Why the Threat to Glenfield Heart Unit is Without a Doubt Linked to NHS Funding Cuts

Over the past two decades the British public has been tricked and deceived about the NHS by Tony Blair, his New Labour hoodwinkers-in-arms, then the Con-Dem’s famed Coalition, and now the Tories. Little wonder that most people have little patience for politicians.

In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, New Labour and all political parties on Labour’s right were happy to make working-class people pay for a crisis, which we all know was precipitated by the relentless greed of the super-super-rich. The result: the corporate criminals received handsome handouts, while the rest of us were punished with austerity!

Fortunately, things began to look up last year when the Labour movement voiced their collective discontent at the pro-austerity nonsense of the Labour Party by electing a new leader in Jeremy Corbyn. In angry response, Blairite MPs (who still make up the majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party) along with the support of most press and television outlets have engaged in a relentless war of misrepresentation against Corbyn and his progressive politics.

As the NHS faces catastrophic funding cuts, the Tories keep repeating the well-worn mantra that they are providing the NHS with record levels of support. The trick is simple, the Government cuts funding in some areas not covered by the activities of NHS England, while simultaneously misrepresenting the level of funding they provide for NHS England by simply “redefining and reducing the scope of services provided by NHS England” (“George Osborne actually cut public health budget by 20 per cent despite NHS promises, analysis finds,” The Independent, 27 November 2015). Such commonplace deception was once again exposed by Jeremy Corbyn last week when he told the House of Commons:

“NHS trusts are in a financial crisis. According to NHS Providers, it seems to be the worst financial crisis in NHS history: 80 per cent of acute hospitals are now in deficit. There was a time, in 2010, when the NHS was in surplus. What has happened? In six years, the NHS has gone from surplus to the worst crisis in its history. A total of £3 billion was wasted on a top-down reorganisation that no one wanted, and Simon Stevens made it very clear to the Select Committee yesterday that he did not believe that NHS England had enough money to get through the crisis that it is facing.”

The massive attacks on our NHS, which the Government refer to as ‘efficiency savings’, are entirely driven by the discredited idea of austerity. The NHS ranks “first out of eleven healthcare systems on measures of efficiency” — yet we are repeatedly told the lie that the NHS is grossly inefficient when it is anything but. (The eleven healthcare systems that were compared were: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the USA.) It is for these reasons that the Government are presently closing A&E’s and three heart units across the country.

nhs-under-threat

The entire effort to close down, not build more, heart units is yet another farce of monumental proportions. Speaking last week in Westminster Hall in defence of the threatened closure of Leicester’s Glenfield Heart Unit Liz Kendall (Labour MP, Leicester West) made it clear how: “Clinicians at Glenfield rightly say that it makes no sense to close a centre that is already achieving precisely the good clinical outcomes NHS England wants.” NHS England have been proven “completely and utterly wrong” (Kendall’s words) in their reasoning for closing the heart unit, and she added that NHS England had failed to even carry out a “risk assessment of the costs and benefits, including the knock-on effect on other services.” She continued:

“It is a miracle that Glenfield is providing such incredible standards of care when it has been under the cloud of uncertainty for so many years. It makes no sense to close a unit whose clinical outcomes are already among the best in the country… It makes no sense to leave the East Midlands as the only region in the country without a children’s heart surgery unit, or to put at risk a world-leading ECMO unit and a vital, high-quality paediatric intensive care unit that supports millions of patients across the Midlands and the Eastern region.”

But considering Kendall’s unfortunate commitment to the unpopular politics of austerity — which meant she only received the support of 4.5% of voters in last year’s Labour Party leadership campaign – it is unsurprising that Kendall categorically failed to use her speech to draw attention to the relationship between the closure of heart units and the serial underfunding the NHS. In fact, when she spoke in Leicester (at a Save Glenfield Heart Unit Campaign meeting in September) she actually said that funding issues had nothing to do with NHS England’s decision to close Glenfield.

So rather than demand that the Government increase funding in the NHS and then reverse the privatisation of our health services, Kendall simply ended her speech by saying that “The Government must think again… [The decision] does not make sense. It does not have to be this way. We can work together to save the unit and improve care for everybody.”

Apparently happy with the content of Kendall’s speech, the Tory Minister of State for Health at the Department of Health, Philip Dunne, thanked the handful of politicians who participated in the debate by stating:

“I remind hon. Members that this is not about cutting costs—that allegation has not been made by anyone during the debate, which I appreciate. It is about trying to improve the standard of service for some of the most sick infants and children in the country, and to ensure that we have a robust, sustainable pattern of expertise in a slightly smaller number of hospitals.”

Let’s just hope that Leicester’s other more progressive Labour MP, Jon Ashworth, who is the new Shadow Health Secretary, will be more forthcoming in locating the threats to local NHS services in the correct places.

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