Huddersfield’s big demo

NHS in Crisis

Huddersfield’s big demo

"WE’LL MAKE you listen" shouted the front page of the Huddersfield
Examiner as it reported on Saturday’s ‘Big Demo’. The two pages that
followed told how the people of Huddersfield took to the streets on 10
December, in a 1,000-strong show of ‘people power’.

Vicky Perrin

We were voicing our anger at the Huddersfield and Calderdale Trust’s
plan to axe hospital services in Huddersfield and to transfer a long
list of others to the new PFI hospital in Halifax.

It is clear that that the people of Huddersfield are prepared to
fight long and hard to defend their health service. "Huddersfield Trust,
hear us shout, hospitals in, directors out!" chanted the marchers on
their way from Huddersfield Royal Infirmary into the town centre.

People joined all along the route and came out of shops and houses to
sign petitions, take leaflets and show support.

Dr Jackie GrunsellThe campaign, led by local GP and Socialist Party member Jackie
Grunsell, has already collected 16,000 signatures on petitions against
the proposals (12% of the population of Huddersfield).

The so-called ‘consultation meetings’ charade held by the trust has
only fuelled people’s outrage.

The local press quotes one protester: "This is the first time I have
ever been on a march. I feel so strongly about this issue. This is about
money, pure and simple and we will not accept it!"

In her address to the rally in the town centre, Dr Grunsell made the
point that there’s enough money for Trust directors to award themselves
salaries totalling over £6 million a year and that we could find a
simple solution to the problem of the Trust’s deficit!

She also called on the trade unions to square up to New Labour’s
attacks by calling for strike action in defence of the National Health
Service. "The tide is turning," she said: "People have made it quite
clear they want their NHS left just as it is."

The message from the people of Huddersfield was certainly loud and
clear on Saturday. They want the council to hold a referendum on the
Trust’s proposals and they want the grossly over-paid, un-elected Trust
fat cats to do as they’re told by the people that pay their wages. They
must keep vitally needed specialist services local, where they belong.

There was a good turnout of Socialist Party members from the region
and the party showed its high profile in the forefront of the campaign.
If the Trust hoped for an easy ride, it was badly mistaken. It should be
afraid when it meets on 21 December, very afraid!

Socialist Party says

  • End privatisation. Bring all health care into one nationally planned
    and properly financed, publicly owned service, free at the point of use.
  • Nationalise the pharmaceutical industry, the pharmacy chains and
    medical supply industry and integrate them into a democratically
    controlled NHS.
  • Abandon the Private Finance Initiative (PFI). No more profiteering by
    building companies and banks.
  • Fund new hospital building programmes with public money, using direct
  • A minimum of £8 an hour and a 35-hour week for all health workers.
  • Reintegrate all health workers back into the NHS, with secure
    contracts, good working conditions and pensions.
  • Fight all cuts in the NHS. No to redundancies.
  • Unite the many "Defend the NHS" campaigns already in existence. For a
    national demonstration to build support for industrial action.

Coining profits from ill-health

NETCARE, A private healthcare company from South Africa, has made
huge profits from the NHS since the government told primary care trusts
(PCTs) to put operations out to contract. Netcare landed a multi-million
pound NHS contract to perform cataract and orthopaedic surgery.

Roger Shrives

A recent Channel 4 News item showed that an above-average number of
patients were left badly injured after the surgery. Pressure was put on
doctors to operate when they shouldn’t. Drugs were given to lower blood
pressure before cataract surgery. There were serious failings in the way
Netcare surgeons were recruited and vetted.

Last year, units run by Netcare took over after thousands of cataract
operations were privatised from Oxford Eye Hospital. South West
Oxfordshire NHS PCT, which holds the area’s NHS budget, wanted to "opt
out" of using Netcare as the eye hospital could do the work just as
quickly at less cost.

A leaked Department of Health memo admitted that each Netcare
cataract operation would cost £115 more than it does on the NHS, partly
because the surgeons performing it are paid £500,000 a year. But the
government said go ahead with the private deal.

After six months of Netcare’s contract, the PCT seems to have paid
out £255,000 for £40,000 worth of work! Netcare charged for about 500
operations and assessments but only 93 were carried out.

The government already says the NHS is ‘overspending’ by £620
million. An independent ‘think tank’ predicts that the government’s
market-driven health ‘reforms’ will increase the NHS’s financial
problems. The King’s Fund study suggests that one in five NHS trusts
will develop massive deficits as the reforms bite in earnest.

Clearly Netcare and other privatisation schemes don’t improve health
nor do they save the NHS money! They’re coining money out of our