Concern at the future of NHS

SIR – I am a nurse currently working in the Lister Hospital in Stevenage. I am concerned about the closure of beds within the hospital. My concern surrounds the plight of vulnerable persons and the fact that the health authority has conducted no comprehen

SIR - I am a nurse currently working in the Lister Hospital in Stevenage. I am concerned about the closure of beds within the hospital. My concern surrounds the plight of vulnerable persons and the fact that the health authority has conducted no comprehensive risk assessment into the impact of such ward closures. The focus has been on financial saving.

Currently in my role as a staff nurse I have become increasingly concerned with the readmission rates to hospital of the elderly and vulnerable patients. I see on a daily basis the evidence that the infrastructure within the Primary Care Trust for home-based health care is failing. In some incidents serious harm has occurred to a vulnerable person due to lack of care in the community, patients have been discharged early and in some cases did not qualify for help once discharged.

The hospital Trust has based a portion of its financial recovery plan on the fact that patients will be discharged early, a so-called initiative called the effective use of beds. Every condition has an outlined length of stay, for example a heart attack five days, but it is evident we are all human and recovery times can vary widely. A 50-year-old person may take five days to recover but an 80-year-old person will not always conform.

It is my opinion the healthcare system in Hertfordshire is attempting to run before it can walk. I am asking for a slowdown in bed closures until the infrastructure is developed within the community to provide adequate and relevant healthcare meeting the needs of the public. Do the health authority realise it could take years to develop? It is the view of some of my fellow health care professionals, that the hospital trust is leaving itself open to corporate manslaughter litigation.

My advice to the public is, for the foreseeable future, to be particularly vigilant and attentive to the needs of elderly and vulnerable persons who have been recently discharged from hospital as chances are the healthcare system has let them fend for themselves.

The public should also be more proactive in scrutinizing the actions and proposals of the hospital Trust, as we are all building towards our futures. That may mean some day we will all be vulnerable, needing medical help and be left to fend for ourselves in dire circumstances.

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The Trust is happy for people to discuss job losses etc because it provides a smokescreen and simplifies the plight of the people who matter, the patients.

I have no confidence in the board of the Trust and its unethical conduct.



SIR - Now the chickens are coming home to roost, with the news of the Bedford Hospital cuts, the so-called reforms of choices, etc in the NHS, which Blair so glibly expounds, are being exposed as the deceptive ploy which it is, to cover the real intent which is to hide the encroachment of the private sector.

The exposure of Dr Monk of the situation at the Bedford Hospital and the cuts which are being imposed is but representative of a wider malaise affecting the NHS.

While hospitals are closing wards and slashing services and staff, the private sector is rapidly expanding. With PFI deals likely to cost tax payers £150 billion, and with much of the services being taken over by American corporations and other foreign companies, the NHS is under threat.

When this danger is being articulated by leading medical persons, newspaper editors and more and more honest politicians, then it is time the people responded. The voice of the people needs to be heard and the power of the people needs to be felt.

The Biggleswade and District Pensioners Association at its August meeting recorded its strongest protest at the betrayal of the core values of the service which the 1945 Labour Government created.

We call on the local organisations of the Labour Party to repudiate this disastrous policy of the Blair Government. We call on all other organisations and parties to join the growing anger and protest at the threat to publicly owned and controlled NHS.

The weasel words of the Labour spin doctors no longer can hide the truth as the practical results become ever more obvious.

The forthcoming TUC and Labour Conference will surely repudiate the march to the right taken by the so-called 'New Labour' and restore the social faiths and leadership of genuine Labour.

Failure in this respect will lead to a coalescence of right wing forces and a threat not against the NHS alone, but the Welfare State itself will be in danger.


The Paddocks


SIR - I am appalled to read of the proposed closure of the Urology Ward at the Lister Hospital.

I have attended the Urology Department since 1996 under the care of Mr Boustead and his team. During this time I have had several stays in Ward 7A and courses of chemotherapy. During the whole of this time I have always received the very best of treatment and care from consultants, doctors and nurses, all of whom have made my stay as comfortable as possible.

To lose all of this skill and dedication does not seem to make any sense and will be sorely missed by all of us who have attended in the past, and those who may need to in the future.

I am equally concerned that the secretarial work is to be undertaken by someone who is unlikely to fully understand what he or she is typing and will be unable to contact someone in another part of the hospital to clear up any query which may arise.

I have been very grateful to the secretaries at the Lister for their help in sorting out any problems which I have had, unlike my recent attempt to increase my household insurance policy, with a very pleasant young lady who had been trained to accept payment of existing policies, but was completely unable to even understand my request.

I rest my case.