Monday 7 May 2012

Welsh Labour's £290 million NHS cuts

Now that the council elections are over, the level of cuts planned by Welsh Labour begins to be revealed. During the elections, the First Minister was adamant that there were no cuts to the NHS in Wales, repeated by Welsh trade union officials ranting against cuts in England. And, while nobody seems to be using the word 'cuts', it appears NHS boards have to meet 'tough savings targets' of £290 million in the coming year and an average of 5% a year for the next 3 years.

This annual saving of the best part of £300 million is roughly the amount that Welsh Labour says is stolen from Wales through the Barnett Formula funding mechanism. Socialist Party members have consistently demanded that the Assembly set a 'needs budget' and mobilise trade unionists and working class people around a campaign for the return of this money, urgently needed for services in Wales.

This demand needs to be linked to the fight to overturn Welsh Labour's NHS cuts, inscribed on the TUSC banner in Wales and taken into the unions representing health workers. Saving NHS services is too important to allow the link between the leadership of the likes of UNISON Cymru and Welsh Labour to derail it. Fail to defeat these cuts and the NHS in Wales will look very different in 3 years' time. But health workers and users of NHS services will have no choice but to fight and the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition has an important role to play in that struggle.

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Wednesday 2 May 2012

TUSC supports Police march against cuts

600 police officers from South Wales will be amongst those demanding an end to government cuts to their pay and conditions, when they march through London next Thursday. According to the Evening Post, police officers are in militant mood.

Picking the same day as thousands of public sector workers in PCS, RMT, UCU, UNITE and NIPSA are striking seems like a clear signal that police officers identify with other public sector workers fighting cuts. The Police Federation is also balloting its members to gauge support for fighting for trade union rights, including the right to strike.

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition is fully supportive of this demand. On Saturday (April 28) trade unionists were assisted by the police in marching through the city centre in Swansea to mark May Day - perhaps next year we will march together and maybe before too long we might strike together as well?
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Tuesday 1 May 2012

Today was 'bring a tin to work' day - a day when canned and dried foods are collected for distribution by the local food bank. What a comment it is on austerity Britain that the number of people who have to rely on these sorts of hand outs has doubled under the Tory/Lib Dem coalition.

Britain is not a poor country though. The weekend saw the publication of the rich list - a celebration of the obscene wealth of the richest 1%. While the rest of us, the 99%, continue to struggle to make ends meet, the rich have continued to get richer, their profits boosted by our wage freezes, cut services and tax handouts from their millionaire friends in the cabinet.

When you see these enormous excess - far more than any person could reasonably spend and enough to end overnight the sort of poverty that leaves people dependent on donated food - it proves there is absolutely no justification for cuts at all. Labour's "cuts are too deep, too soon" mantra is still aimed at preserving the system that creates such inequality and hardship.

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) supporters want something more than this. Only a socialist society can eradicate poverty and want.

Vote TUSC on Thursday for a society run for the needs of the millions and not in the interests of the millionaires.

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Cardiff and Vale Cuts £67million from NHS Services

Cardiff and Vale Cuts £67million from NHS Services

Cardiff and Vale Health Board is celebrating International Workers' Day today by agreeing to slash another £67 million from the NHS services it provides.

The West Wing of Cardiff Royal Infirmary, which treats elderly patients, Rookwood Hospital, which houses specialist facilities for stroke sufferers, and Whitchurch Hospital, a Mental Health facility, have all been targetted for closure. Many smaller facilities out in the community will also shut unless the plans are stopped.

The board describes their strategy as "avoiding duplication of services" and "developing centres of excellence." But any ward that has more than one bed or more than one nurse duplicates services. In reality, the Board's plans are about CUTS - reducing the capacity of our health service to treat illness.

Stroke patients, for example, will be double-hit if a rehabilitation facility at the West Wing as well as an acute facility at Llandough Hospital are closed as planned. This essential service is already on its knees: locally, just 53% of patients were admitted to a specialist stroke ward within 24 hours of admission at Llandough, and only 8% at the Heath.

This latest round of cuts comes after an eye-watering plan to cut £87.7million was demanded by the Assembly last year. Cardiff and Vale cut funding for diagnostics, when it is missing targets for the detection of cancer, closed the Emergency Poisons unit at Llandough, when it is missing targets for dealing with emergencies, and cut the budgets of surgery and many more departments. The Board have explicitly admitted that the reason they take too long to deal with emergency patients is that there aren't enough staff and not enough beds. 31% fewer trauma operations were carried out last year. Even official figures say that 97% of bed space is occupied and that hospitals in the area are 110 beds short - that's before this year's cuts are carried out.

Waiting times, already long, are also being pushed up, leaving people to suffer in pain needlessly, because the politicians are demanding we pay for the bankers' mess with cuts to NHS and other services. 8% fewer patients underwent cardiothoracic surgery last year, 22% fewer were traeted by cardiologists, and so on.

With Council care services also being cut back, the Board is planning to dump patients into the laps of charities, regressing to the Victorian era. They are also planning to save money by booting patients out of hospital as soon as possible, especially the elderly.

The staff left behind after the cuts are made are under enormous pressure. Stress levels are through the roof. Predictably, sickness has rocketed amongst NHS staff. The response of the Board, however, isn't to make sure there are enough workers in place to do the job, but to bring in a draconian new sickness-management regime, that will be used to force people to come to work when they're ill...in a hospital!

The Welsh Assembly has the power to stop the cuts: it must use it! It is not good enough for Labour ministers to criticise Tory cuts when they are announced in Westminster but then claim that the Assembly is "softening the blow" when it implements savage cuts here in Wales. Despite NHS facilities being over £half a billion short this year, Carwyn Jones claims there are no cuts in the NHS in Wales! The Assembly must refuse to pass on the cuts to local health boards, and instead coordinate the setting of budgets that meet the real needs for NHS services in the community. They must organise a mass campaign of demonstrations to demand more funding from the government.