Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/714/14385
Scrap the act! Unions must call national demo to save NHS
Paul Couchman, Surrey Unison branch secretary (personal capacity)
The private health industry has given the Tories £8.3 million since 2001 - and what do the Tories want to give them in return? Billions of pounds of profits from the destruction of our NHS.
On 1 April - five days after the Health and Social Care Act was given royal assent - Virgin Care took over Surrey care services, including seven community hospitals, community nursing, breast cancer screening, sexual health clinics, specialist dental work, physiotherapy and rehabilitation. 2,500 NHS health workers will be transferred to Virgin Care in a five year deal worth £500 million.
The government says: "This is a local decision, aimed at driving up the quality of services and enabling more innovative models of care.
"It will provide much needed security for staff and ensure patients receive the best care from the best provider."
Health workers do not think so. "The NHS in England is being broken apart by the hammer blows raining down on it from the Con-Dem government," said Whipps Cross hospital worker Len Hockey.
"Huge job cuts and closures of hospital wards and departments, including accident and emergency, are wreaking havoc.
"The Con-Dems' Health and Social Care Act will accelerate the privatisation process in the NHS."
Our forebears fought for a national, free, publicly owned and comprehensive health service. The sale of NHS services in Surrey to Richard Branson's Virgin company is an outrage and must be fought.
Trade unionists, pensioners, young people and community activists must join together to oppose this profiteering in our health services.
Surrey's trade unionists and socialists, through Save Our Services in Surrey, need to protest locally.
The privatisation that has already taken place within the NHS shows what this deal really means for NHS patients and workers.
Hospital cleaning was first privatised in 1981. Since then the number of cleaners employed in the NHS has been halved.
New Labour's child
Private Finance Initiative (PFI) schemes, one of the favourite tricks of the Blair/Brown New Labour governments, mean hospitals were built by private companies and leased back by public money at many times the cost.
The private company then still owns the property at the end of the lease. The NHS could save billions by kicking out the 'Profit From Illness' companies and taking these contracts back in house.
It is essential that a campaign across Surrey is built to explain the threat to NHS services and fight any attempts by Virgin Care to cut services, reduce the workforce or attack pay, terms and conditions.
This needs to be part of a nationwide campaign to stop the Health Act being put into practice.
We can win. Two decades ago, the poll tax was made law and implemented, meaning every adult had to pay the same rate whether they lived in a mansion or a one-bedroom flat. It was defeated by a mass campaign organising 18 million people who refused to pay.
The TUC and health unions must call a national weekend demo as the start of a serious fight to defend the NHS, including strike action if necessary, to make sure our health is put before the billionaires' wealth.
In The Socialist 24 April 2012:
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