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From The Socialist newspaper, 1 June 2011

"Frontline first" a dangerous tactic - unity is the key

by a medical secretary

The Conservatives have pledged to protect "frontline" NHS services and cut back on bureaucracy. In reality, this is another broken promise. They have no intention of saving even frontline staff. It is important that trade unions should unite health workers against their plans, not seek to divide them.

The nursing union, the RCN, has a national campaign called "frontline first". While it has every right to fight for its own members, their approach plays into the government's agenda that some cuts are necessary, and divides healthworkers against each other.

I have seen admin staff in Unison wearing badges saying "I am frontline", making the point that we are just as important to the running of the NHS, enabling nurses and doctors to do their jobs efficiently.

The RCN website talks of speaking out against NHS cuts that are harming patient care, but also exposing where there is waste in the system. In reality, the NHS has long been under-funded. The Trust I work for has had vacancy freezes, so that gradually less and less staff are under more pressure to do the same job, resulting in a rise in stress and sickness.

The way to win a campaign is to give workers the confidence that if they take action then these cuts can be beaten. As part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) Socialist Party members attempted to do this, by standing in elections on a no-cuts platform.

Unison and the RCN should be balloting for strike action, in unity with the teaching unions and civil service union PCS, who are taking action to protect their pensions on 30 June. That way we could show the government the unity of public sector workers and that we are determined to resist any attacks on our terms and conditions.

The inefficiencies in the NHS come from the privatisation that has already happened under Labour and the Tories. In 1979, admin costs were only 6%. The introduction of the "internal market" by the Tories doubled this to 12% and with Labour's foundation trusts, this has risen to nearer 20%.

In preparation for my hospital becoming a Foundation Trust, we will have to record every contact with a patient, even if it is just a phone conversation. This is only because the hospital will then be charged per contact, as if it was a business. The real source of inefficiency is the private market.

The Socialist Party would reverse the privatisation of the NHS and place our public services under truly democratic workers' control. We would get rid of genuine inefficiencies - pharmaceutical companies overcharging for drugs, expensive PFI schemes and allow NHS hospitals to cooperate with each other and share best practice, rather than have to compete with each other for patients.

The NHS brought free health care to millions for the first time when it was introduced, but 60 years later these gains are being taken away from us, as multinationals move in for the kill. We need to fight for a socialist society, so that we can win a genuinely public NHS now and for future generations.

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In The Socialist 1 June 2011:


Socialist Party news and analysis

Rage against bankers

Fifa scandal

Glencore - Profiting from global hunger

New attacks on women's sexual and reproductive rights

Disabled protester - "inadvertently struck with a police baton"

Shoesmith sacking - social work under growing pressure

Gil Scott-Heron

News in brief


International socialist news and analysis

Egypt and Tunisia: Revolutions at the crossroads

Greece: unite the struggles and bring down the government


National Shop Stewards Network

Strike - to defend jobs and pensions


Socialist Party NHS campaigning

Government plans for the NHS: Privatisation and world class profits!

"Frontline first" a dangerous tactic - unity is the key

Cardiff NHS protest against Topshop tax dodger

Demonstration against closure of day centre in Llandeilo


Socialist Party workplace news

Southampton - council workers' strike spreads

Saltend construction workers' struggle ends

TUC disability conference

Lewisham teachers - Action threat spells victory

Newcastle East Coast rail call centre - Save jobs!

Workplace news in brief


Socialist history

18 years since Stephen Lawrence murder


Youth fight for jobs and education

Coventry action against academies grows

Yorkshire meetings make Jarrow plans


Socialist Party feature

Lib Dems - a party rooted in capitalism


 

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