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Health Campaigns Together meets to chart the way forward
Mike Forster, HCT vice chair (personal capacity) and Huddersfield Socialist Party
The largest ever gathering of Health Campaigns Together (HCT) took place on 22 April at its annual general meeting in London.
60 delegates attended from all over the country representing around 50 community groups and organisations. It shows the campaign has obviously grown out of the hugely successful 4 March demo to save the NHS and, of course, this has raised the standing and authority of HCT. A number of proposals were therefore in front of the meeting to chart a way forward.
The looming general election has now changed the entire political landscape and dominated the debate. It was agreed the campaign group will rush out an election special newspaper to address the central health issues in the election and to call on all supporters to make the NHS a central theme (which the Tories will not want).
An organising resolution was passed calling on all local groups to extend and develop their networks and to lobby councils and MPs about the sustainability and transformation plans and cuts and closures. A conference will be called later in the year but there will be a mobilising focus on the NHS' birthday on 5 July.
Inevitably, the main debate focused on the general election and how to build on the 4 March demo. After much debate and discussion, it was agreed to support the proposal from Hands Off HRI in Huddersfield that we call on the Labour and trade union movement to back a larger national demo in defence of the NHS within 12 months.
The meeting also agreed to approach the National Union of Teachers (NUT) about a possible joint demo on health and education. A demo like this could have an electrifying impact on the outcome of the election.
It was also agreed we should develop wider regional networks of HCT across the country and also support any health unions which take action in support of their members.
An action committee has now been delegated to take ideas about the elections and 5 July forward which will develop more detailed plans. A quick get together of the committee took place after the meeting which heard about the excellent initiative already taken by doctors and nurses to target marginal seats with a very strong message about saving the NHS.
A group of officers has now been elected, including myself as vice chair, who will continue the work of the campaign. A huge challenge faces us, along with the major health unions: to galvanise and mobilise popular support for the NHS into a mighty force that can blow away the Tories and their plans to kill off our health service.