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From The Socialist newspaper, 14 November 2012

Admin staff strike, Mid Yorkshire NHS Trust, rally on 1st November 2012, photo Iain Dalton

Admin staff strike, Mid Yorkshire NHS Trust, rally on 1st November 2012, photo Iain Dalton   (Click to enlarge)

Fighting to defend the NHS

Around England and Wales, anger is growing at plans being revealed for the future of the NHS. The most furious reaction is against cuts and closures in hospital services. Socialist Party members report on the cuts and campaigns from their areas.

Lewisham

On 8 November, between 500 and 700 residents and NHS workers in Lewisham, south London, put on an impressive show of strength at a protest meeting. This was in response to the Tory government 'special administrators' announcement of proposed cuts.

These would probably mean: Lewisham Hospital's Accident and Emergency (A&E) unit, and its maternity unit closing, a 36 million cut in staffing, leading to hundreds of NHS staff losing their jobs and the privatisation of many NHS services in Greenwich, Bexley and Bromley.

People squeezed into four different meeting places while speakers shuttled between venues to get their message across! A Lewisham A&E nurse and a local GP, Louise Irvine, set the tone. Louise showed the plans to sell as much as two-thirds of the hospital site.

There was a determined mood to fight these cuts and growing confidence that, if we organise, we can successfully defend our health services.

Local NUT teachers' union activist Martin Powell-Davies asked how a child injured at school could be speedily ferried across London's busy streets to cash-starved Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, or to overstretched King's College hospital in Camberwell, if Lewisham A&E closes. He called on trade unionists to use their strength to fight cuts, including through taking strike action.

Labour-controlled Lewisham council - which has introduced its own cuts locally - should be mobilising opposition across the borough. It should also be using its scrutiny powers to help defeat this attack.

People would not accept any suggestion of 'divide and rule', where politicians campaign to save Lewisham's hospital - but call for cuts elsewhere instead. This must be a united campaign to stop health cuts across south London and to demand the privatisers and PFI bloodsuckers get their hands off our NHS!

When Lewisham Socialist Party took our petition against the closures to our Saturday campaign stall, selling 40 copies of the Socialist, people asked in disbelief: "Why are they closing it? It was only refurbished this April?"

If you're ready to fight and determined to win, come to the demonstration on Saturday 24 November, meeting at Loampit Vale roundabout at 2pm, marching to Lewisham Hospital at 3pm.

Wales

The Welsh government plans to reshape the NHS in Wales. By 2014/15 spending per head on health in Wales will be lower than in any other part of Britain. Health Boards in Wales are drawing up individual plans and producing a 'South Wales Plan' to cut hospital beds, reduce the number of A&E units and specialise services in fewer hospitals.

The seven Health Boards in Wales have to find nearly 300 million of 'savings' - around 5% of their combined budgets on top of similar savings already identified in the previous year and the 1 billion estimated to have been cut from Health Board budgets since 2005.

These cuts led to shortages of doctors and other staff, jeopardised the quality and safety of healthcare and threaten the sustainability of services we depend on. But Abertawe Bro Morgannwg (ABMU) Health Board (covering Swansea, Neath Port Talbot and Bridgend) proposes to accept these cuts and further reduce local services.

This will make matters worse by limiting accessibility to healthcare for the poor, those without transport and even whole communities. Socialists won't stand aside and see healthcare destroyed. We are challenging cuts in our Health Board but aim to link with like-minded people across Wales to fight for an NHS for the health needs of all the people of Wales.

Kent

Two meetings in Kent should give the Tories and Labour pause for thought. In Whitstable, a Keep Our NHS Public meeting attracted more than 50 people, while in Deal, one night later, another meeting on the NHS attracted about 30 people and voted to affiliate to Keep Our NHS Public.

At both meetings speakers with no connection with the Socialist Party, demanded independent candidates at elections to oppose both Labour and Tories for their attacks on the NHS. In Whitstable, Ed Miliband and Andy Burnham were denounced for their recent hypocritical conversion to 'defending' the NHS.

People haven't forgotten that Labour governments were responsible for so much damage through outsourcing, Foundation Trusts and pouring ever higher proportions of NHS funding into private coffers. Activists are determined to deliver a stinging retort to Tory cuts, but know Labour will not help.

Further meetings are planned around the area. An opportunity now exists to build this into a movement which can link up with NHS workers and their unions, to oppose all local cuts and privatisations.

When Socialist Party members raised this prospect, linked to the idea of a general strike to end Cameron's austerity, it received hearty cheers.

Sean Dempsey

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In The Socialist 14 November 2012:


 

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