Public meeting in Liverpool calls for local campaign to save NHS services.
“The vast majority of people in the NHS are appalled at what’s going on. There’s £1 billion+ going into PFI (Private Finance Initiative) schemes on Merseyside, but there are always going to be cuts in services under this type of scheme. The drive to privatise the NHS is all about Blair’s flirtation with Bush, and the market economy.”
So said Dr Alex Scott-Samuel, speaking at the ‘Keep Our NHS Public’, a meeting of between 60-70 people held at the Friends Meeting House, Liverpool, on Thursday 24th November.
Bill Barry, a full-time official from UNISON, spoke of the 18 changes to health provision that had happened in the last 18 years. He described this as the, ‘Economics of the madhouse’.
“Working for the NHS is still ‘special’ precisely because it is a public service,” said Jill George, an Amicus member, who works as a speech and language therapist. “The set of values that says, ‘We care about people’ is under attack, and 250,000 health workers will be ‘outsourced’,” with massive job losses. “If we let this go ahead we are going to pay a high price, and so are our children and our children’s’ children. This winter is going to be incredibly difficult. Just as we need more services we are going to see hospital closures.” She called for the TUC to organise a massive demonstration, and a plan for industrial action. “This is a campaign that we can win; have got to win.”
Julie Hodgekiss, Wigan and Leigh Director of Public Health, told the meeting how having ‘choice’ had meant that her Primary Care Trust (PCT) was forced to spend 8% of its income on services at an independent health centre not even in their area.
The present integrated system of the PCTs will change to one of multi-providers, with patients ‘shopping around’ for their health care. Baby clinics, leg ulcer dressings, speech therapy, physiotherapy, chiropody, family planning, or any of the other community services that the PCTs provide are under threat from these changes.
In the discussion it was suggested that the name of the campaign: ‘Keep Our NHS Public’ should be changed because, “People aren’t bothered if the NHS is private or not, as long as it’s free at the point of delivery.” In response examples were given of the rise in MSRA since hospital cleaning was privatised, and of the inconsistency in Home-Care services. “People know that you don’t make profits out of the sick”, it was pointed out.
It was raised about the state of Wallasey hospital, which is on the point of closure. But campaigns have been successful, in Manchester, in Oxford, and in Kidderminster, where a hospital doctor was elected MP.
Jane Calveley, the chairperson, closed the meeting with announcement that a local ‘Keep Our NHS Public’ campaign group is to be started.
The first meeting of the new local group is on Monday 5 December, at the Crown, Lime St, Liverpool.
- Nerve 7: Interview with Alex Scott-Samuel, Inequalities of Health.
- Allyson M. Pollock book, NHS plc: The Privatisation of Our Health Care, Verso
Living now in West Yorkshire, Huddersfield is facing having several of its NHS services relocated to Halifax (8 miles away), where there is a Private Finance Initiative privatised hospital.
I also notice, from a separate indymedia thread, that a campaign is active against cuts to Cambridge NHS services. There, the excuse is overspending. So, its as if they may as well erase a few of their customers so they can stick to their budget, sort of medieval.
I'm in agreement that the potential of the Stop The War campaign was inhibited from the inside as well as the outside, but I do believe regionally separate grassroots campaigns can benefit from linking together.
Same mangy, money-sniping policies, different location. Joint education, if information and tactics can be communicated between regional campaigns and they are compatible in terms of general ethos.
Threatened NHS units here:
At Huddersfield Royal Infirmary: - Crisis maternity (a life of more than one is at risk in these cases),
children's ward (in future Huddersfield is to send sick children to Halifax if they need to stay for more than 48 hours)
the breast clinic (established from donations and campaigning from the local community)
planned general and orthopaedic operations are to be conducted in Halifax
Also, the entire of St. Lukes' Hospital is up for closure, the central site for Huddersfield's mental health service. It includes acute and forensic (long-term) inpatient care, but also houses the community psychiatric nurses and outreach headquarters, a ward for Alzheimers care and neurology.
How it will be replaced it as yet unclear to me.
Tesco is said to have expressed an interest in the site.
Tomorrow, Huddersfield will host a demonstration of our opposal to these planned cutbacks, which will wake a load more people up to what's on the cards.
I hope you all have success, wherever this virulently servile bureaucratic species tries to wield the scalpel on the NHS.