By our reporting team
A WSWS reporting team attended a “fun evening” in support of Stafford hospital, in Stafford, England. The hospital is part of the Mid Staffordshire National Health Service (NHS). According to organisers more than 1,000 people attended the event in Stafford last weekend. The hospital is faced with a major downgrading of its services and is currently in the hands of Trust Special Administrators (TSA), who are to report on its plans for the future in June.
Stafford is threatened with the loss of its Intensive Care Unit, the Accident and Emergency (A&E) department and maternity services. These could be switched to other distant hospitals such as New Cross in Wolverhampton and University Hospital of North Staffordshire in Stoke-on-Trent, both of which are already struggling to cope. A regulatory body, Monitor, selected to facilitate the privatisation of health care under the new Health and Social Care Act, is proposing a £70 million downgrade of services at Stafford and Cannock Chase hospitals.
Dr Javaid is a doctor who works at Stafford hospital. He said, “I worked at the hospital for 12 years. We are serving a community of 270,000 Stafford and Cannock people. We had 50,000 people turn up in support of Stafford hospital. I think the people making the decisions should come out and see 50,000 people on the road. They should listen to the public and the crowds. They should listen to the people and their demands. We have to listen to the majority and have decisions made and then imposed on us.
“We have some of the best facilities in the country at the hospital. Our intensive care unit is one of the best in the country. Recent figures showed that our maternity unit was also one of the best in the county. So I can’t understand why this is happening to the NHS. With limited resources we are doing our best, even with all these cutbacks.
“I think there is a national plan to cut back the NHS all over. We want our NHS back and we want our services back. I think it is a financial thing but the NHS was never made for profit. The NHS is a service that we provide through our community. We don’t think about money. We are taxpayers and we want the services.
“We are totally against privatisation. It is our right to have our healthcare facilities provided free of cost.”
On the overall attacks facing the NHS, Dr Javaid said, “I think we should all fight together. Health care is a right and we should all fight together to provide NHS services to everybody. We don’t want any cutbacks. God forbid if someone has a cardiac arrest as by the time they reach another hospital, they will be dead. If they go to north Stafford hospital they are saturated. They can’t cope with their own patients. How can they deal with Stafford? If you go to New Cross in Wolverhampton they are also up to the maximum.”
Nicola, a resident of Stafford said, “We have one child who was born in Stafford hospital. The other that was born at home but then had to go to the hospital.” She explained her family had long term connections to Stafford and commented, “We wouldn’t want to live in a town without a hospital.”
Asked she thought that there were plans to cut services at Stafford she said, “I think it’s mostly financial. Since all of the bad stuff [over deaths at the hospital] hit the press, they are struggling to staff the hospital. There’s a lot of financial issues and I think that the main reason”.
“The hospital does serve a wide area, a lot of the outskirts as well as Stafford itself. Also the A&E hours have been cut and if anything did happen and you needed A&E in those hours you have to go up to Stoke. But they’re not giving Stoke more support. So basically it means that the problem is just moved. People in Stoke who have their facilities still intact are then going to be affected by us losing our services.
“It would take us about 40 minutes to get there and if you needed that, people with small children, or anybody, it’s terrifying really.”
Asked about the attacks on the NHS embodied in this year’s Health and Social Care Act, she said, “I find that pretty terrifying. They’ve lowered the top tax rate and are taking more and more from us and giving us less back. Your average middle class working family are really struggling while the people at the top of the tree are having tax cuts.”
John is employed at the hospital and lives in Stafford. He has worked in the NHS for 15 years and said, “I don’t know what is going to happen with these cuts but there is a lot of restructuring going on. I think closing the A&E will be difficult because all the families will have to go to other hospitals. And this is not good and in emergencies it makes a difference.”
He said that staff shortages had been an important factor in the number of deaths that had taken place at Stafford hospital. “I think it is a general problem throughout the country with staff shortages in the NHS.
“The NHS is very good. No other country has anything like this where you can come in and be treated for free without paying any money at all.”
Raj, a resident in the Stafford area said, “This is a big town and there needs to be a hospital. I was recently a patient and was well looked after by the staff and doctors.” He said he was angered by claims by NHS officials that it will only take 10 minutes to get to Stoke hospital and only five minutes to get to Walsall. “It’s disgusting. How can they say that? It takes at least an hour. If you go on the M6 [motorway] it’s always busy. They are playing with people’s lives. They couldn’t care less about the people here. They don’t give a damn.”
Asked if he thought there should be an alternative Raj commented, “It’s the people. They should have their own party for everybody. The working class built this country, they worked hard and they are always made the scapegoats”.