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From The Socialist newspaper, 8 December 2005

Save our NHS!

THIS GOVERNMENT'S health policies are threatening hospital and ward closures and privatisations of NHS services around Britain.
But across the country, there have been angry protests and mass campaigns to save our health service.
Local GP JACKIE GRUNSELL reports from Huddersfield where a demonstration takes place on 10 December.
The energy and organisational skills of groups like Huddersfield's Save our NHS show the potential to coordinate the many campaigns already in existence and to build for a national demonstration and national strike action to defend the NHS.

SATURDAY'S DEMO is the first step in a mass campaign to mobilise public opinion against the Calderdale and Huddersfield Trust bosses' plans to axe vitally needed hospital services in Huddersfield.

These plans include closing children's wards; transferring consultant-led maternity services to nearby Halifax; closing the gynaecology ward; transferring all elective and breast surgery; closing St Luke's Hospital and making cuts at ambulance stations. These are part of a national plan to 'rationalise' hospital services.

Meanwhile the local Trust directors have been paying themselves the princely sum of over 6 million a year in salaries - that's enough to cancel out the Trust's debt! These bureaucrats understand nothing about health care, only about balancing books and counting beans!

Local people

Local people in their hundreds have been collecting signatures and handing out flyers. Over 13,000 signatures have been collected and more arrive every day. People photocopy petition sheets and go down their street or seek support from friends and family. One campaigner collected over 3,000 signatures on her own.

Our group lobbied the council where councillors overwhelmingly supported a resolution opposing the plans. We are also putting huge pressure on the council to hold a referendum on the whole issue of saving our local NHS.

I am presenting detailed opposition to the Trust's proposals at the council's Scrutiny Panel which is supposedly gathering evidence about these cuts' impact on the local population. The hefty piles of petitions tell their own story!

The Panel will probably refer the whole matter to Secretary of State Patricia Hewitt, but we know how she feels about defending the NHS! Privatisation and cuts is all New Labour is currently offering cash-strapped Trusts.

Over 50 people turned up at our Organising Committee last week. A wide cross-section of people are now working hard to defeat the Trust, from college students to old age pensioners. If the Trust cannot hear our voices, they will after Saturday's 'big demo' as it's now called.

We have called a mass lobby of the Trust Board for 21 December, where they will feel the full fury of local people incensed at their plans and the inflated salaries they pay themselves! We're confident their appalling proposals can be defeated.

Join the 'Big Demo'

Saturday 10 December

Assemble Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, Acre St, Huddersfield, 11.00am.

March to town centre, rallying at the Piazza near the library.

Pay for health treatment says drug company boss

JEAN-PIERRE Garnier is chief executive of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), one of the world's top pharmaceutical multinationals. He earned 7 million last year and GSK made $3.13 billion profit in the third quarter of 2005 alone, much of it from selling drugs to the NHS.

But, he complains, "single payer" systems such as the NHS "are exerting heavy downward pressure on drug companies' prices..." He says: " It's time [for governments] to tell the average consumer that people should provide some minimum co-payment every time they use healthcare services."

He thinks introducing charging for treatment would help "eliminate waste as people would think twice before using services." Garnier would prefer a situation where GSK could more or less dictate its own prices at our expense.

The Socialist Party has a different solution to the problem - a real National Health Service where the pharmaceutical and medical supply industries and the big chains of chemists' shops are integrated into a democratically controlled NHS. That could only come about by nationalising the drug companies and running the NHS democratically with no room for Garnier!

Trained nurses turned away

FIFTY NEWLY-TRAINED nurses at Keele University have been told to find work in London after having their job interviews cancelled at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire as its financial crisis gets worse. Officials running the hospital scrapped this month's interviews as they try to slash 16 million from their budget by April.

Alan Holdway, Stoke-on-Trent

All the students, who are due to graduate next month and had been lined up for interview, have fallen victim to the recruitment restrictions brought in to shrink the 7,000 - strong workforce by at least 500 without redundancies.

Nursing leaders at the hospital said they were "gobsmacked" by the move, which they fear will hit wards already struggling with low staffing levels.

It was not too long ago that the government looked to other countries for nurses because there was a shortage. Now after these students have trained and graduated, they find themselves with no job and told to go to London.

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In The Socialist 8 December 2005:

Save our NHS!

Strike back at Labour's attacks

Is there a pensions crisis?

Sign up to the campaign

Brown's low growth, low wage budget

Domestic violence: Change in sentencing guidelines a step forward

George Best

Tories elect 'Blair-lite' leader

Now working class and poor must build real socialism

Brazil: Growing crisis over Lula government's corruption scandal

Solidarity with Irish Ferries workers

Victory for Andy Beadle as he wins his job back

Sixth week of caretakers' strike

PCS Left Unity conference backs union leadership on pensions


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