A petition has been launched in support of NHS staff and patients as they face the effects of the financial recovery campaign. The petition calls on Gordon Brown to stop his programme of NHS cutbacks, and comes as local Trusts review plans to cut 300 jobs at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital and the Andover War Memorial Hospital.
Across the country, hospitals – large and small – are now facing closure, having slashed almost 20,000 jobs since the beginning of the year. The cuts have come soon after Labour ministers revealed that the NHS had run up a deficit of £1,277,000,000 last year.
The organisations which actually provide front-line care – Primary Care Trusts (which pay for GP and community nursing services) and NHS Trusts (which provide hospital services) – have borne the brunt of this worsening financial position.
Sir George Young, MP for North West Hampshire, is leading the local campaign against the cuts. He explained, ‘Over the years, NHS staff and the services they provide have saved hundreds of thousands of lives. Those working locally provide a good service with the resources available.”
“But, sadly, Ministers have dealt the Winchester and Eastleigh Healthcare NHS Trust a very difficult hand to play. They will struggle to stay within their budget without hitting services.”
Responsibility for much of the current financial crisis in NHS hospitals lies with Gordon Brown who has forced them to adopt a controversial new system of financial accounting. This means that NHS Trusts which finish the year in deficit receive both a cut in their budget equal to the deficit in the next year, and also have to repay the deficit from the year before.
Administration costs have also ballooned due to constant restructuring initiated by Whitehall.
As Guardian journalist, Polly Toynbee, has commented, under the current Government, ‘minister after minister reversed direction, created then tore up 10-year plans, dismantled then resurrected a market the party inherited. It invented new primary care groups, remade them into primary care trusts, then merged them again into half the number. It demolished regional health authorities, put in 28 Strategic Health Authorities, then merged them back down to the 10 original regions’.
Hard-pressed social services departments are also feeling the pain of NHS cutbacks. They have warned about a funding black hole of almost £1.8 billion this year.
Sir George continued "Patients, nurses and doctors should not have to put up with Labour’s continuous reorganisations, inconsistent policies and now cutbacks and closures. Local people should not be paying the price of Gordon Brown’s policy failures. The design of local NHS services should be a matter for local people, but instead key decisions are being taken far away from them, behind closed doors and without consultation. We need local people back in control of our NHS services, and fairer funding for local NHS services."
"We had a dozen people out and about in Andover and Whitchurch, gathering signatures. There was a fantastic response."