Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/491/2508
Labour climbs down in Wales - but for how long?
NEW LABOUR'S strategy of closing or downgrading Welsh hospitals and replacing them with a vague commitment to care in the community has been withdrawn - for now.
New Welsh Assembly health minister, Edwina Hart, admits that Labour's health strategy Designed For Life is dead. This victory for health campaigners was achieved by a big vote against Labour in May's Assembly elections.
Closure or downgrading dozens of hospitals would have meant a severe cut in health care in Wales. A largely spontaneous movement of local hospital campaigns reflected overwhelming opposition to the cutbacks.
Plaid Cymru (Welsh nationalists), Tories and Liberal Democrats opportunistically reflected this opposition in their election campaigns by promising to reverse the plan. After its worst result in Wales since 1918 and failing to get a majority in the Assembly, Labour needed Plaid and Lib Dem support, so they appointed a new health minister and put cutbacks on hold.
Now, says BBC Wales, the Welsh health bureaucracy has had to freeze most of its plans. The BBC focussed on the campaign in Swansea to save neurosurgery in Morriston Hospital.
The Swansea demonstration against health cuts before the Welsh Assembly election, largely organised by Socialist Party members, was the biggest event in the Assembly elections and was attended by Edwina Hart.
However, this could just be a temporary victory. The decision to close Swansea's neurosurgery unit could still go ahead. Health Commission Wales will meet in July to discuss its fate. The decision could end up on Edwina Hart's desk.
And the problems of NHS under-resourcing in Wales remain. Labour could come forward with a new plan in future with the support of one of the other parties.
Or if the Welsh Labour government falls, the rainbow coalition of Plaid Cymru, Tories and Lib-Dems could come up with different cutbacks dressed up as improvements. But working people will not be fooled. A new round of struggles looms and the campaign goes on.
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