24/03/2013 - London faces a NHS "crisis"

nhsLondon needs an emergency operation to save the NHS from a service cuts and hospital closures "crisis", according to health experts.

The People's Inquiry gathered evidence from 95 individuals and groups at a series of public meetings held over the last seven months.

London already lacks GPs, hospital beds and community care services and faces a further £4 billion shortfall, the inquiry found.

But the panel pointed out desperately needed public cash is still being siphoned off by profiteers who built hospitals under the private finance initiative (PFI).

And they warned the Tories' health Act will open the NHS in England to another market-driven disaster.

The inquiry gave its verdict after hearing evidence from health workers, patients and managers. It was chaired by NHS expert Roy Lilley.

Mr Lilley said the "fractured state" of London's NHS is the worst since he started work in 1974.

"We did feel there was a general chaos in the system," he told the launch of the inquiry's report in Parliament.

Mr Lilley added that he was "horrified" at how tough it is for ordinary Londoners to make their voices heard on NHS failures.

His warning comes a week after Tory Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt pushed clause 119 of the Care Bill through Parliament in retaliation for a crushing defeat by campaigners who blocked his bid to shut Lewisham hospital.

It gives special administrators the power to shut hospitals if a nearby NHS trust is short of money.

The inquiry's London's NHS at the Crossroads report recommends that the clause be scrapped.

It also calls for PFI debt to be taken off individual hospital budgets and absorbed by the Treasury and demands a cash injection to match the city's rising population.

Health researcher John Lister warned that "people will die" if services become tougher to access.

"If you're going to have a market in the NHS, money will be taken out of emergency services where a loss is made.
"Some of that will be from life-saving treatments."

Pat Harrington, general secretary of Solidarity, commented:

“Warning of loss of life may seem dramatic. We have seen, however, that the cuts in the fire service have led to deaths. It is likely that NHS cuts will too. Those pushing the austerity agenda have blood on their hands. Our country should be rich but it is being corruptly mismanaged.”