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Posted on 22 July 2013 at 14:47 GMT

Stop the destruction of the NHS in East London

Save Whipps Cross, Barts, Newham and the Royal London

Paula Mitchell, London Socialist Party

Barts Health Trust in East London, Britain's biggest NHS hospital trust, has announced it is losing 2m a week.

This could mean severe cuts at Barts hospital itself, the Royal London in Whitechapel, Newham General and Whipps Cross in Waltham Forest. Services at Whipps Cross hospital are thought to be especially at risk.

The trust is bringing in a "turnaround" team, to "tackle its financial problems" to avoid going into administration.

Anyone who works in the public sector knows what this means - massive cuts to jobs and services.

The Care Quality Commission says the trust poses a danger to patients in several areas.

But if you read between the lines its clear what is happening.

The trust says it is having to make the biggest savings in the NHS, with 30m having to be saved this year alone.

It is saddled with a massive PFI (private finance initiative) deal to rebuild the old Royal London.

The NHS bosses clearly want to make massive cuts to avoid being the second trust to go into administration, following the debacle at South London.

When the trusts merged last year, when Barts and the London Trust took over Newham and Whipps Cross, Socialist Party members warned that this merger would likely be a prelude to cuts.

How to fight?

Unfortunately around the country many Unison branches in the NHS are under the control of the right wing in the union and do not put up much of a fight.

However, this is not the case with Whipps Cross Unison, which on the portering and ancillary side is led by Socialist Party member Len Hockey.

The branch has organised big campaigns, decisive action and achieved victories over years.

The Whipps Cross Unison branch will be reaching out to the unison branches and members in the other hospitals to build a united campaign.

It is no coincidence that the trust has chosen this time to attack the branch chair, Charlotte Monro.

Previous attacks on branch secretary Len Hockey have been beaten back by a mobilisation of the workforce, and the branch has already agreed a plan of action to defend itself against this attack.

The workers understand that if the branch leadership at Whipps is removed, the attacks will be able to be carried out more easily across the whole trust.

Whipps Cross Unison has agreed to call a public meeting and a demonstration.

Community campaigns have been important in many areas of the country, especially where union organisation has been weak.

However, here, at Whipps, is one of the most militant union organisations in the NHS. Community campaigning will be a vital part of this battle, bringing the community and users of the NHS together with the workforce. But it is important here that the workers in the hospital take a lead.

It is they who ultimately have the power to take decisive action, including strike action, which, with the community behind them, could be able to beat these cuts back.

We have to also sound a word of warning: let no one try to put appeasing MPs (and be warned - it's not just Labour MPs in this area - the hated Ian Duncan Smith is MP for Chingford) ahead of the vital importance of mobilising the workforce.

Everyone is welcome to play their part and the support of MPs can add to a campaign, but all the main parties are culpable in the decimation of the NHS through PFI and we should have no illusions that any of them will reverse the cuts and privatisation in the NHS.

This, in fact, is why some workers at both Whipps Cross and Royal London are planning to stand as candidates for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition in the local elections next May.

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Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
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