The Socialist 13 February 2013 |
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'Save our A&E' - Defend the NHS
Marching to save Lewisham hospital, 26.1.13, photo Paul Mattsson (Click to enlarge)
As the privatising, service-destroying and job and pay-cutting steamroller hits the NHS in more areas, the urgent need to fight to save our health service is clear. Across the country people are responding - in their communities and in their local trade union branches.
The impressive strength of the 25,000-strong demo in Lewisham, south London, is likely to be echoed elsewhere as people in other areas respond to the call to stand up for our health service. Saturday 16 February will see demonstrations in Wales, London and elsewhere.
The low-paid clerical and admin workers forced to take strike action against enormous pay cuts in the Mid-Yorkshire Hospital Trust have won a stay of execution. Other health workers must be supported where they take action to defend health jobs, services and pay.
This is a fight of health workers and communities for the future of the NHS. We all want the biggest campaigns possible, but beware career politicians in any of the main parties who defend their local hospital but are happy to support cuts and privatisation elsewhere!
This week's action will be further evidence that people would respond in their hundreds of thousands to the call for a national union-led Saturday demonstration.
This would lay the basis for building a mass national fightback that must, to be successful, utilise the important potential strength health workers have when they take industrial action.
Lisa Jones, a health service activist, reports on the campaign in Caerphilly, Wales, a story others will identify with:
We are calling on the local council to hold a referendum on a 24-hour doctor-led Accident and Emergency (A&E) for the new Ystrad Fawr hospital.
We are demanding our A&E back. This area just isn't safe without it. I live on the doorstep of the new hospital, but when my little boy was critically ill, he had to be taken by ambulance all the way to Merthyr. A few seconds longer and he might not be here now.
My own experiences have made me realise just how important the NHS is to all our lives. I'm not just fighting for myself and my own family. Like everyone in the campaign, I'm fighting to defend the NHS.
When Caerphilly Miners was open, we had an excellent district hospital. Time and again, the Health Board tried to close it, but people marched to stop them. To change our minds, the Health Board changed tack and ran services down over a period of 12 years. Then, they spent two years publicising plans to give us a brand new state-of-the-art hospital with everything we'd had before and more. People still weren't happy, but they went along with it, because they believed what we were told: that we'd be getting back services we'd lost.
When the new hospital opened in November 2011, we found they'd spent £172 million on a bright and shiny 'white elephant' - a cottage hospital, with no A&E, to be used mainly for scheduled clinic appointments and long stay geriatric care. Not a district hospital at all.
We've lost a whole part of the NHS from Caerphilly and we're not prepared to put up with it. We have a minor injuries unit, instead of an A&E - with no doctors. People are better off going to their GP during office hours.
We don't even have a resuscitation unit. Lives will be lost if we don't get these services back.
What people need to understand is that this is all about money - NHS cuts branded as a 'reorganisation'. The South Wales Programme for the NHS would leave us with only four or five A&Es from Llanelli to Chepstow.
There was an 'engagement period' before Christmas. It included no public meetings - despite all our requests - just poorly advertised drop-in sessions at awkward times.
The public consultation process was meant to start straight after Christmas, but because of the outcry, it's been put back to some indefinite time in the spring.
Now is our chance to make our voices heard. We're linking up to other areas to oppose the South Wales Programme. Come and march with us on Saturday 16 February. Come join the fight to defend the NHS."
The Socialist Party demands:
- No cuts, closures, job losses or attacks on pay in the NHS
- End the postcode lottery. We call for a fully funded, high quality service in every area
- Kick big business out of the NHS. Scrap the dodgy PFI deals and cancel the debts
- Stop the destruction of the NHS. Scrap the Health and Social Care Act (England)
- For a national trade union-led weekend demonstration against attacks on our health service
- Build a mass campaign with trade union strike action at its heart