Hewitt's final act
07 Jun 2007 - JG
As predicted, yesterday was a bad day for Patricia Hewitt - admittedly it didn't take Mystic Meg to predict that one, though! However, it is hard to have any sympathy with her; she is heading a department that is spinning a genuinely bad news story in to something which doesn't sound so bad. The headline "NHS saves £510m" is not only misleading it is actually bad news for all of us. In an effort to hit targets and not go in to the red yet again, Hewitt has effectively taken away funding from the key areas of the NHS which means waiting list are not going to fall under the 18 week pledge and NHS workers have lost jobs. The Times reports that "-NHS Trusts in Yorkshire, Norfolk and Surrey have delayed appointments and denied patients basic operations, including treatments for varicose veins, wisdom teeth and bad backs, in an attempt to address their debts before the end of March-." In fact 17,000 jobs have been cut just to meet this target, many which were nurses who have been replaced by temps who are not properly qualified.
The only area of the NHS that hasn't lost any funding, it seems, are the over budget out of time IT projects. But things get worse when you look behind that £510m figure. 22% of NHS organisations are actually deep in the red with debts of £911m. The £510m is a net figure and is made up of massive cost cuts (often at patient expense) in other areas. So I hope for your sake you don't live in Hillingdon where your Primary Care Trust is actually £52.1 million (21% of turnover) in debt. Or how about the Royal Cornwall NHS Trust which is in £36.5 million (17%) in debt? This is not a good news story Patricia! So why have you come out and said the NHS is in the "-strongest financial position for years-"? You are missing the point (deliberately, I’m sure, but missing the point all the same). The fact is key areas are terminally stuck in debt and the remaining areas have made unsustainable cuts - except MTAS and the IT upgrade systems! I have no idea where you will be working in three weeks, Ms Hewitt, but I am sure it will not be the Department of Health.