London Economic: Despite Coronavirus crisis, plans proceed to CUT hospital beds
Posted by Sinister Burt on April 7, 2020, 10:29 am
Of course the media are too busy to look at this sort of thing - they've got ill prime minsiters to simper over, and NHS workers to hypocritically gush about. |
"Despite the current Coronavirus crisis exposing how few hospital beds the UK has compared to other countries, this week a consultation proceeded which will mean less beds and less acute provision for many.
The NHS has already suffered a loss of 50 per cent of its hospital beds over the last 30 years and now has an average of just 2.54 beds per 1,000 people – one of the lowest amounts in an OECD nation. This figure is one of the worst in the developed world: Japan has 13 beds per 1,000 people, Germany has 8, France 6, and Italy has 3.18 hospital beds per 1,000.
The consultation that ended this week would leave hundreds of thousands in the affected area with even fewer beds – down to just 1.18 – 1.46 beds per 1,000 people.
The “Improving Healthcare Together 2020-2030” consultation has been slammed as “cuts by stealth” and has continued despite Britain facing a Coronavirus pandemic exposing NHS capacity already well below other comparative countries. The Epsom & St Helier NHS Trust consultation costing £2.2 million was completed this week despite social distancing measures meaning planned public meetings were unable to be held in the last fortnight.
The proposals for parts of South London and Surrey would mean taxpayers pay £511 million for fewer hospital beds and thousands having to travel further for emergency and acute medical services.
The consultation is part of what Boris Johnson boasted would be “the biggest hospital building programme in a generation.”
Before the general election, Boris Johnson made much of plans to build 40 new NHS hospitals that then turned out to be six. The much-vaunted Health Infrastructure Plan is meant to shell out an extra £2.7 billion for work in six NHS hospital trusts as part of a first wave of investment from 2020 to 2025.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth questioned at the time: “whether across these reconfigurations, the end result will be more beds or fewer?” The Labour MP asked why investment in one of the six, in his constituency, Leicester Royal Infirmary meant “services closing, including maternity services, and a loss of beds?”
He also asked why in another, the Epsom and St Helier plan meant “moving from two acute services to one in a part of London where accident and emergency pressures are increasing?”
Reacting to the news that the consultation was going ahead despite the current crisis in NHS capacity, the shadow health secretary told The London Economic: “At this time of national crisis we must maximise NHS capacity across the board. Decisions on hospital closures should surely be suspended until we are through this crisis and reassessed based on what we need for the future.
“This emergency shows how we need more beds in the NHS not less. The last ten years have seen thousands of beds cut across the NHS. When we come through this we need a national bed review to increase bed capacity for the future.”
NHS England boss Simon Stevens admitted this week that “the NHS does need more staff and it does need more hospital beds” when asked in a Downing Street Coronavirus briefing why the UK has one of the lowest amount of doctors and nurses in the developing world according to the OECD. Stevens added: “we’ve been saying that for some time and that is what is going to be happening over the next five and the next ten years.”
However the NHS Chief Executive has been presiding over a process of downgrading NHS provision that has left parts of the country with less A&E and ICU units. Shockingly, despite the lack of NHS capacity exposed by the current Coronavirus crisis, this process appears to be proceeding.
Much of the £511 million public spend involved in “Improving Healthcare Together” proposals is set to be paid to the private sector to build a new acute facility while cutting acute provision in Epsom and St Helier hospitals. This would mean greater journey times for many of the 720,000 people living in the area to access vital services such as Accident & Emergency, consultant-led maternity, paediatrics, intensive care, cancer care, coronary care, emergency surgery and emergency medicine.
The consultation that ended this week failed to include an option to keep the present acute units open and instead invest in existing in more doctors, nurses and facilities at existing hospitals in South West London and Surrey. These hospitals were struggling to cope with demand even before the pandemic hit British shores. Depending which of the three consultation options is chosen, the Epsom & St Helier NHS Trust will be left 205, 81 or 50 beds short. – This in a population set to grow 24 per cent by 2039 according to the Office of National Statistics."