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Five Surgeons Quit The Royal London Hospital: We Have to Share the Blame

On 2nd December 2011 the London Evening Standard ran a damning piece, which revealed that no less than FIVE leading orthopaedic surgeons have quit working at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel due to “dangerous” practices which put “patients at risk.” 

David Goodler concluded his resignation letter with this chilling statement, I have been complicit in a poor standard of trauma care and am guilty of negligence by association.” 

Instead of going into condemnation mode, which let’s face it we in the Labour Party love to do when we are in opposition, (it makes us feel good and releases those soothing endorphins), we need to apply some causation theory here. 

Without doubt the Tories butchering of the public sector on purely ideological grounds plays a part in this crisis. Even if the axe hasn’t yet come crashing through the Royal London, the insane political dogma that is contained in the brutal Health and Social Care Bill is creating a sense of hopelessness in the NHS. People are waking up to the fact that instead of incremental improvements in the NHS achieved since 1997, we are entering a phase where the future looks and feels bleak. Hence things go wrong and staff and patients now react with an attitude that this is the face of things to come. 

But we have to take our fair share of the blame. The Private Finance Initiative, first floated by John Major but then grasped with both hands by Tony Blair plays a massive part in the ills that have befallen the Royal London. 

In 1993 I was sitting around a table at a Labour Party weekend training conference for young members (yes really, I was young once) when we challenged a senior Shadow Cabinet Minister over PFI. “It’s brilliant”, he enthused. “ We get World Class schools and hospitals and the private sector get to shoulder all the risks. We don’t need to raise taxes and it won’t count on the balance sheets. Genius!” 

I’d love to ask him if he stands by that now. 

On the 4th April this year a Freedom of Information request was made the to Trust (satire is alive and well) asking specific questions regarding how much the Trust had to allocate per annum in repayments, and how many bed net gains or loses will be in play when the new building comes on line next year. 

Mr. Jonathon Ball, whose title is FOI Lead (?!) amongst other things, replied on 18th April thus; 

Please be advised that we do not hold the information you require. Most of the information that we provide in response to Freedom of Information Act 2000 requests will be subject to copyright protection.” 

In plain English this means that as the company that has done the work is a private one, the contract details don’t have to be made public. That’s all right then, not to worry. 

Trawling through Google however, provided more information than the FOI request. In early 2010, the British Medical Association produced a report whilst we were still in power, which contains this information on repayments; 

The new Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel scheme is costing £1 billion and the 35 years of index-linked payments will start at £96m in 2013”.

The Trust will repay SIX times the value of the work done. 

Allied to the £5 billion in cuts that NHS London has to find during this Parliament, the Royal London is facing bankruptcy, or will be forced into massive cuts, staff losses and axing of bed capacity.

The BMA also revealed that the following proposal was on the table for the NHS whilst we were still in power… 

Non-acute services to reduce staff utilisation by 66%, appointment times (GP consultations) by 33% and prescribing costs by 10-15%.” 


And there’s more….. 

“Decommission 7% of elective procedures, 30% of outpatient appointments, 10% of A&E activity and 10-15% of diagnostics” 

In conclusion whilst we must fight the Tories plans to trash the NHS, we must face up as a Party to some pretty serious blunders whilst we were in power. 

We need to listen, no REALLY listen to clinicians, staff and patients and above all get the private sector and the market out of the NHS.


About dermotrathbone

Writer and co author "Through Red Lenses". Activist Unite the Union, Save Our NHS Hull. Fan of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Hull FC, Munster and Ireland Rugby. Views are mine alone and may not reflect the organisations concerned.


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