Coronavirus and the NHS – Ealing Save Our NHS response

Where to start? It’s strange times indeed.
In this Newsletter we have a big focus on the Coronavirus, as well as the Budgetlocal NHS bosses being taken to court and the threat of more cuts at Ealing Hospital.
Please read on….
Coronavirus and the NHS
On Wednesday, the World Health Organisation finally declared a global pandemic.
After a decade of austerity, the NHS is woefully unprepared for a scenario similar to that of Italy. There is currently a staffing shortage of more than 100,000 workers; A&E waiting times are at the worst ever; bed occupancy is at 95%; and yet NHS bosses continue to argue that they don’t need more beds because community care will make up for the shortfall, even though these services are in complete disarray!
What the coronavirus pandemic shows is that it is not enough to plan for minimum need. The NHS needs funding which can enable it to deal with national emergencies.
It is also the clearest proof of why publically provided healthcare is not just desirable, but an absolute necessity in order to ensure the health of all.
The private sector, which offers health coverage only to those who can afford it, plays no role in securing the health of society as a whole. Public health is a social responsibility and needs therefore to be organised and financed by the whole of society.
However the lack of capacity in the NHS to deal with coronavirus means the private sector will be asked to help and won’t be expected to forego any profits!
All the more reasons for Ealing Save Our NHS and other campaigners to keep on fighting for a properly resourced NHS that can cope with all eventualities and an end to privatisation.
Did the Budget deliver?
This was expected to be very much a Budget to help the NHS, councils, employers and society as a whole with deal with implications of the coronavirus. So did it deliver?
Caroline Molloy, health campaigner & editor of OurNHS, doesn’t think so. She says it is not just about the extra money promised for NHS, councils and other public bodies, but also about providing safety nets for people to afford to stay at home and removing barriers for migrants from seeking help.
In Ireland the Government have increased sick pay to £266 per week and made it available to all who need it. Contrast that with the UK Government who has only agreed to pay Statutory Sick Pay of £94.25 to those who are eligible. Millions of self-employed, part time and zero-hours workers won’t even qualify for that. They simply can’t afford to ‘self-isolate’.
Hidden away in the Budget is a big hike in the ‘NHS surcharge’ from £400 per to £624 per adult and £470 per child, which many migrants including NHS workers must pay to retain eligibility to use the NHS. It will also extend to European nationals from January next year and is, of course, on top of their NI and tax! With all the massive shortages of staff in the NHS this move is really shameful.
You can read more on this story here:
Street Stall – this Saturday 14th March – West Ealing:
This Saturday there will be an Ealing Save Our NHS Stall outside Sainsbury’s In West Ealing from 11.00-1.00pm. We will be giving out a short statement on coronavirus and continuing to gather signatures for our petition to restore services to Ealing Hospital. If you can join us for an hour or so you will be most welcome.
Our local Acute Trust has 2nd worst ‘deficit in the country:
London North West University Healthcare Trust (LNWH), which runs Ealing Hospital, is in a dire financial state with a forecasted deficit of nearly £92 million. Apparently they had agreed a plan for an £82 million deficit, so they are £10 million worse off. Even to keep to this whopping amount they will have to borrow £10 million (from the Government which will charge them interest), thus adding to the loans they already struggle to pay back, while they are expected to somehow keep cutting costs!
How can a NHS Trust be in deficit? After all it’s not a business but unfortunately they are expected to act like one. Instead of just getting funding to look after patients based on actual need, LNWH and all other Trusts have to agree a business-style contract each year with the local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs – NHS bosses). This means that Trusts have to agree to deliver services for a defined amount of money. The problems begin when the money paid doesn’t meet the demand for services.
So what do local NHS bosses in Brent, Ealing & Harrow do when LNWH treats more patients then agreed by them – It expects the Trust to cover a chunk of the cost!. According to a recent article in the Health Service Journal, the refusal to fully reimburse LNWHT for treating extra patients added an extra £5.4 million to their deficit and rising!
You can read the HSJ article here:
The Trust is now in a desperate search for more ‘savings’ and unfortunately Ealing Hospital, without a proper plan for its future, makes easy pickings.
ESON opposes theatre closure:
The hunt for savings to bring down the LNWH growing deficit means that proposals to close Ealing’s operating theatres at night from 10.00pm – 8.00am have been stepped up and are to be ‘consulted’ upon – we all know what that means.
We all fought to save Ealing Hospital A&E as a 24 hour comprehensive service and taking away acute surgery at night would undermine that. The idea that emergency cases could be diverted in ambulances or transferred from Ealing to Northwick Park Hospital during the night is extremely dangerous and it puts cutting the deficit above patient care.
Ealing Save Our NHS wrote to London North West University Healthcare Trust (LNWH) earlier this month opposing any plans to close Ealing’s operating theatres overnight. In response to our letter Jacqueline Docherty, Chief Executive of the Trust claimed, ‘there are no definite plans to close Ealing’s theatres overnight and no formal decisions have been made’. But then she added they may have to make some unpalatable decisions’.
Our opposition and arguments to keep our theatres open have been clearly laid out and have been followed up by local MPs and politicians.
If, as the Chief Executive says in her letter, our points will be taken in to consideration, then there should be no grounds for any closures!
The Trust response and our original letter are here.
Private Company sues Ealing and other local health bosses:
In yet another example of why private companies shouldn’t be allowed into our NHS, InHealth, who up to last year were making millions by providing Ealing & 4 other CCGs with community diagnostic services, have taken the CCGs to court, for awarding the contract to another private provider – Healthshare!
The contract is worth £15.6 million over 5 years, so it comes as no surprise InHealth won’t easily let it go! InHealth are worth £165 Million before taxes, so they are a big player in the diagnostic world. In the free-for-all system that now operates in the NHS, why wouldn’t companies like Healthshare want to move in on some easy profit.
Ealing Save Our NHS believes the NHS should never be using private companies anyway. How much money could be saved if Hospital Trusts were given the money to pay for the equipment and do all the diagnostics themselves. It would also be so much better for patients to not to have to travel.
This court case illustrates that private health companies will stop at nothing in their own interest, including dragging the NHS through the courts. It also means that the NHS has to look over its shoulder and constantly consult lawyers instead of focusing on health.
You can read more on this story here
Latest evidence shows – It’s a fact – austerity worsens health:
Cast-iron evidence from Professor Sir Michael Marmot proves a decade of austerity has done serious harm to the nation’s health and well-being and that year on year rise in life expectancy has now stopped!
In February 2019, Professor Marmot said- “Last year we pointed out that life expectancy had stopped increasing. Something that had gone on for more than 90 years, an increase of about 1 year every 4 years. In 2011 it slowed down nearly to a halt. Life expectancy as a measure of health, tells us a great deal about how we are doing as a society, and the inequalities in health tell us even more about society”.
Over the last year NWL NHS bosses who hold all the purse strings have been desperate to cut their deficit, claiming that GPs are unnecessarily referring people to hospitals and leading to a big increase in unplanned admissions to hospitals. We say that the real reason for such increases is the worsening of health among the poorest and most deprived communities and this report absolutely nails our arguments.
There is a very good summary from Keep Our NHS Public and a link to the full report –
ESON is very keen to do more work on deprivation, inequalities and the impact of charging on migrant communities. If this is something that would interest you – please get in touch