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When Leeds Socialist Party were campaigning against health service cuts, a nurse came up to our stall and told us that staffing levels were at danger level. Last December, when she was eight months pregnant, this nurse was told to do a night shift looking after a ward with 20 patients.

Alan Turner, Leeds Socialist Party

There is a major crisis at Leeds NHS Trust, one of Europe’s biggest teaching hospitals. The latest sign of this is the recent announcement that 640 jobs will go. Staff recruitment is to be frozen and all staff except consultants could be asked to change their jobs. Such drastic measures are meant to cut a projected £6 million deficit.

The background to this crisis goes back to October 2004 when the trust announced a deficit of £16 million. To reduce this deficit they closed three wards at Leeds General Infirmary and five at St James Hospital, with all staff recruitment frozen. In fact, around 200 beds have been lost in the Leeds NHS Trust in the last year alone and morale amongst staff is very low. A knock-on effect is that newly qualified nurses training at Leeds University have been unable to find jobs.

Then in July 2005 Dr Tony Chapman, the Clinical Director of Radiology, resigned because he was: “no longer able to operate in an environment of financial anarchy”. A leaked letter from Dr Chapman said: “A decision has been made to reduce staff and equipment in radiology until such a time as radiology can no longer offer a service that copes with demand.” The trust was studying proposals to lose 55 radiology jobs to try to save £2.4 million.

There has never before been a health crisis like this one in Leeds and with New Labour opening up the NHS to plunder by the private sector, we can only expect it to get worse. All over the country, there are campaigns to stop the cuts in hospitals and to save the NHS. They should unite together, fight for a national demonstration and build support for industrial action against the cuts.

What we say

  • End privatisation. Bring all health care into one nationally planned and properly financed service.
  • Nationalise the pharmaceutical industry, the pharmacy chains and medical supply industry and integrate them into a democratically controlled NHS.
  • Abandon the Private Finance Initiative (PFI). No more profiteering by building companies and banks. Fund new hospital building programmes with public money, using direct labour.
  • Unite the campaigns to defend the NHS – for a national demonstration to build support for industrial action.