Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/466/1823
Mass protests continue
"NOT EITHER but Neither" is the slogan of the NHS Together campaign to save NHS services at St Peters (Chertsey) and Royal Surrey County Hospital (Guildford). The local anti-cuts campaign group, a coalition of trade unions, local councillors and community groups, called a rally in Chertsey on 2 December to pre-empt the Surrey Primary Care Trust (PCT) 'Fit for the Future' consultation.
Nick Kirk, Young Members' Officer for Surrey County UNISON (personal capacity)
NHS Together, unlike the two Tory MPs leading the 'Royal Surrey Action Group', believes our health service should be publicly funded and run and wants to avert a bidding war to cut services where one 'save our hospital campaign' is pitched against another.
NHS Together are concerned that the PCT intend to downgrade or even close yet another Surrey hospital. The full public consultation has been reportedly delayed until January, but both a full discussion document and an online survey have been available for months.*
Speakers included UNISON health head Karen Jennings, Surrey wide petition coordinator Ken Callaghan and Tory MP Humphrey Mallins. Karen Jennings tried to divert negative attention away from the Labour Party, saying "the Tories' policies on health are even worse than Labour's" but she did at least publicly announce that marketisation is a problem and this was understood by the crowd.
Ken Callaghan, who retired as a paramedic in protest at privatisation of his ambulance service, was an impassioned first-time speaker. Although still shocked that a 'Labour government' could preside over the NHS's downfall and privatisation, he said "Who do they think they are, and who gave them the right?" The crowd answered "No-one!" His call for a national campaign to defeat the cuts triggered long applause.
The rally attracted 300 people although only a handful of keen health workers at the rally suggests demoralisation from endless 'reforms' and a lack of fighting leadership from the health unions. People took UNISON placards with the campaign slogan vowing to display them outside their homes. Surrey Socialist Party member Paul Couchman sold 34 copies of the socialist.
ON 29 November, 150 health workers and campaigners from groups in Worthing, Hastings, Eastbourne, Crawley, Chichester, Brighton and Haywards Heath demonstrated outside Brighton's Metropole hotel against job losses, cuts and closures in the NHS.
Anger is growing across Surrey, Sussex and Kent with thousands attending meetings and rallies over concerns to close hospitals and wards and downgrade services. Local Socialist Party members had called for the need for regional co-ordination and campaigners and Socialist Party members from across the three counties met and planned the united 29 November demonstration.
The South East Strategic Health Authority, the unelected public body that chooses how to spend the region's health budget, were in the hotel, along with 500 managers and market consultants, deciding how to close our hospitals and divert NHS money to private companies
Josephina, a welfare rights caseworker who walked out of the conference to join the demonstration, said: "They were in a smug and insulated world of their own, telling us lies and rubbish about 'patient choice' and the need to involve private companies in health provision. We all know what they really mean: cuts to our health service and privatisation of the NHS."
In The Socialist 7 December 2006:
War and terrorism
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis