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Posted on 14 April 2011 at 10:37 GMT

Staggering scale of London Ambulance service cuts

Steve Harbord, Unison rep, personal capacity, London Ambulance Service

The recent announcement about cuts to the London Ambulance service has left even the most battle hardened among us astounded at their scale. I for one naively thought that senior management would take the biggest hit.

But it turns out that out of the 890 proposed job losses, 560 will be frontline road crews. This at a time when call demand continues its year on year increase - we had 45,000 extra calls last year.

This is mind boggling and unfortunately it is the most vulnerable in our society who will ultimately suffer. But just as staggering as the scale of cuts is the response of the chief executive of the London Ambulance service Peter Bradley.

His lame performance on the BBC evening news bordered on the pathetic. He said: ''Unfortunately we are not immune to the financial pressure facing the NHS'' and: ''We will look to make savings while improving the care we give to patients''.

On top of this, the NHS chief executive, Sir David Nicholson, said: "It is critical the NHS use efficiency savings to make real improvements in the quality of care for patients''.

This is jaw-dropping stuff. It seems that the main thing learnt from management courses these days is how to turn language upside down.

At the moment there seems to be no strategy to roll back these cuts from Unison's leadership and it's becoming increasingly obvious that things will have to be pushed from below.

To that end we need an emergency branch meeting and a ballot of members on industrial action to head off the threat of compulsory redundancies.

There should also be a recall of the Unison health conference without resolutions being ruled out of order on how to fight the cuts, and a link up with other service groups in a special all-London conference.

Of course there is an alternative to this barbarism but you will not hear it being put forward by Unison's leadership or the Labour Party with its policy of the same cuts but slower.

The real alternative would mean nationalising the banks under democratic workers' control, scrapping of the obscenity of the banking bonuses and scrapping the Trident missile project which would save a conservative estimate of 95 billion.

It would mean closing the banking loopholes that mean that the likes of Vodaphone and News International pay virtually no tax and it would mean a higher rate of tax for the richest in society.

It would mean nationalising the pharmaceutical companies on a not-for-profit basis and ultimately it would mean the socialist transformation of the society we live in.

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