Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/405/4611
Campaign stops health closure plan
LAUREATE HOUSE Mental Health Unit in Manchester has been saved! Campaigning pressure by patient groups - helped by the Socialist Party's petitioning for months, speaking to staff, patients, and visitors - forced health bosses to back off.
Lynn Worthington, Wythenshawe Socialist Party
Closing Laureate House would mean patients, visitors and staff making an impossible 30-mile round trip to its "relocation" in North Manchester. This is a landmark victory in the fight for decent health services. But we still need to keep an eye on the "consultation project" which bosses will try to use to make other attacks.
We found out about Laureate House (LH) through our general election campaign in April, when cleaning staff told us about the threat of closure. LH's post-natal depression unit has unique accommodation and facilities. What guarantees were there that a "transferred" facility would have the same?
Health bosses said it costs too much to rent LH from the profiteering landlord companies. We say: don't kick out the patients, kick out the profiteers! Private profit has no place in healthcare.
Construction giant McAlpine owns Laureate House under the Private Finance Initiative; the NHS rents it from McAlpine at extortionate rates. McAlpine has a contract for 35 years with South Manchester NHS for Laureate House and other services, at a cost of £86 million! At the end of 2004, McAlpine announced pre-tax profits of £38.2 million - £2 million up on a year before.
Taking up the campaign, we went to see ward managers and staff, who took our petitions, and outside the hospital we petitioned staff, patients and visitors. We then took the campaign onto the estate round the hospital to let people know what was going on. The many donations by working-class people enabled us to produce the hundreds of leaflets and petitions needed to make this victory happen.
Our NHS is being left to the greed of profiteering and private companies. We demand all privatisation be ended. All existing and new facilities should be run in-house, under democratic control of staff, patients, and the wider community.
Working-class people can win battles like this. Not long ago at Trafford General Hospital we forced health bosses to delay the proposed closure of the mother and baby (neo-natal) unit. Faced with mass campaigns, bosses can't just decide everything behind closed doors.
Primary health care
Fight New Labour's privatisation strategy
THE GOVERNMENT'S latest proposals for primary healthcare put working people's health needs below big business' profits. Under the proposals Primary Care Trusts (PCTs), responsible for healthcare provision to communities, will relinquish their role and instead become merely "commissioning" authorities.
Len Hockey, UNISON Joint Branch Secretary, Waltham Forest Health Branch (personal capacity)
Services provided by school nurses, district nurses, therapists and others will be privatised and off-loaded onto charitable and voluntary bodies with the inevitable threats to pay and conditions that go with it.
The plan aims to make cuts of £250 million and reduce management and administrative costs by at least 15%. It goes on...
"As PCTs focus on promoting health and commissioning services, arrangements should be made to secure services from a range of providers rather than just through direct provision by the PCT." A tight timetable is detailed including "March 2006: all statutory consultation completed."
Reference is made to local government and how it has developed its "role as commissioner (privatiser) of social care services." This amounts to the Americanisation of UK public services. Along with this, all Trusts are to become NHS Foundation Trusts by April 2008.
UNISON condemned the move, rightly arguing for proper consultation. But this is not enough. UNISON should make a clear break with New Labour and some of the estimated £3 million that would be saved should be put towards a campaign including national industrial action to save our NHS. This, if campaigned for throughout the membership, would receive overwhelming support.
A socialist explanation of the narrow selfish interests of Labour and its big business backers, as against the interests and needs of health workers, their families and the communities they serve, desperately needs to be asserted.
Health and inequality
A GOVERNMENT study shows a widening of health inequalities between rich and poor. This is the first time ever that this has occurred under a Labour government.
The Department Of Health's Scientific Reference Group of Health Inequalities found the gap in life expectancy between the bottom fifth and the general population had widened by 2% for men and 5% for women between 1997-99 and 2001-03. This means that life expectancy in the wealthiest areas is 7-8 years longer than in the poorest areas.
The gap in the infant mortality rate between the poorest and the general population rose from 13% in 1997-99 to 19% in 2001-03. The infant mortality rate for the whole population was five deaths per 1000 live births, compared to six per 1000 among those with fathers in routine and manual work. This was significantly higher than the rate for those in the managerial and professional class, which was 3.5 per 1000.
BRITAIN'S TOP companies are still force-feeding their fat cat directors on cream. Directors' pay rose on average 16.1% last year - four times faster than average earnings. If you include bonuses and gains from long-term incentive plans, the average chief executive now gets paid over £2.5 million a year.
This rise comes after a 13% increase the previous year and 23% the year before that. Average earnings for workers are rising at 4.1% and the average annual salary is £22,060. So in Britain under New Labour an average chief executive is paid 113 times more than an average worker.
In The Socialist 25 August 2005: