Save Our NHS Leicestershire are protesting against plans to cut intensive care beds at the General Hospital, including the proposed sale of land at the General.
In Leicestershire, the so-called Sustainability and Transformation Plan is the blueprint for local NHS services over the next five years. It includes “Plans for reconfiguration of Leicester City Hospitals from three to two acute sites”.
What does this mean for Leicester General Hospital and why are intensive care beds being targeted as part of the cuts? The removal of intensive care beds from the General will be the first step toward downgrading the General Hospital as an acute hospital, with other services, such as renal and urology services, also removed. University Hospitals of Leicester Trust are going ahead with these cuts, without even the pretence of a public consultation, such is the pressure they are under to cut services.
Hospital managers claim that these plans are necessary because of duplication, and sometimes triplication, of services across Leicester’s three sites, leading to “inefficiencies”. And while we agree that there is much that can, and should, be done to improve the provision of local services, the plans currently put forward by the Trust are far from satisfactory. Their plans must be put out for a full public consultation.
Fire-sale of NHS Land
Across the country, the amount of NHS land being sold off has increased – 718 sites have been deemed “surplus to requirement”, compared to just 418 two years ago. In other words, as services are cut, hospitals are selling off land to private developers to make ends meet.
These one-off payments are not going to be adequate to ensure our NHS is funded properly. The health service continues to be chronically underfunded – the Tories have restricted annual budget rises to just 1% since 2010 (whereas a minimum of 4% is required to cope with growing demand). The fire-sale of public land will also create serious problems for any future, and inevitably necessary, expansion of NHS services. As argued in a recent Health Campaigns Together report, “Retaining public sector land for future use is far better value for money than selling it only to replace it at a higher price later.”
The biggest financial problem facing the NHS is PFI – Profit From Illness, as Dave Nellist has called it – but more commonly known as the Private Finance Initiative. Started by John Major, but expanded enormously under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, this enabled private companies to take over the running of NHS hospitals. Cleaning and catering were sold off first, resulting in an increase in “superbugs” as private companies cut corners, regardless of the hygiene risks to patients.
NHS privatisation has gathered pace since, with the introduction of the Tories’ Health and Social Care Act, selling off NHS services to “any willing provider”. Some of these contracts last as long as ten years! This means that all NHS services are now up for grabs. Just one company, Richard Branson’s Virgin Care (registered in a tax haven, the British Virgin Islands) has been awarded £2bn of NHS contracts.
The threat to Leicester General Hospital is part of the process of privatisation, underfunding, fragmentation and cuts which have affected every part of the NHS over the last forty years. Save Our NHS Leicestershire calls for a full public consultation into the Trust’s plans to remove intensive care beds from the General.
Come to the Save Our NHS Leicestershire public meeting on Saturday September 29 at Hansom Hall, Leicester Adult Education College, Belvoir Street, at 14:00 to discuss how we can fight back against these proposals.