Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/744/15759
Build action to save our NHS!
On Saturday 24 November, defying cold driving rain, up to 10,000 residents and staff marched to defend their local hospital. A south London nurse reports.
The atmosphere was electric as the demonstration brought Lewisham High Street to a standstill. Drivers tooted their horns enthusiastically. The Unison, NUT, and Unite union banners headed up the march. Also prominent was the National Shop Stewards Network banner. Unison's London region swung behind the demonstration, giving health staff confidence to march en masse.
Feelings are strong over this planned closure. 250,000 Lewisham residents know that this situation is critical. People may die if they are conveyed longer distances to either Woolwich or Kings College A&E for emergency treatment. Maternity and other services are also at risk. The administrator, Matthew Kershaw and the new Woolwich and Lewisham chief executives must be held to account for this devastation.
Staff and patients chanted "Save Lewisham A&E. Save the NHS". They see shutting their local casualty as just one in a string of planned assaults by this government. It's all one NHS. NHS managers, ministers and MPs use divide and rule tactics, talking about different areas of the NHS as if they were separate worlds. All NHS cuts must be vehemently opposed.
This casualty department meets all its performance targets and has one of the lowest rates of hospital acquired infection in the NHS. Yet this state of the art department, that had just seen £12 million worth of investment, is closing. And while our NHS is being disassembled bit by bit, the wealthy controllers of Private Finance Initiative schemes (which are wrecking hospitals) are getting richer than ever!
Platform speakers highlighted the unfairness of the planned closure. At an open staff meeting at Lewisham hospital following the march, health workers and supporters spoke on where to take this epic struggle.
NUT national executive member Martin Powell-Davies assured Lewisham NHS staff that they would get great support if strike action followed this great show of community involvement. Health trade unionists should call for emergency branch meetings and put forward motions for NHS staff to be balloted for strike action.
If we strike we can win. If we do not, we could lose a key casualty department forever! Many health workers may think they cannot strike but they can, with the unions planning for emergency cover in the event of a strike.
If industrial action is coordinated across health union branches the fight to keep Lewisham A&E open will be victorious and strike a blow against all public sector cuts.
Mid Yorks health workers strike against pay cuts - and argue for re-nationalisation
Admin and clerical workers at the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust have been fighting attempts to cut their pay and conditions through well-supported strike action. Trust bosses claim that these attacks on low-paid workers are necessary in order to make savings of £24 million by the new financial year and achieve Foundation Trust status in 2014. Payments to the consortium which built the £311 million PFI hospitals in Wakefield and Pontefract are costing the Trust over £40 million annually.
But our Unison branch has long argued that the only real solution to the Trust's financial crisis is to re-nationalise its PFI hospitals, cancel all debts to the consortium which built them and open Trust accounts to full public scrutiny.
We will oppose all cuts and privatisation demanded by the Health and Social Care Act. We are lending our full support to the 'Save Our Local Hospital Services' community-led campaign which aims to maintain full services at our three hospitals, and bring all privatised services back under full public ownership. Such local campaigns should be backed by all health unions and linked into a national campaign to save the NHS.
A strike leader
In The Socialist 28 November 2012: