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The NHS is falling apart – why no cycle of demonstrations to fight back?

Save our NHS, nurse image by Chris MillettThe NHS is going through a slow-motion breakdown.   Today’s announcement that 3,000 children in the UK died before their first birthday in 2012, and that children in the UK are more likely to die before they reach their fifth birthday than in any other Western country except Malta, is a shocking statistic.   And why is this happening?   The expert view is that poverty and deprivation in the UK, together with cuts in welfare, are directly linked to this alarming surge in deaths of children in the first year of life.

Then there has been the reporting also this week of Britain’s stubbornly high rates of baby death and brain damage.   The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has raised the alarm that nearly 300 babies a year are dying during or soon after birth, with a further 1,200 ending up with brain damage or other serious health problems.   Britain’s high rate of stillbirth – nearly 4,000 a year or about 10 a day – is the third-worst among 35 high-income countries.   Again, what is the reason?   It is linked to under-staffing of maternity care and labour wards, with 800 fewer consultants than are needed to provide round-the-clock care in the 62 units that handle at least 5,000 births a year in which complications arise. This picture of excessive pressure combined with extensive under-staffing is now occurring across the whole of the NHS.   In the last year almost a million people have waited more than 4 hours in A&E, while at the same time cancelled urgent operations are up.   There are now 1.2 million elderly or disabled people who are left without family to care for them, and by 2030 it is predicted that there will be 2 million people over 65 without adult children to look after them, a fifth of whom will need more than 20 hours’ care a week, but the (so far) £2.8bn cutback in the social care budget means it will not be available.   As a result in the last year more than half a million people over 65 had to be admitted to hospital as an emergency with potentially avoidable conditions.   Already 5 out of every 6 hospitals currently provide care only for those with ‘substantial’ or ‘critical’ needs, leaving 800,000 older people missing out.

And whilst previously you could expect to see your GP within 48 hours, now you would be lucky to see your doctor in less than 3-4 weeks.   And waiting times for hospital operations which was brought down from 18 months to 18 weeks are now shooting up again.   The NHS, as we all know, is in crisis.

So why aren’t we more exercised in kicking up about it?   This is a classic case – perhaps the classic case – where the public is looking for leadership in Westminster in mounting a rolling cycle of demonstrations, meetings, protests in making this the number 1 issue for the next election.   So why aren’t we doing it?

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