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From The Socialist newspaper, 14 August 2013

Save Our Hospital!

Shut down the town!

Andy Bentley, Staffordshire Socialist Party

Self-appointed administrators have announced plans to reduce services at Stafford District General Hospital (DGH) and facilities in surrounding towns. It leaves people to travel 20 miles to hospitals in Wolverhampton or Stoke.

This is what they effectively decided months ago - it fits in nicely with government plans to run down DGHs and dismantle and privatise the NHS. No one in Staffordshire accepts their verdict!

The administrators' so-called consultation is a sham - they know it and we know it! Over 1,500 angry people turned up to Stafford's first 'consultation' meeting. Only half could fit in the room, others went to another room, 250 listened in a car park.

Despite calls for calm, people vented fury against health bosses who had cut their services. They cried "turn it off" as bosses played their promo video. Staff who challenged the bosses were cheered to the rafters. If that's the start, then future consultation meetings don't augur well for administrators!

We don't need to be 'consulted' again - 50,000 of us marched on 20 April against any plans to dismantle Stafford/Cannock hospital! Originally the administrators raised the spectre of closure but the pressure we have all put on means they are not confident enough to go that far at this stage.

But they're clearly still not listening enough! The powers that be still want to get rid of Maternity, Paediatrics, Intensive care and downgrade A&E. We need to step up the fight to defend Stafford and Cannock! Decisive action is necessary.

If we are to make them listen to us and keep our services then we must close down the town for a huge protest! Every business should close, with every worker stopping work for a day or half a day to build a giant weekday rally that can make crystal clear we will not accept the loss of any of our services.

The 50,000 who marched on 20 April showed clearly there is massive support. Now is the time to mobilise this support again.

If the 'Support Stafford Hospital' campaign called for a shutdown and named the date, this would receive massive support locally and nationally. We should turn the 'consultation' meetings into mass rallies to build support for a shutdown. Trade unions should join in by organising workplace meetings. Community groups and residents associations could organise local public meetings to mobilise support.

Neither is Stafford an isolated case. It's part of the government's plan to cut local hospitals and privatise as much as they can of our NHS. Support Stafford Hospital should appeal to organisers of other campaigns like Lewisham and elsewhere to support such action in Stafford. Save our NHS campaigners in other areas threatened with cuts might also consider taking similar action!

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In The Socialist 14 August 2013:


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