Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/409/4646
NHS in danger
Protest and strike back now
IN SPITE of New Labour's propaganda, the NHS is in danger. In their headlong rush to privatise and cut costs, the government are threatening the very existence of a viable national health service.
There's an urgent need for a united campaign against these cuts and to stop the sell-off of vital services to private companies.
Nick Chaffey explains how the campaign is developing in Hampshire.
WE STARTED our campaign in Winchester over the summer. They announced 260 redundancies and 75 bed cuts but there was already understaffing at the hospital and services in the surrounding areas. Nurses have told us that they are forced to do their own cleaning. There has been a freeze on recruitment and an increase in the use of casual staff even though management accept this is more expensive!
Some redundancies have taken place in grounds and maintenance, with talk of inmates from the prison across the road being used as replacements! And the mood has been heightened, unbelievably, by the failure to pay staff.
The trust were obviously planning to privatise the pay centres in North Baddesley and on the Isle of Wight. It seems an assault on the union was organised, driving out activists and members to be replaced by agency staff.
These staff were undertrained, so weekly paid staff were underpaid and consultants were overpaid - the trust is now in a legal wrangle to get the money back!
This led to a lunch time walkout by over 200 staff. This protest got an instant reaction from the chief executive who was forced to rush out to speak to the staff in the car park.
Now they've announced that privatisation is the way forward, with the closure of the pay centre on the Isle of Wight.
The cuts are actually bigger than the deficit in Winchester. This appears to be part of a plan to pay for a new day care centre, which they have stopped building. This was originally due to be five-storey but is now only two.
Our campaign has had some impact, the trust were forced to reply to our leaflets but staff are unconvinced by their replies.
The mood amongst health workers is very positive towards our campaigning work but the lack of a lead from the union nationally is a big problem. Some nurses have raised the idea of striking and support the idea of a regional demo, which we are pushing for. The student nurses are particularly angry as the job freeze means there will be too many nurses for too few jobs. Not that this stops them recruiting nurses from overseas on worse contracts.
In The Socialist 29 September 2005: