Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/420/4909
NHS in Crisis
Huddersfield's big demo
"WE'LL MAKE you listen" shouted the front page of the Huddersfield Examiner as it reported on Saturday's 'Big Demo'. The two pages that followed told how the people of Huddersfield took to the streets on 10 December, in a 1,000-strong show of 'people power'.
We were voicing our anger at the Huddersfield and Calderdale Trust's plan to axe hospital services in Huddersfield and to transfer a long list of others to the new PFI hospital in Halifax.
It is clear that that the people of Huddersfield are prepared to fight long and hard to defend their health service. "Huddersfield Trust, hear us shout, hospitals in, directors out!" chanted the marchers on their way from Huddersfield Royal Infirmary into the town centre.
People joined all along the route and came out of shops and houses to sign petitions, take leaflets and show support.
The campaign, led by local GP and Socialist Party member Jackie Grunsell, has already collected 16,000 signatures on petitions against the proposals (12% of the population of Huddersfield).
The so-called 'consultation meetings' charade held by the trust has only fuelled people's outrage.
The local press quotes one protester: "This is the first time I have ever been on a march. I feel so strongly about this issue. This is about money, pure and simple and we will not accept it!"
In her address to the rally in the town centre, Dr Grunsell made the point that there's enough money for Trust directors to award themselves salaries totalling over £6 million a year and that we could find a simple solution to the problem of the Trust's deficit!
She also called on the trade unions to square up to New Labour's attacks by calling for strike action in defence of the National Health Service. "The tide is turning," she said: "People have made it quite clear they want their NHS left just as it is."
The message from the people of Huddersfield was certainly loud and clear on Saturday. They want the council to hold a referendum on the Trust's proposals and they want the grossly over-paid, un-elected Trust fat cats to do as they're told by the people that pay their wages. They must keep vitally needed specialist services local, where they belong.
There was a good turnout of Socialist Party members from the region and the party showed its high profile in the forefront of the campaign. If the Trust hoped for an easy ride, it was badly mistaken. It should be afraid when it meets on 21 December, very afraid!
Socialist Party says
- End privatisation. Bring all health care into one nationally planned and properly financed, publicly owned service, free at the point of use.
- Nationalise the pharmaceutical industry, the pharmacy chains and medical supply industry and integrate them into a democratically controlled NHS.
- Abandon the Private Finance Initiative (PFI). No more profiteering by building companies and banks.
- Fund new hospital building programmes with public money, using direct labour.
- A minimum of £8 an hour and a 35-hour week for all health workers.
- Reintegrate all health workers back into the NHS, with secure contracts, good working conditions and pensions.
- Fight all cuts in the NHS. No to redundancies.
- Unite the many "Defend the NHS" campaigns already in existence. For a national demonstration to build support for industrial action.
Coining profits from ill-health
NETCARE, A private healthcare company from South Africa, has made huge profits from the NHS since the government told primary care trusts (PCTs) to put operations out to contract. Netcare landed a multi-million pound NHS contract to perform cataract and orthopaedic surgery.
A recent Channel 4 News item showed that an above-average number of patients were left badly injured after the surgery. Pressure was put on doctors to operate when they shouldn't. Drugs were given to lower blood pressure before cataract surgery. There were serious failings in the way Netcare surgeons were recruited and vetted.
Last year, units run by Netcare took over after thousands of cataract operations were privatised from Oxford Eye Hospital. South West Oxfordshire NHS PCT, which holds the area's NHS budget, wanted to "opt out" of using Netcare as the eye hospital could do the work just as quickly at less cost.
A leaked Department of Health memo admitted that each Netcare cataract operation would cost £115 more than it does on the NHS, partly because the surgeons performing it are paid £500,000 a year. But the government said go ahead with the private deal.
After six months of Netcare's contract, the PCT seems to have paid out £255,000 for £40,000 worth of work! Netcare charged for about 500 operations and assessments but only 93 were carried out.
The government already says the NHS is 'overspending' by £620 million. An independent 'think tank' predicts that the government's market-driven health 'reforms' will increase the NHS's financial problems. The King's Fund study suggests that one in five NHS trusts will develop massive deficits as the reforms bite in earnest.
Clearly Netcare and other privatisation schemes don't improve health nor do they save the NHS money! They're coining money out of our ill-health.
In The Socialist 15 December 2005: