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From The Socialist newspaper, 1 March 2007

What we think

NHS: No more delays - for a mass demo!

WHILE NHS cuts and closures continue around the country, Patricia Hewitt, government health secretary, has announced the building of seven new hospitals. This would have been welcomed by health service users, except that they are being built under the disastrous Private Finance Initiative (PFI) and are part of the government's plans to sell off our health service to the highest bidder.

The new hospitals are expected to cost taxpayers a total of 1.5 billion - a large percentage of which will go straight into the pockets of private profiteers. It is estimated that private companies will make 3.3 billion in profits from the first generation PFI deals alone.

Even the House of Commons public accounts committee has described Norfolk and Norwich Hospital's PFI deal as the "unacceptable face of capitalism". In fact all PFI deals are unacceptable. The story of Queen Elizabeth hospital (QEH) in London is not unusual. QEH's running costs have increased by 9 million a year thanks to PFI - as a result it is facing insolvency and is carrying out major cuts.

Privatisation is undermining every aspect of the health service. For example, last week's announcement that deaths from hospital 'super-bugs' shot up to more than 5,000 last year is directly related to the privatisation of hospital cleaning services. Since they were privatised the number of cleaners has halved as private companies maximise their profits at the expense of clean hospitals.

On Saturday 3 March many thousands of people will be demonstrating in local protests around the country to demand an end to the destruction of our health service. The socialist welcomes these demonstrations as another important show of opposition to the government's agenda - but they are not enough.

There is an urgent need to pull together all the different local protests into one national, mass Saturday demonstration as the next stage in the campaign to save the NHS. That is why the socialist welcomes the decision of the UNISON health service group executive to call a national demonstration in June or July.

Unfortunately, this decision had to be taken in the teeth of opposition from the national leadership of the union, who have been more concerned with protecting the New Labour government than with organising a mass campaign to defend the health service.

It is now essential that trade unionists and NHS activists ensure that a firm date for a national demonstration is set as soon as possible and that there is a strong campaign to make it a success. People United to Save Hospitals (PUSH) is calling a national meeting of NHS campaigns and trade unionists, taking place on 31 March in Coventry to discuss building a national demonstration and coordinating the campaign to defend the NHS.

As many health campaign and trade union representatives as possible should attend that meeting to express their views on how best to build for a massive demonstration and other potential actions to stop cuts and privatisation in the NHS.

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In The Socialist 1 March 2007:

NHS crisis: clean out the profiteers

NHS: No more delays - for a mass demo!

No to NHS marketisation

Betraying the NHS


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