Emergency at our hospitals

The Cambridge Health Emergency campaign issued an urgent, informative leaflet this month explaining the situation at Addenbrooke's and the Rosie. We're glad to republish the text here with the campaign's permission.

Cambridgeshire health emergency

Addenbrooke's and the Rosie Hospitals (the Cambridge University Hospitals Trust), although acknowledged as world-class, were put into 'special measures' in September 2015 by the Care Quality Commission. This was despite patient care being rated 'outstanding' in almost all areas.

Why did this happen?


The answer is chronic government underfunding as with many other hospital trusts. Despite trying to cut costs wherever possible, Addenbrooke's is seriously in deficit. The Trust is currently underfunded by £64m – rising by about £5m every month, and so money is paid out in interest to private lenders when it should be spent on patient care.

Shortage of clinical staff

The hospital is constantly short of doctors, nurses and other staff at all levels and this was one reason for the 'special measures' imposed six months ago. Now, perversely, the government insists that staff be cut to save money. Current clinical staff do unpaid and tiring overtime way beyond their already long shifts. To cut them is madness. Does anyone feel safe being treated by exhausted staff?

Shortage of beds

There is a shortage of beds and staff for both emergency and routine admissions. As a result essential operations have to be cancelled or patients sent to be treated in very expensive private hospitals paid for by the NHS. An acute lack of appropriate care in the community has also kept hospital beds occupied by patients medically fit for discharge.

Punitive targets

The government, through clinical commissioning groups, sets targets in some major clinical areas and fines trusts that do not meet them. Addenbrooke's has in the past been missing targets in A&E and cancer appointments, resulting in recent fines of £5m. We need that money for patient care.


Why are Addenbrooke's and the Rosie, and other hospital trusts all over Britain, in such high levels of deficit?

  1. The NHS receives in government funding only 8.8% of Britain's gross domestic product (GDP) – much less than most European countries where the average funding is over 11% of their GDP.
  2. Private finance initiative (PFI) contracts used to fund new hospital buildings involve huge costs over and above the actual building costs: e.g. the Elective Care Centre at Addenbrooke's cost £76m to build in 2007 and the PFI developers have been paid £9m each year since then, so £72m has been paid so far. This means that the cost will be more than paid by the end of this year, but the developers will go on being paid £9m a year for the following 21 years – £189m profit! When the payments finally stop the building will still belong to the developers, not the NHS who will have to rent it.
  3. Trusts regularly use expensive staff from private agencies.
  4. Since the Health and Social Care Act 2012, parts of the NHS have been opened to a new tendering process that allows private companies such as Virgin and Serco to bid for them. Clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) manage this expensive tendering process, reducing funding for patient care: for instance when UnitingCare – an NHS consortium – won a contract against private firms to provide adult and older people's care locally, the CCG procurement costs were £1m. The contract then collapsed after only eight months costing many more millions.

Savage cuts in NHS services are inevitable unless we halt PFI – halt privatisation – fund the NHS adequately.

We need our NHS – so what can you do?

Contact your MP:

Join NHS action groups:

Attend and ask questions at Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG and Cambridge University Hospitals Trust board meetings.

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