Leicester: Not one cut in the NHS

Andrew Walton, Unison rep (personal capacity)

“My daughter wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the heart unit at Glenfield Hospital,” Leicester Socialist Party members were told while campaigning against the closure of the local children’s heart unit.

The government wants to cut Britain’s specialist heart units from eleven to seven. Acutely ill children would have to travel miles to their nearest surgical centre (in our case Birmingham – a 40 mile trip). They also want to get rid of a blood oxygenating treatment service for children.

Experts warned that lives will be lost as a result. A children’s intensive care consultant warned we could also lose the surgery service for adults born with heart problems. These services are used by people across the East Midlands and beyond.

The charity, Heart Link, opposes this closure but its campaign has been based on saving Leicester’s unit at the cost of other centres. The Socialist Party opposes closure of any children’s heart units. These vital services should be fully funded by the government, and should not have to rely on charitable donations.

Unison, the main trade union at Leicester’s hospitals, has organised a protest but now needs to build support for action among health workers and in the wider community, if necessary, to save surgical centres under threat.

People are disgusted at these cuts. In an expression of support for the Socialist Party’s position 40 copies of the Socialist were sold at a campaign stall.

Despite its limitations, the campaign to keep Leicester, Leeds and London Royal Brompton units open may possibly win a reprieve. Public pressure may force the government to refer the decision to an independent review body. Fighting for services can win concessions in the short term. But our longer-term message is that no cuts in the NHS are acceptable!