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From The Socialist newspaper, 8 June 2006

Save our NHS!

6,000 protest in Forest of Dean

SIX THOUSAND people, one in seven of all Forest of Dean residents joined a protest rally on 31 May against devastating cuts in Gloucestershire which could decimate health services in the Forest of Dean in particular.

Dilke Hospital in Cinderford and Lydney Memorial Hospital are to be axed, along with a care home for the elderly in Cinderford.

About 90% of those who attended left with Socialist Party leaflets in their hands, and 88 copies of the socialist were sold. Local people are determined to fight back against these cuts.

Lee Hyett

Barnsley Hospital

BARNSLEY HOSPITAL'S Chief Executive has announced that the hospital may be restricted to providing an 'accident and emergency' service only, due to a total budget shortfall of between 5 million and 14 million.

These proposals, only part of a catalogue of cuts being considered, come only 12 months after the hospital became a Trust and spent millions on improving patient care and maternity services.

UNISON and the GMB are planning to oppose the cuts including linking up with the Save Our NHS campaign in Huddersfield. More in future issues.

Angie Waller

Private firm grabs GP services

BLAIR'S GOVERNMENT has taken another step towards opening up the whole NHS to market forces. Barking and Dagenham Primary Care Trust (PCT) has signed a 5 million deal with Care UK, a private firm that runs hospitals and care homes, to provide GP services for 7,000 patients.

Care UK has little experience of running direct services for patients. Many doctors fear these firms will take GPs and nurses away from the NHS and destabilise local GP networks. Private firms compete for patients and won't treat people with complex or long term needs, such as care of the elderly. They prefer more profitable treatments such as 'elective surgery', hip replacements etc

Companies like Care UK see these GP services as 'loss leaders' to get their hands on NHS money. Care UK and other firms likely to bid for these deals own their own care homes and hospital facilities - they will tend to send patients to their own firm's facilities rather than to NHS units.

New Labour's 'choice'...

THE GOVERNMENT are spending vast amounts of money and time in pushing 'patient choice' on where to go for surgery in the NHS. Since January patients have in theory had a choice of at least four hospitals, one of them a private centre, for any non-emergency treatment. Now you can add to this 'choice' the foundation hospitals and any private centre anywhere.

But a recent survey suggests that this choice could widen health inequalities. The Kings Fund health 'think tank' survey found that middle-class people with a high degree of formal education often chose the best hospital while people without such qualifications chose the local hospital.

The government are fanatical about any measures that benefit private firms. It made them ignore the tendency for the more educated NHS users to use the scheme like they do the education system. Other people have to choose what was feasible.

Most patients say they like to have some choice locally but the things they want most are cleanliness, reliability, and reasonable efficiency in their own local hospital. That would be better served by increased funding in all local services rather than encouraging a two-tier service which results in hospital or ward closures.

... does not compute

THE NEW NHS computer system is running at least two years behind schedule and 14 billion over budget. Costs have trebled from an early estimation of 6.2 billion to the present 20 billion. To give a comparison, the total deficits of all the NHS Trusts which are threatening so many job losses only amount to around 800 million.

This isn't just another expensive information technology catastrophe like those that brought huge problems for government departments such as the DWP but big profits for the IT bosses.

The government was so keen on offering patients a so-called "choice" of hospitals that they ordered an over-complex network. Two-thirds of GPs say the "Choose and Book" programme was not a good use of NHS resources. Only 6% always use it while 85% say they want an inquiry into the system.

Wouldn't it have been better to make it easier for GPs to book appointments at local hospitals? Most patients want to go there anyway. Obviously, desperation to encourage privatisation has just increased the NHS's financial woes.

We say:

Building the Waltham Forest Save our NHS campaign

Two Socialist Party members took a petition around the on-site accommodation at Whipps Cross hospital and sold eight papers, with fifteen people interested in getting involved in the Waltham Forest Save Our NHS campaign.

Ben Robinson, Leyton

Everyone was angry that their jobs were under threat while the consultant overseeing the cuts was on 1,200 per day. Doctors, midwives, nurses, and cleaners couldn't understand why there was money to pay so many people "walking around with clipboards" whilst wards and operating theatres were being closed.

We met highly qualified people who had come from all over the world to work in healthcare, and faced deportation if they lost their jobs. One nurse told us: "If I lose my job here, there is nowhere to go. They are cutting jobs all over the country".

People want to fight back against the attacks. A few years ago, Socialist Party members at the hospital Unison branch led a struggle against management's attempts to cut cleaners' wages by paying them different rates.

We met workers who regularly buy the socialist, and so knew about the campaigns we are involved in across the country, especially in Stoke and Huddersfield.

Many people simply felt that enough was enough - they welcomed our campaign and not only wanted to get involved themselves, but were encouraging their workmates to get involved too.


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In The Socialist 8 June 2006:

Don't let the NHS bleed to death

Save our NHS!

Pregnancy discrimination: Bosses show their dirty tricks

Iraq: Bush and Blair's deadly legacy

A 'trigger-happy' police raid?

Festival of football, carnival of cash

Education after New Labour's Education Bill

2,000 sign up to Campaign for New Workers' Party

1926 General Strike book launch

Preparing for Europride

Lecturers dispute

Socialist Party members make an impact at Wales TUC

Delegates debate DWP strikes

Unity needed to fight exploitation

Right wing fail to stop Berlin WASG

Chile: Youth take to the streets demanding action


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