Dave Reid and Ronnie Job
The Welsh government-commissioned report into NHS services in Wales is becoming increasingly discredited. ‘The Case for Change’, which calls for ‘centralisation’ of Welsh NHS services, was supposed to be an independent report. However health campaigners have suspected for some time that the outcome of the report was pre-determined and would justify cuts and local closures under the guise of concentrating expertise.
Ronnie Job, secretary of Swansea Trades Council and a long standing campaigner for the NHS said: “The Case for Change, in reality The Case for Cuts, should be thrown out and any attempts by the Labour Welsh Government to implement it’s recommendations must be fought by trade unionists and community campaigners linking together on an all-Wales basis.”
The disclosure that Marcus Longley, the author of the report, was colluding with the Welsh government following a leaked e-mail correspondence between him and senior Welsh government officials, will therefore come as no surprise to health campaigners.
Longley denies that the government influenced his report and claims that his report was produced “without bias or influence”. However it is clear that he and the government both had the same agenda before he wrote the report: to ‘centralise’ critical hospital services.
Central to the report is the idea that the current configuration of hospital services is unsustainable and even dangerous – that the shortage of medical staff and cash for the NHS means that it is no longer possible to maintain specialist services in district hospitals.
It is proposed for example to reduce the number of A&E departments in south Wales serving a population of two million covering an area of 2,300 square miles to just four!
It is true that there is a shortage of both cash and specialist medical staff. The Welsh Labour government has cut spending on health by even more than the Con-Dem UK government. In effect the Welsh NHS has had to empty its pockets to help bail out the banks and pay for the economic crisis initiated by them.
And there is a shortage of specialist doctors, especially in Accident and Emergency. But surely staff should be trained to meet the needs of the health service, not shrink the health service to match the number of staff?
NHS: Fight to defend national agreements
A leaked document has shown that 19 NHS organisations in the south west have formed a consortium with the intention to break away from the national collective agreement. Once free they intend to launch an unprecedented attack on the working conditions of health workers, who, if these plans were ever implemented, would see cuts in pay, an increased working week, less annual leave, and reductions in sickness pay, to mention just a few.
Roger Davey chair of Wiltshire and Avon Unison health branch (personal capacity) said:
“This is not just an attack on health workers in the south west, but also has huge implications for all public sector health workers throughout the country. If the consortium succeeds in its plans, not only would it end national terms and conditions for NHS staff but would give huge encouragement to other public sector employers to break national terms and conditions and drive down the living standards of workers.
“This is why it is vital that there is a national response to this threat, not just from Unison, but from all trade unions. The document reveals an absolute determination by the employers to break the power of the unions. Our response should be just as unequivocal. We should say clearly to the employers and the government that if any attack is made on our national terms and conditions we will respond with regional and national industrial action.”
All Unison members should be demanding that the leadership of our union takes decisive action on this vital issue.
For more information see The Socialist issue 725