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From The Socialist newspaper, 5 December 2012

Health unions should take action to save our NHS

Stop the A&E closures!

Michael Wrack
Saturday 24 November, defying cold driving rain, up to 10,000 residents and staff marched to defend Lewisham Accident and Emergency (A&E) and linked arms around it., photo Socialist Party

Saturday 24 November, defying cold driving rain, up to 10,000 residents and staff marched to defend Lewisham Accident and Emergency (A&E) and linked arms around it., photo Socialist Party   (Click to enlarge)

Proposals have been announced to close four accident and emergency (A&E) units in north west London: Charing Cross, Central Middlesex, Hammersmith and Ealing.

NHS North West London claims these proposals were backed by public consultation. But the consultation was only over which four out of nine hospitals in the area would lose their A&E units, with no option available to oppose all cuts and closures.

The consultation received around 17,000 responses from a population of two million, representing a "public support" of less than 1%.

On top of this, 66,000 people who signed petitions opposing the plans - almost four times as many as responded to the official consultation - have had their voices practically ignored, or more specifically counted as 18 opposing votes (one per petition).

Shaping a Healthier Future, the cluster of NHS Trusts involved, claims the decision is based on the service needs of the area, which would apparently be better served by having less A&E units.

A more believable reason for the closures is the 1 billion of savings the Trusts say they need to make in the next three years.

This 1 billion is part of a total 5 billion cuts being made in the NHS across London, tearing the service apart.

Saturday 24 November, defying cold driving rain, up to 10,000 residents and staff marched to defend Lewisham Accident and Emergency (A&E) and linked arms around it., photo Socialist Party

Saturday 24 November, defying cold driving rain, up to 10,000 residents and staff marched to defend Lewisham Accident and Emergency (A&E) and linked arms around it., photo Socialist Party   (Click to enlarge)

South London Healthcare Trust has already become the first NHS Trust put into administration, with Lewisham A&E under threat just six months after reopening.

This situation will be repeated elsewhere unless a successful national campaign to defend the NHS is fought.

Good campaigns are being fought locally in these areas to defend local services, but must be linked to the wider picture of generalised attacks on the NHS.

Focusing only on saving local services leads to the situation seen in north west London, with service users asked which services should be closed.

For the campaigns to be successful they must also involve, and ideally be lead by, the health trade unions.

Local union branches must involve themselves as key elements to community campaigns, while simultaneously putting pressure on union leaderships to build for national action.

The TUC has already voted to "consider the practicalities" of a general strike, and health workers should make this a key demand of their campaigns.

They should also join the National Shop Stewards Network lobby of the TUC General Council on Tuesday 11 December to demand that a date be named.

Red alert!

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In The Socialist 5 December 2012:


 

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