Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/455/5552
March to save the NHS
IS THERE no end to how far the government will go in dismantling the National Health Service? Apparently not, if Patricia Hewitt's recent speech to a 'think tank' is anything to go by. "There is no limit to the involvement of the private sector in the NHS", she said.
So the closure of hospitals and up to 60 NHS departments, possible cuts of 50% in emergency services around the country, are set to go ahead. And now it seems with the support of leaders from the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Physicians. In a defeatist statement to the Sunday press they said that, given the shortage of junior doctors, they could see no other choice than to close hospital departments.
What a scandalous climbdown. Rather than have a struggle with the government for funding for more doctors, we just have to accept our services cut back to the bone. According to James Johnson, head of the British Medical Association, "we can't expect to have an all singing all dancing teaching hospital at the end or every road".
We don't necessarily want one at the end of the road but we do want to keep the ones we have. Patients and health workers are rightly opposed to government policy of centralising hospital services in one big 'multi centre', leaving whole communities, particularly in rural areas, with no hospital at all and miles to travel to access health care.
These 'reconfigurations', the new by-word for cuts and closures, are ideologically driven by a government which does not believe in public services and is preparing the NHS for mass privatisation.
That's why the struggle to save the National Health Service is urgent. If the trusts and PTCs get their way the closures planned will be done and dusted by Christmas, with a new round of cuts planned for the New Year in the run-up to the local elections. Demonstrations are taking place around the country, ballots for industrial action over redundancies are being held in a number of hospital trusts and NHS Logistics workers are having two strikes just before and during Labour Party conference when the NHS will be debated.
The TUC has called a national lobby of Parliament on Wednesday 1 November, which health workers and campaigners need to build a mass turnout for. A feeder march to the lobby will be organised by South London Keep Our NHS Public (KONHSP) campaigners and they have invited NHS Logistics workers to lead the march. Other campaigns around the country and a number of trade unionists are supporting it (see list of sponsors below).
As one UNISON health branch chair said: "if it's just a lobby of Parliament a few people will come down to see an MP who they know already supports privatisation. But if there's a march, we will bring a coach-load".
- Get your NHS campaign, trade union branch or organisation to come to the TUC lobby of parliament and add their name to those supporting and building for the feeder march.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 07765 848444 for more details.
Those organisations and individuals (in a personal capacity) supporting a feeder march to the lobby of parliament so far are:
Southwark KONHSP, Anita Downs UNISON shop steward Guys and St Thomas' Hospital Trust, Len Hockey joint branch secretary Waltham Forest UNISON health branch, Brian Loader NHS Logistics Alfreton Branch secretary, North Staffordshire NHS SOS, Waltham Forest Save Our NHS, Huddersfield Save our NHS, Medway Trades Council, Wakefield and Metropolitan District KONHSP, Save Our Charing Cross Hospital Campaign, Adrian O'Malley, chair and Mick Griffiths, secretary, Pinderfields' Hospital's Trust UNISON health branch, Roger Davey, senior UNISON steward and branch chair Swindon and Wilts Healthcare branch.
In The Socialist 21 September 2006:
War and occupation
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Youth and Education
Socialist Party workplace news
International socialist news and analysis