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Gloucestershire: Rage ignites against NHS privatisation
Chris Moore, Gloucestershire Socialist Party
Fury is exploding in Gloucestershire as anti-cuts groups are campaigning to stop the transfer of 4,000 NHS staff out of the NHS and into a Community Interest Company (CIC) or Social Enterprise Trust (SET) on 1 October.
District nurses, podiatrists, health visitors, physiotherapists and nine local hospitals are due to transfer to a registered company, run as a business.
After a few years, or less if commissioners judge it to be failing, a CIC has to compete with other providers including private health companies, for all services.
The south west is being used by health bosses as a massive experiment as seven Primary Care Trusts are preparing to transfer to CICs.
An angry public meeting in Stroud saw NHS managers and the local Tory MP receive a roasting from the 250-strong audience.
In the Forest of Dean 100 people raged at health bosses, not surprisingly, because a social enterprise in that area costing £200,000 recently went bust.
The public have never been consulted and staff have not been balloted about the transfer. There have only been a few meetings where 'queries' can be raised but the process was presented as a done deal. Many workers felt intimidated, knowing their jobs could be on the line.
At a public meeting the Unison representative explained social enterprises elsewhere had led to private companies running services, but that nothing could be done to stop the process.
Yet in areas like Essex, Sandwell, Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin and South Bedfordshire health trade unions have fought successful campaigns against transfers to CIC/SETs.
In Gloucestershire many staff feel the unions have been ineffective in explaining or challenging the transfer.
As an NHS worker said: "No one supports this, but we don't feel we've had a voice." A demonstration has been called by Stroud Against Cuts.