Fight the destruction of our NHS across England and Wales

From 1 April, the Con-Dems Health and Social Care Act comes into force in England – ending the government’s duty to provide comprehensive free healthcare and freeing the NHS from parliamentary control.

Primary care trusts will be replaced by 211 clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) that will decide who to treat, who provides the treatment and what is free at point of delivery. Private companies will bid for CCG contracts. With further NHS finance cuts ahead, we are likely to see the restriction of free care.

Already, under Tory, New Labour and Con-Dem governments, we have seen the privatisation of most non-medical and some medical services in the NHS, with horrifying results for both patients and health workers.

The trade union movement needs to organise a massive national campaign to fight these changes and all cuts and privatisation in the NHS.

The Socialist Party demands:

  • Axe the Health and Social Care Act
  • Kick big business vultures out of the NHS
  • Stop all cuts, closures and privatisation
  • All hospitals to be fully funded by the NHS
  • Adequate staffing levels to provide good quality care for all patients. Decent pay and conditions for all staff
  • A mass national trade union-led weekend demonstration to save the NHS
  • Health unions should organise industrial action to defend every part of the health service
  • A 24-hour general strike against all cuts

Wales NHS: Different government – worse cuts!

Claire Job, Socialist Party Wales

If you listened only to Labour politicians and many trade union leaders, you would think that cuts to the NHS are an English problem only.

These views have been repeated by the authors of The Plot Against The NHS, who herald the organisation of health services in Wales, under a Labour government, as a ‘model of health delivery’.

It is true that there has been far less privatisation or use of PFI in healthcare in Wales. The NHS in Wales is more centralised and structured, organised into seven Health Boards instead of a multitude of trusts. But NHS campaigners in England waiting for a Labour government to save them would do well to take a closer look at the NHS in Wales.

NHS cuts are deeper in Wales. The NHS budget has been ring-fenced in England, with small annual increases, even though these represent a cut in real terms. The NHS in Wales has been given no such protection. Welsh Labour has actually chosen the NHS to bear the brunt of the cuts in Wales.

By 2014-15 spending on healthcare in Wales per head of population will be lower than in any other area of the UK. £1 billion has already been cut from the NHS Wales budget since 2005. Health boards are expected to make savings of nearly £300 million – roughly 5% of their annual budgets – each year.

Just like the Con-Dems in England, the Welsh Labour government attempts to disguise cuts as a reorganisation in the best interests of patients.

Labour commissioned a report from supposedly independent expert Marcus Longley, a Cardiff-based health economist. From the start there were suspicions that Longley and the Welsh Government were colluding to ‘sex-up’ the report to point to conclusions that they had already arrived at and justify cuts.


Longley’s report and the Welsh Government report argue for centralisation of services. What this means for Accident and Emergency services, for instance, is that services will be downgraded in all but a small number of specialist centres. Just four or five centres are proposed for two million people across South Wales.

In the context of shrinking budgets, centralisation is not modernisation, as Labour claims, but a cover for massive cuts.

What these proposals mean is massively reduced access to healthcare for large sections of society, including anybody without their own transport, the elderly, disabled people and some of the poorest communities in the regions who will often have the furthest to travel to access services.

Public transport in Wales, even in the biggest towns, is appalling, made worse by Welsh Government and council cuts – infrequent, unreliable and expensive. In some areas, even just outside bigger towns, it is almost non-existent at weekends and evenings.

Meanwhile the Welsh Ambulance service is failing to meet response targets because of staff shortages and cuts.

In autumn 2012 there was the shocking story that a baby died after waiting hours for an ambulance to be transferred to another hospital. This sort of story may become increasingly common if these cuts go through.

In polls, three-quarters of Welsh people have indicated that they do not support Welsh Labour’s plans. Already this year there have been demonstrations to defend health services in Wrexham, Llandudno, Tenby, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Caerphilly and Bridgend.

These are the people with the faith in the NHS to fight for its survival as a service for all. We need to join together to fight all Welsh Labour’s cuts.

Kick out the PFI leeches

In 2010 George Osborne described Private Finance Initiative (PFI) deals as “discredited”. Now his discredited government has signed off its first PFI hospital.

Alder Hay children’s hospital in Liverpool will be rebuilt under a 30-year PFI deal. The consortium includes John Laing, which is also part of the PFI deal that pushed South London Healthcare NHS Trust into administration

PFI deals are like taking out a high-interest mortgage, but then the lender owns the house at the end of the loan. In South London, and across the NHS, cuts have been made in order to pay for ‘non-negotiable’ PFI repayments.

All NHS PFI deals and debt should be scrapped, with compensation paid only on the basis of proven need.

Whipps Cross domestics show how fighting back can win

A Whipps Cross Hospital worker

Thirty three Whipps Cross Hospital domestics in east London have successfully resisted attempts by private contractor Initial to cut their hours and pay. Three full-time workers remain at risk.

The overwhelmingly female, part-time workers have fought a determined struggle following the fighting campaign strategy of the local Unison union branch leadership.

On 21 January, the company announced to these mainly migrant workers a 30-day consultation with plans to cut working hours by 30 minutes per shift. This represented a reduction in earnings of one-sixth for these low-paid workers who undertake mainly three-hour shifts.

The proposals represent ‘phase one’ and the ‘Initial steps’ of the company’s plans across the whole 320-strong hospital workforce, including porters, as part of parent company Rentokil Initial’s national ‘LEAN’ initiative.

The Unison branch secretary Len Hockey and Initial shop stewards agreed a programme of meetings, firstly with the 36 affected staff and then with the entire Initial union membership. The strategy involved a recruitment drive that targeted zero-hour contract workers.

A broad all-encompassing campaign was initiated with the agreement of the 36. No stone was left unturned in getting the message out to the wider hospital workforce and trade unions.

Since 1 February, five Initial Unison meetings have been held with a total of 220 members attending. A press release, which forced the company to publicly defend its plans, and petitions were issued.

A very lively weekday evening rally at the hospital main gate attracted 70 domestics and porters. Workers and trade unionists from within and outside the hospital addressed the rally, including Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) campaigners.

There has been an increase of over 10% in union membership among the Initial workforce. A survey of the entire Initial Unison membership has returned a 99% vote in favour of being balloted for strike action to stop the plans. Only one management consultation meeting with the staff has happened since 21 January due to pressure of the union’s campaign.

Initial claims the decision to not cut the 33’s hours is due to local Trust management-initiated changes affecting their timings. The cuts threat remains for the three full-time staff and the consultation can be restarted any time.

The union is demanding to know how many cuts ‘phases’ there are and continues to press for the complete withdrawal of management’s crazy plans. Our strike ballot request is lodged with Unison Greater London Region.