for sale. 

Things are getting rapidly worse for patients as a result. 35,000 staff have been axed, including 5,600 nurses. Half of our 600 ambulance stations are earmarked for closure. One-third of NHS walk-in centres have been closed and 10% of A&E units have been shut. Waiting lists for operations are at their longest in years as hospitals are consumed by the crisis in A&E. 

Over one and half million admissions to private hospitals in England each year are funded by the NHS. That is approximately four hundred thousand patients a year, taking money out of the budget-stricken health service and lining the pockets and profits of the private sector.

Health spending is facing an almost unimaginable cut over the next five years. Every health think tank has done its best in recent months to sound the alarm. This isn’t shroud-waving – the figures show the NHS is at the brink of extinction.

The morale of the NHS family is at rock bottom. Their pay has been frozen for two years under the coalition, and they have been forced to accept a major downgrading of their pension benefits. Freezing and squeezing pay is heaping financial misery on more than one million NHS workers.

Do we really want an NHS that is obsessed with private companies tendering for the work? Or do we want a health service that is passionate about caring for the seriously ill and vulnerable? It doesn't have the ability to do both.

The Health and Social Care Act has created a schism that is causing turmoil. An organisation as vast and varied as the NHS will have imperfections, but the ethos that healthcare should be free at the point of use is one that I believe is worth defending. We need to fight for universal healthcare as a basic human right, regardless of whether we live in flourishing suburbs or inner-city deprived areas.

If I am elected to Parliament I will be proud and relieved to vote to repeal the 2012 Act.

It is not too late to save the NHS if we all pull together to defend it.

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