NHS: Dewsbury mass meeting opposes PFI

Yorkshire Socialist Party members

The campaign to halt the planned cuts to Dewsbury hospital took another step forward on Wednesday 25 July with a packed public meeting at Dewsbury Town Hall, organised by Dewsbury Socialist Party, debating how to best fight the cuts.

Around 75 people heard Adrian O’Malley from Unison Mid-Yorkshire Health branch, speaking in a personal capacity, outline the history of NHS changes in West Yorkshire over the past 20 years. In that time Pinderfields hospital was built under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) scheme, with all changes in the area revolving around supporting that development – to the detriment of other NHS services.

Pontefract hospital has been decimated, with services moved to Pinderfields, while long-promised mini-centres around the area never materialised, leading to overcrowding at Pinderfields.

This is the situation that now faces people in Dewsbury. The lack of local services and inadequate space at Pinderfields clearly shows that nothing should be moved from Dewsbury but, such is the obsession with supporting PFI, common sense is being thrown out of the window. As a result A&E, maternity and children’s services are threatened at Dewsbury leaving the long-term future of the hospital as a whole under question.

With the £300 million PFI deal, which continues to cost £40 million each year, locked in for another 25 years any future financial cuts will again fall on Dewsbury or other public hospitals. That is why Adrian called for the campaign to oppose PFI in its entirety, to demand the re-nationalisation of all PFIs and an end to further use of the scheme.

Former Save Huddersfield NHS councillor Jackie Grunsell also spoke, relating the lessons of that campaign to the meeting. She noted that this campaign has got in earlier than the Huddersfield one and so is in a better situation to win. She called on everyone to act fast, to attend the NHS committee meetings, demand financial transparency, pressure our local political representatives and help organise public action against the plans.

The people attending the meeting echoed the two speakers’ sentiments about PFI and about the need to fight the plans immediately. Two follow-up organising committees of 20-30 members have since developed a strategy for the campaign further.

Our initial aim is to demand the trust opens its books to public scrutiny to let us see where our money is going. We want a genuine consultation with public and staff fully involved in the decision-making about the future of these services.

Petitioning and local area meetings are progressing fast and momentum is building behind the campaign with plans for a demonstration in the autumn.