The Health Service Journal (week beginning 15 February) reports that the East of England had the steepest decline in accident and emergency performance in England compared to the previous year. Three trusts in the region, including the Cambridge University Hospitals Trust (for Addenbrooke's Hospital), were in the top ten biggest declines, despite attendance remaining broadly flat. It was officially acknowledged that the trusts had been affected by discharge delays.
These discharge delays are the result of government cuts to local authority budgets for social care of between 28 per cent and 40 per cent. At the same time, an increasing number of care homes are closing because they are not able to make sufficient profit for their shareholders: the majority of residential care is provided by private 'for profit' companies, which are often owned by hedge funds based in offshore tax havens. A recent report, The Failure of Privatised Adult Social Care in England, discusses the factors leading to the crisis in social care.
In addition to the adverse impact of the social care budget cuts upon the NHS, the forthcoming implementation of localised Sustainability and Transformation Plans aims to limit NHS spending to £22 billion less than is needed to maintain the current service. They are an attempt to force unjustifiable cuts, which will undermine service provision, and push the NHS further down the road towards wholesale privatisation.
The UK is the sixth largest economy in the world and can well afford a decent, publicly funded health service. On Saturday (4 March), there is to be a large, family-friendly march and rally in defence of the NHS in central London: Our NHS. It is being organised by Health Campaigns Together and the People's Assembly Against Austerity.
Please come and take part, to show your support for our NHS.
The letter above was printed in the Cambridge News on 28 February 2017. It is republished here with the kind permission of the author and of the newspaper.