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Posted on 16 May 2012 at 18:55 GMT

It's our NHS - Let's fight for it!

Jacqui Berry
Unite members at St Thomas' Hospital on strike 10 May 2012 as part of the nationwide strike of workers in the public sector against attacks on pensions , photo Paul Mattsson

Unite members at St Thomas' Hospital on strike 10 May 2012 as part of the nationwide strike of workers in the public sector against attacks on pensions , photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

Austerity is hitting the NHS. 26,000 nursing posts have already been reduced, with a further 34,000 to be sacrificed - balancing budgets at the expense of patient care.

Members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) report being so overstretched that patients are being nursed in hospital corridors. This occurs on a daily basis. The crisis of beds has reached epidemic levels.

Patient safety is put at risk by nurses having to care for up to 18 patients at once. District and Community Services are being put under a growing strain. This is the state of affairs after just one of four years of planned cuts.

Our pensions have come under attack and we are being forced to work in physically, mentally and emotionally demanding roles until we are 68 years old. The government is hell-bent on cutting the pay of nurses and other public sector workers serving communities outside of the M25- although they won't extend this measure to MPs as called for by someone at the RCN congress.

Andrew Lansley was jeered by RCN members when he said the Health and Social Care Bill does not pave the way for privatisation. Clearly it does, as private companies will be invited to take on the planning and commissioning of services in England, running them for profit, not to provide patient care.

Their track record speaks for itself. Under Labour, private companies were welcomed to come and leach off our health service. The result? Massive structural debts and knock on cuts in services.

Unite members at St Thomas' Hospital on strike 10 May 2012 as part of the nationwide strike of workers in the public sector against attacks on pensions , photo Paul Mattsson

Unite members at St Thomas' Hospital on strike 10 May 2012 as part of the nationwide strike of workers in the public sector against attacks on pensions , photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

Like a broken record, Lansley repeated his mantra, that cuts had to be made and that the private sector can to it better. The NHS is not alone. Across Europe, politicians and big business are coming together in unleashing austerity onto ordinary working people, in an attempt to find a way out of their crisis. Big business is looking to take over public services like the NHS as they search desperately to find a way out of the capitalist crisis.

But there is a fightback developing. Unite health workers were on strike to defend pensions on 10 May. Health workers in the public sector union Unison recently voted to reject the latest pensions deal offered by the government. Doctors in the British Medical Association are balloting for strike action over pensions too.

We need publicly funded, high quality, health care. If capitalism cannot afford that, then we cannot afford capitalism.

All health workers who want to fight cuts, privatisation and all attacks on the NHS should put the National Shop Stewards Network conference in their diaries now:
9 June, 11am-4pm
Friends Meeting House, Euston Road, London

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