There have been a lot of developments since Orpington members resolved to stand up for SLHT’s service users and staff a month ago.
After our meeting in June, our Secretary, Nigel de Gruchy, wrote to all the Labour MPs in South East London, asking them to come together with us in a joint campaign. And across the areas affected by the turmoil at the Trust, our colleagues were more than willing; in fact, Greenwich and Woolwich Labour have already established over the past eight months a successful campaign with an unambiguous message – that we love the NHS and won’t let it be threatened by a reckless Tory government on a privatisation bender.
It was inevitable that our political opponents and the right-wing press would describe private finance initiatives as “Labour’s mess”. Inevitable too, that some on the left would muck in. And it’s true, of course, that the new New Labour government pursued existing PFI projects (signed off by the Major government – lest the right forget!) – and then instigated more – all the while many voices even within the Party itself both opposed PFI in principle and prophesied its financial underpinning was flawed.
At little more than ten years old in 1997, my grasp of the economics was somewhat – and excusably! – limited at the time. But it’s since become quite apparent to me that you grown-ups too easily forgot the years before. Though I would seriously reflect on my membership of a Labour Party that championed PFI today, desperately-needed schools, hospitals and roads appeared in the Blair years that without such arrangements just wouldn’t have.
But in SLHT’s case, the ideological argument is not only post-event – it’s a red herring which diverts energy from exposing the cynicism of the Health Secretary’s decision to place the Trust in administration. As Greenwich and Woolwich MP Nick Raynsford told Parliament this week:
- Media reports about South London Healthcare being a failing trust with poor standards of clinical care are misleading – in fact, clinical performance has significantly improved. It’s one of the top five trusts in the UK in terms of low mortality, and hospital infection rates are three times lower than the national average.
- Andrew’s Lansley’s claim that SLHT patients “experience some of the longest waits for treatment” is untrue. The four-hour target for A and E patients has been met month-on-month since February. He seems to have already forgotten his letter to local MPs of June this year: “I wanted to write to you with a summary of the excellent performance of the NHS in your area”.
- The Trust has already managed to implement changes designed to reduce its deficit while securing the improvements mentioned above. That there is a deficit is not in dispute – it stood at £70 million last year. But Mr Lansley’s decision to stop and then restart a reconfiguration of local services cost SLHT unnecessary time and money. The plan, involving the consolidation of A and E services onto two from three sites and the concentration of specialist services, has already improved performance and made savings.
We’ll be out and about in Orpington in the coming weeks collecting signatures in support of the Trust – if you’d like to lend a hand, please get in touch.