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From The Socialist newspaper, 12 January 2006

Defend the NHS

No cuts

No closures

PROTESTERS ARE taking to the streets of Huddersfield again on 14 January, to oppose plans to centralise hospital services to a neighbouring town and the closure of a smaller local hospital.

The transfer will mean Huddersfield, the biggest town in the UK, will lose gynaecology wards, children's wards, the special care baby unit, consultant-led maternity services and inpatient elective surgery.

The Calderdale and Huddersfield Trust bosses claim the move is necessary for clinical not financial reasons. However, the trust's chief executive states they can't afford to employ more consultants to solve the problem - despite receiving an income of just over 700,000 last year herself, enough to pay for at least two more consultants.

Staff have recently been asked for their views on how the hospitals could save money. Surely cutting the salaries of the unaccountable trust board would be a good start?

On 10 January over 30,000 signatures on petitions and 3,000 letters of protest, were handed to the trust. This gives some indication of the strength of opposition to the plans. Although the so-called consultation process is coming to an end, the final decision on the fate of these services won't be made until mid March.

Dr Jackie Grunsell, a local GP who has been leading the campaign against the cuts said:

"There is still time for us to make the trust sit up and listen so the campaign does not end here. We have decided if the council refuse to hold a referendum on the issue we will stand candidates against them in the local elections in May. We will make that the referendum on the proposals!"

The campaign has united staff and patients in fighting NHS privatisation and cuts.

"We realise we are not alone in Huddersfield. Similar attacks on the NHS are happening all over the country thanks to New Labour's health 'reforms'. Tony Blair clearly wants to privatise the NHS from top to bottom and we now need to link up with other campaigns nationally to fight to defend our NHS."

Saturday's demonstration will start at St. George's Square, outside Huddersfield railway station at 11am and will march through the town centre.

NHS hit by internal market

FOR SOME time now, the Audit Commission has been pointing out what it sees as individual hospitals' financial weakness. Now, with the present crisis of NHS funding, it has produced a report detailing the failings of an entire NHS strategic network in Surrey and Sussex.

Surrey and Sussex, Royal West Sussex and Brighton and Sussex University hospital trusts have deficits of some 56 million and others in the strategic health authority had deficits totalling 11.3 million. The Audit Commission warns of potential mergers if not closures of entire clinics or hospitals.

But who's caused these problems? The internal market has been brought back in to hospitals around the country. Hospitals now get paid according to how much work and how many patients they cope with, based on a crude average hospital cost.

However, if a hospital departs from this crude mean due to demographic or other differences - it can easily build up a 'deficit'. This and the welcoming embrace of New Labour for privatisations of services by profiteering businesses is putting immense pressure on NHS budgets.

Both hospital trusts and primary care trusts are now facing problems. Campaigns against closures and cutbacks are springing up around the country; these must be co-ordinated to build support for a national demonstration and national strike action to defend the NHS.

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In The Socialist 12 January 2006:

Defend the NHS

Fight back against far right

Stop the privatisation of council housing

Tuition fees repel poor students

Striking for jobs, services and rights

Successful tube strike must be escalated

Make your mind up time for Lib Dems?

For an alternative to New Labour

Democratic discussion, debate and decision-making

Priorities and opportunities in 2006

Fighting for socialist ideas world wide

109,315 - a record year for the fighting fund!

Solidarity with Tehran bus workers

After Sharon, what next?


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