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Fresh wave of protest in NHS
NHS demonstration March 3rd 2007, photo Paul Mattsson
"POLITICAL MEDDLING has brought the NHS to its knees... give us back the health service and we will rebuild it," said Jonathan Fielden of the British Medical Association last week, reflecting the anger at continued cuts and reorganisation within the NHS.
In the last five months doctors have organised a 12,000-strong march, a rally at Westminster and taken the department of health to court over changes to how junior doctors are selected. And there's now talk of doctors setting up a new union to fight better for their interests.
But health minister Patricia Hewitt claims that: "The NHS is in its strongest financial position for years, waiting times have been reduced, cancelled operations have continued to fall and the vast majority of patients wait four hours or less in A&E." Hewitt gives a whole new meaning to 'double speak' and government spin.
A TV programme added insult to injury for nurses, enraged by a below-inflation pay award, by asking premiership footballers to give a day's pay to a hardship fund for nurses.
One nurse, who devoted 31 years to the profession, said: "I am embarrassed that someone has gone cap in hand, pleading for money to set up a hardship fund from young men who could be my sons or grandsons."
Unison and RCN nurses lobby of parliament in 2006, photo Paul Mattsson
Another health worker calculated that the programme only raised £750,000 for the hardship fund. But if all Premiership footballers paid 50% tax on their income over £100,000, it would raise nearly £100 million every single year. He added: "We shouldn't be satisfied with the scraps!" And they shouldn't be.
Maximum pressure must be put on the trade union leaders to build industrial action for an above-inflation pay increase for health workers and other public-sector workers.
Blood service workers will protest this week. Industrial action could be just around the corner over the blood service's centralisation from ten testing centres to just three so-called 'super' centres. Whole regions will be left with no blood services close by.
The new financial year is bringing a fresh wave of protest in the NHS. It needs to be brought together in a united national campaign. The protests planned by People United Saving Hospitals (PUSH) and by Keep Our NHS Public for the NHS anniversary day on 5 July can give a national focus and be a stepping stone towards a massive national demonstration on 13 October.
In The Socialist 14 June 2007:
Unison national conference
What we think
Socialist Party NHS campaign
War and terrorism
G8 Summit protests
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party news and analysis