Campaign stops health closure plan


Campaign stops health closure plan

LAUREATE HOUSE Mental Health Unit in Manchester has been saved!
Campaigning pressure by patient groups – helped by the Socialist Party’s
petitioning for months, speaking to staff, patients, and visitors –
forced health bosses to back off.

Lynn Worthington, Wythenshawe Socialist Party

Closing Laureate House would mean patients, visitors and staff making
an impossible 30-mile round trip to its "relocation" in North
Manchester. This is a landmark victory in the fight for decent health
services. But we still need to keep an eye on the "consultation
project" which bosses will try to use to make other attacks.

We found out about Laureate House (LH) through our general election
campaign in April, when cleaning staff told us about the threat of
closure. LH’s post-natal depression unit has unique accommodation and
facilities. What guarantees were there that a "transferred"
facility would have the same?

Health bosses said it costs too much to rent LH from the profiteering
landlord companies. We say: don’t kick out the patients, kick out the
profiteers! Private profit has no place in healthcare.

Construction giant McAlpine owns Laureate House under the Private
Finance Initiative; the NHS rents it from McAlpine at extortionate
rates. McAlpine has a contract for 35 years with South Manchester NHS
for Laureate House and other services, at a cost of £86 million! At the
end of 2004, McAlpine announced pre-tax profits of £38.2 million – £2
million up on a year before.

Taking up the campaign, we went to see ward managers and staff, who
took our petitions, and outside the hospital we petitioned staff,
patients and visitors. We then took the campaign onto the estate round
the hospital to let people know what was going on. The many donations by
working-class people enabled us to produce the hundreds of leaflets and
petitions needed to make this victory happen.

Our NHS is being left to the greed of profiteering and private
companies. We demand all privatisation be ended. All existing and new
facilities should be run in-house, under democratic control of staff,
patients, and the wider community.

Working-class people can win battles like this. Not long ago at
Trafford General Hospital we forced health bosses to delay the proposed
closure of the mother and baby (neo-natal) unit. Faced with mass
campaigns, bosses can’t just decide everything behind closed doors.

Primary health care

Fight New Labour’s privatisation strategy

THE GOVERNMENT’S latest proposals for primary healthcare put working
people’s health needs below big business’ profits. Under the proposals
Primary Care Trusts (PCTs), responsible for healthcare provision to
communities, will relinquish their role and instead become merely
"commissioning" authorities.

Len Hockey, UNISON Joint Branch Secretary, Waltham Forest Health
Branch (personal capacity)

Services provided by school nurses, district nurses, therapists and
others will be privatised and off-loaded onto charitable and voluntary
bodies with the inevitable threats to pay and conditions that go with

The plan aims to make cuts of £250 million and reduce management and
administrative costs by at least 15%. It goes on…

"As PCTs focus on promoting health and commissioning services,
arrangements should be made to secure services from a range of providers
rather than just through direct provision by the PCT." A tight
timetable is detailed including "March 2006: all statutory
consultation completed."

Reference is made to local government and how it has developed its
"role as commissioner (privatiser) of social care services."
This amounts to the Americanisation of UK public services. Along with
this, all Trusts are to become NHS Foundation Trusts by April 2008.

UNISON condemned the move, rightly arguing for proper consultation.
But this is not enough. UNISON should make a clear break with New Labour
and some of the estimated £3 million that would be saved should be put
towards a campaign including national industrial action to save our NHS.
This, if campaigned for throughout the membership, would receive
overwhelming support.

A socialist explanation of the narrow selfish interests of Labour and
its big business backers, as against the interests and needs of health
workers, their families and the communities they serve, desperately
needs to be asserted.

Health and inequality

A GOVERNMENT study shows a widening of health inequalities between
rich and poor. This is the first time ever that this has occurred under
a Labour government.

The Department Of Health’s Scientific Reference Group of Health
Inequalities found the gap in life expectancy between the bottom fifth
and the general population had widened by 2% for men and 5% for women
between 1997-99 and 2001-03. This means that life expectancy in the
wealthiest areas is 7-8 years longer than in the poorest areas.

The gap in the infant mortality rate between the poorest and the
general population rose from 13% in 1997-99 to 19% in 2001-03. The
infant mortality rate for the whole population was five deaths per 1000
live births, compared to six per 1000 among those with fathers in
routine and manual work. This was significantly higher than the rate for
those in the managerial and professional class, which was 3.5 per 1000.

BRITAIN’S TOP companies are still force-feeding their fat cat
directors on cream. Directors’ pay rose on average 16.1% last year –
four times faster than average earnings. If you include bonuses and
gains from long-term incentive plans, the average chief executive now
gets paid over £2.5 million a year.

This rise comes after a 13% increase the previous year and 23% the
year before that. Average earnings for workers are rising at 4.1% and
the average annual salary is £22,060. So in Britain under New Labour an
average chief executive is paid 113 times more than an average worker.