NHS in Wales under attack

Mass action needed to save our health service !

This is the full article from theNSSN NHS Bulletin3-1which we have just produced for distribution. 

The Welsh government has major plans to reshape the NHS in Wales. By 2014/15 spending per head of the population on health in Wales will be lower than in any other part of Britain.

The seven health boards in Wales are drawing up individual plans and five have got together to produce a ‘South Wales Plan’ that will cut the number of hospital beds, reduce the number of A&E units and specialise services in fewer hospitals.

This will mean increased travel time and reduced accessibility for the people who depend on these services most.

The Welsh health boards have to find nearly £300 million of ‘savings’ – around 5% of their combined budgets.

This is on top of similar savings already identified in the previous year and the £1 billion estimated to have been cut from health budgets since 2005.

What the cuts will mean

These cuts have led to shortages of doctors and other staff, jeopardised the quality and safety of healthcare and threaten the sustainability of services Welsh people depend on.

The South Wales Plan will end the concept of the general hospital as we know it and result in only four or possibly five centres providing what many of us would consider essential services across the whole of South Wales from Llanelli to the Severn Bridge and covering a population of two million.

Outside of these four or five hospitals, services will be downgraded to mean:

  • No paediatric inpatient beds

  • Midwife only led maternity services

  • Minor injury units as opposed to A&E services.

In some areas, even just outside bigger towns and cities, transport is almost non-existent at weekends or in the evening. And public transport budgets are also being slashed.

The Welsh Ambulance Service is creaking at the seams and needs investment and full staffing to provide the service

The problem with the plan is not just the distance travelled to get to hospitals in an emergency. There is also the fact that, whenever somebody requires urgent in-patient care, they will be removed from their friends, family and community – all those things that add up to an essential support network for working class people.

Fight for every hospital

It is true that many people would prefer to be looked after at home but, delivered properly, community services are not the cheap option – they are more expensive than hospital services.

Cutting hospital cover and not being able to invest in community services adequately is a scary proposition.

These plans represent massive cuts to the NHS in Wales and campaigners will fight for every hospital, ward, service and bed.

We want to see a reversal of the decision for closure of specialist neonatal care units all across North Wales, with the nearest provider of this essential service being in England on the Wirral. But need to fight to make sure that this does not mean harsher cuts are not made elsewhere.

It is vitally important that we link up health campaigners from every area of Wales. It is important that different campaigns are not set against each other as politicians only argue for the saving of their local services.

In 2007 the Wales Assembly government was thrown back when it attempted cuts – campaigns that sprung up across Wales forced a halt on the downgrading of hospital services. That sort of victory can be achieved again.

But the threat to our NHS is greater this time around. To win will take linking trade unions, health workers and community campaigners.

We want the health service to be what it was founded to be. We can win but there is not a moment to be lost and we need to commit to the struggle for an NHS for Wales that meets the needs of all people in Wales.

(Clare Job)