Letter: Hospitals forced into dilemma

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your report 'Hospitals told to refuse non-urgent cases' (6 February) is timely and serves to focus public attention on the growing scandal of NHS resources that are being wasted by the Government. By fulfilling their contracts ahead of time, acute hospital units throughout London are faced with an invidious choice: either continue to treat patients for whom they have not been paid and run up a financial deficit, or refuse to treat patients until the start of the new financial year in April.

Virginia Bottomley's response to this dilemma is to claim that hospitals that have fulfilled their contracts ahead of time are 'over- staffed'. What an appalling misrepresentation. The reality is that the Government has created an internal market, and then deliberately underfunded the purchasing arm, thus obliging hospitals to cease clinical activity until the new contracts start in April.

Mrs Bottomley would like hospitals to 'manage their contracts better', but this is just a euphemism for working slowly throughout the year, rather than stopping all elective work for three months of the year. Either way, waiting lists will lengthen.

The situation has reached such a crisis that even the BMA has started to take notice. Eventually, the public, too, will demand that Mrs Bottomley either changes tack or changes job. Otherwise, tragic cases like that of Martha Taylor will happen again, and again, and again.

Yours faithfully,

ROBIN RUSSELL JONES

Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire

6 February

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