Leading article: A suitable case for treatment

Share
Related Topics

The symbolism is striking. In 1948 the father of the National Health Service, Anuerin Bevan, officially opened Trafford General, the first of the new breed of publicly owned hospitals. Sixty years on, the same institution teeters on the edge of bankruptcy.

Trafford Healthcare Trust has been struggling with cash problems for several years now. It is facing a £7m deficit by the end of March 2009 unless it gets spending under control. And now it has been forced to borrow £3m from the Department of Health to pay staff wages.

The unions are blaming the crisis on the Government's attempts to run the health service as a business. On the contrary, it is because the trust in question has not been run like a business that it is in such trouble. The present difficulties are the consequence of years of mismanagement and inefficiency.

A "turnaround" plan drawn up by a new management team has been approved by the Strategic Health Authority. Some 200 jobs are scheduled to be lost to balance the books. Trafford General will also close two of its seven operating theatres and is to rent out three wards to other local hospitals to bring in more cash. All this is sensible. Providing that responsibilities such as infection control are not neglected, it is right that trusts take measures to balance their books. The Government has invested a huge amount in the health service since 2000. A depressing amount of this has been wasted. The days of inefficiency and profligacy on the part of NHS trusts must end.

In fact, Trafford Trust's financial problems are rather atypical of the present NHS. The health service as a whole is forecast to record a surplus in 2007-08, wiping out the budget deficit of the previous year that sparked a painful round of belt-tightening. Trafford was rather late in confronting its problems and now finds itself playing catch-up.

Yet this trust's plight is about more than financial mismanagement. It is also indicative of the changing shape of our health economy. One of the reasons Trafford General is under pressure is that patients are increasingly getting the care they need elsewhere, at smaller community hospitals or specialised treatment centres. The demand for large, traditional district hospitals is shrinking. The Government's internal market reforms are beginning to have an effect.

While this may be uncomfortable for the employees of Trafford General, or any hospital that finds itself under similar pressure, it is a process that promises to benefit the majority of patients in this country. For those who want a national healthcare system fit for the 21st century, it is something to be embraced, not resisted.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Advisor - (HR, L&D) - Rugby

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful and well established busi...

Recruitment Genius: Product Owner - Business Analyst

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Product Owner/Business Analyst is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Quality Technician

£28800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is going through a period o...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Pressure is growing on Chris Grayling to abandon the Government bid to advise Saudi Arabia on running its prisons (Getty)  

What in sanity’s name is Chris Grayling doing in the job of Justice Secretary?

Matthew Norman
Health workers of the Red Cross and Medecins Sans Frontieres take part in training  

Are we starting to see the end of Ebola? Not quite, but we're well on our way

Tom Solomon
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea