Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/445/5284
Fight the cuts in community services
HUNDREDS OF health visitors, district nurses and school nurses lobbied the health scrutiny committee of Waltham Forest Council in east London on 12 July.
The Primary Care Trust (PCT) is looking to cut £14 million which would decimate community services. At the same time, the local Whipps Cross hospital is threatening to axe 400 jobs, close four wards and two operating theatres.
A health visitor on the lobby spoke to Christine Thomas about what these cuts will mean.
"THERE IS a proposal going to the health and overview scrutiny committee from the PCT to cut 42%-45% of health visitor and school nursing posts. The PCT has said that this means no change in the service.
In fact it's been described as enhanced service delivery! But we're very concerned about the poor level of service that there will be.
We visit mothers and babies, we do child health surveillance, we look after women with postnatal depression and we work in child protection. The school nurses are involved with the health of school children, they do health screening, they do all the public health immunisation of school children.
The proposal is to cut our jobs and substitute us with assistant practitioners - people who will have done training for about a month. School nurses and health visitors are multi-trained. We're all registered nurses, then we've done a year's training to work in the community and then usually we've got other skills as well.
For example, I've trained as a paediatric nurse. We are all multi-skilled really and this is a deskilling of the service.
We're particularly worried about child protection. What's being proposed goes against all the recommendations of Lord Laming's report after the Victoria Climbie inquiry. Because we are a universal service we visit everybody so we are likely to pick up if there are things that are going wrong in families.
And families don't feel threatened by us visiting because we see everybody. So it's not the same as social services coming in and targeting people. The trust says that families who are having difficulties can be targeted but if you don't visit everybody how do you know who they are?
Our service is stretched already. There is a lot of goodwill and a lot of people work extra unpaid hours anyway. If the service is halved it won't be enhanced but completely decimated and we think that is beyond safe practice. It goes against all the so-called government targets.
Patricia Hewitt's been saying we are going to keep people out of hospital and we are going to care for them in primary care. But this document also proposes 22% of cuts in district nursing. So there's going to be less district nurses for the elderly and people coming out of hospital.
We're very angry that this hasn't been taken to public consultation. We have asked 'when are you going to tell the public?' but the chief executive said it doesn't warrant a public consultation because it's not a significant change in service."
Ancillary workers ballot for strike
UNISON MEMBERS working as ancillary staff at Whipps Cross hospital in east London are balloting for strike action. The workers, employed by Initial, are balloting for action because the company have failed to honour an agreement made in 2003. Then, the Initial workers fought for and won a deal to give them the same benefits as NHS staff, under the pay and job evaluation scheme Agenda for Change.
Instead of honouring this deal, which still fixes the minimum rate at only £6.02 per hour, Initial are cutting hours and jobs. The union is demanding immediate implementation of the deal, with back pay from 1 April 2006.
Save our NHS march
WALTHAM FOREST Save Our NHS Campaign has organised a demonstration against these savage cuts at Whipps Cross and in the community.
No to NHS jobs cuts and closures.
No to health privatisation and the 'market'.
Rebuild the NHS as a publicly funded service, free at the point of use, with immediate cash to end this underfunding crisis.
Join the demo. Saturday 1 July. Assemble 11am, Whipps Cross hospital main gate, Whipps Cross Road, Walthamstow.
Show Hewitt that we're angry
AT THE UNISON branch meeting of Leicestershire health branch, we discussed how to build the campaign against NHS cuts. The four PCTs in Leicester are seeking to make cuts of £62 milllion, yet board managers have been trying to persuade the public that patient health care won't be affected.
Andrew Walton, UNISON shop steward, (personal capacity)
Apparently the problem is that NHS staff have cut waiting times by treating too many people! Isn't that their job?
NHS funding is not going to better patient care, but into the pockets of big business. We need to fight to keep the NHS in public hands, so treatment is not determined by your medical insurance or your bank balance, but is available to everyone, free at the point of need.
The UNISON branch meeting decided to hold a public meeting (7pm Wednesday 28 June, Oddfellows Club, Humberstone Gate, Leicester) to build support for a demonstration on 8 July, 10am, assembling in Humberstone Gate.
The demonstration would go past Patricia Hewitt's surgery, so that the people of Leicester can tell her what they think of her policies. There would also be an indicative ballot for industrial action by health workers.
With pressure from below, we can force unions to become more active in fighting cuts and privatisation. Massive mobilisation is still required for a huge national demo in London to hammer home public anger against the demolition of our health service.
Stop this creeping NHS privatisation
THE GOVERNMENT is speeding up the rate of privatisation in the NHS. A High Court judgement recently ruled that United Health Group, the biggest private healthcare company in the US and one of the biggest in the world, could take over two GP practices in Derbyshire.
The judges decided that the people living in the village of Langwith had not been properly consulted but that it would probably have been accepted even if there had been a consultation!
As an article in the socialist 440 pointed out, United Health has no local staff, no local knowledge, no local support and no experience of primary care in Britain, especially in areas with widespread poverty and chronic ill-health. The $16 billion corporation is more interested in getting its feet under the table before bidding for control of the budgets of Primary Care Trusts (PCTs), that pay for hospital treatments.
The Department of Health desperately wants the private sector to take on the PCTs' work. After starting putting some NHS operations, diagnostics, mental health facilities etc. out to the profit-fixated private sector, the PCTs' work is now also up for grabs. Private firms, not NHS staff, could be deciding which services - hospitals, GP services etc, - provide the 'best value for money'.
Who would be interested in this? United Health would like to be able to direct PCTs' spending to private treatment centres they own rather than to the NHS. Health insurers like Norwich Union will also be hoping that the government quotes them happy.
Creeping privatisation is ruining the NHS and leaving control in the hands of private companies that, when it comes to the crunch, would put profit before health. It's time for the unions to start fighting back in earnest, starting with a national demonstration against NHS cuts, closures and privatisation.
West Midlands march to defend the NHS
Saturday 15 July
Assemble 11am at City Hospital, Dudley Road, Birmingham.
March to rally in Centenary Square at 1pm.
Posters and leaflets can be downloaded from the following websites: nhssos.org.uk or stokesocialistparty.org.uk
Bosses breakfast with Blair
WHEN TONY Blair wanted advice on running hospitals and other "21st century public services", did he ask doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers, NHS ancillary workers or support staff? No. He consulted business figures.
Blair wants an even closer relationship with the private sector. So captains of industry (what's left of it) were invited to a breakfast seminar with Blair on foundation hospitals.
Over the Cornflakes (or whatever fat cats breakfast on), Richard Lapthorne, chairman of Cable and Wireless (C&W) told Blair to go further than sacking the 15,000 NHS workers who the unions estimate are already at risk.
He advised Blair to get rid of anyone on a trust board "sympathetic to the whingers among the staff who never want to change" and then fire "one-third of the managers who were probably opposed to the board's policies."
Incidentally, Lapthorne's own business sacked hundreds of workers while offering top C&W executives a £216 million jackpot if they could get it back on its feet. Lapthorne used to moonlight as chair of health care 'experts' Amersham International and as chair of arms dealer British Aerospace (killing and curing, all for profit - a weird combination, except for Blair).
Would you trust business people like Lapthorne with our services?
In The Socialist 22 June 2006:
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party youth and students
Socialist Party feature
Socialist Party campaigns
Socialist Party review
Socialist Party LGBT
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news