You couldn’t make it up. Stafford hospital was placed into administration by the government for supposed financial ‘unsustainability’, in spite of the Trust being ahead of financial targets agreed with the Dept of Health (DH) and regulatory body Monitor just last year.
The ‘Trust Special Administrators’ appointed over Mid Staffs will give their final recommendations on Wednesday. Those in the know are trailing that the decision will be a bad one for the people of Stafford and its surrounds, 51,000 of whom marched for the preservation of their hospital to little media attention, with the hospital radically downgraded and residents forced to endure a likely 45-minute journey (or often longer) to reach emergency care.
The battle to save Lewisham hospital goes on, as residents fight desperately to overturn a decision to downgrade their hospital to little more than a hip and knee replacement centre because a different London Trust got into financial difficulties.
All across the country, smaller hospitals face downgrade or complete closure as the government pushes its plans to rationalise hospitals into larger centres against the wishes of residents (so much for choice and local empowerment, then), and invitations to private bidders to take over parts of services or even whole hospitals abound.
Circle – whose major shareholders are regular contributors to Tory party funds and who employ at least one former Tory health team member (see here for more info) – has asked for this bailout in order to ‘accelerate’ its capital programme at Hinchingbrooke hospital, which it has been running since it was awarded the contract under this government in 2010.
This government tells us that the cupboard is bare – that there is no money to fund services or keep the poorest out of poverty, and that ‘unsustainable’ hospitals are a luxury that we cannot afford.
It tells us, in spite of the recent G4S debacle and others like it, that private companies run a ‘tighter ship’; that they are leaner, more efficient, and give better value for taxpayers’ money – in spite of the obvious flaw in the argument, which is that if you’re taking profits out of the total funding, that money will never be spent at the frontline.
Both claims are being flouted by the current situation.
Circle has major assets in the health sector, but asked its shareholders to stump up another £46m a year ago, after pre-tax losses of almost £33 million. Seemingly it’s still unable to ‘accelerate’ its own capital spending on a hospital it is running without government help, in spite of being effectively handed the hospital for nothing when it won the contract to run it.
The government tells us, as it cuts benefits to the poorest again and again, cuts nursing numbers and closes hospitals and other health facilities, that we can’t afford handouts, that the only facilities we can keep are those which are ‘sustainable’, ie. self-funding.
But it seems it’s ok to be unsustainable – and ok to hold out a hand to the government for help – if you’re a private company owned by people who contribute large sums of money to Tory funds and that offers ‘jobs for the boys’ to ex-members of the Tory health team. ‘Private more efficient’? Pull the other one.
Please share – and remember – this. Our intelligence is being insulted at the same time as we’re being robbed. Insult and injury, and neither must be forgotten nor forgiven.