Monday, 21 February 2011

Defend the NHS!

THE Tory-led coalition lie, that the NHS is safe in their hands, has been exploded by the announcement that over 1,630 frontline jobs are to be axed at major London hospitals.

The propaganda, repeated ad nauseam by Cameron and Clegg, that the NHS has been ringfenced from the cuts and that frontline services would somehow be protected despite the £20bn in ‘savings’ that had to be made, were exposed by the announcement that St George’s hospital in South London and Kingston Hospital are both set to scrap 500 jobs each. This follows the announcement that over 630 jobs are to be axed at the Barts and London hospital in Whitechapel. Two hundred of these jobs are nursing posts!

St George’s also announced on Wednesday that the 500 jobs going include nurses and consultants!

In addition, three wards representing 100 beds are earmarked for closure, while the number of births allowed at the hospital will be reduced by 1,200 in the next year as part of the drive by the Hospital trust to save £50 million.

Kingston Hospital in south-west London similarly announced plans to sack 486 staff over the next five years.

Commenting on this bombshell announcement, the British Medical Association stated: ‘The scale of the financial challenge facing the service is such that this is likely to be the tip of the iceberg.’

The BMA are not kidding, it is a very big iceberg indeed.

These 1,630 jobs to go, take the total of redundancies in the NHS up to 3,053 since January 1st, according to the Royal College of Nursing.

This horror story is not confined to London. Frontline posts are being axed across the country from Southampton – 400 jobs and six ward closures – to North Lincolnshire with 440 jobs going.

In all, the RCN estimates that 27,000 frontline NHS jobs are set to go as a result of the coalition cuts.

Sackings on this scale amongst nurses and doctors, along with ward closures, and indeed the closure of entire departments and hospitals, confirms that the object of the coalition is to destroy the NHS.

The Welfare State, of which the NHS is a vital part, is to be destroyed in order to keep the bankrupt banks going on state aid.

The position of the leaders of the main TUC health union, Unison, to this prospect was spelt out in a press release, where its general secretary, Dave Prentis, boldly stated: ‘This is a terrible day for patients in London.’

As a statement of the obvious this is hard to fault, but it begs the question what does the largest union in the NHS intend to do to protect its members’ jobs and the very existence of the NHS?

The answer is to be found in Unison statements regarding the job losses at St George’s where they state: ‘Unison is seeking meetings with management to try and minimise job losses and protect patients.’

Apart from the bureaucrats who lead Unison and the other unions, no one in their right mind believes that negotiating with management will achieve anything except waste time and divert attention from the real issue – that of using the full strength of the trade union movement to defend every single job, every single bed and every single hospital.

This means that the unions must launch an immediate campaign of strike action and occupation of hospitals and wards to stop the sackings and the closures.

Members of the TUC trade unions must emulate the members of the BMA doctors’ union. They have forced through a special conference of the BMA, to be held later this month, at which members are determined to push through a resolution opposing and refusing to collaborate with the Tory NHS plans, and instead fight them.

The NHS was won in the late 1940s. It has saved millions of lives and transformed health care in the UK. The Tories must not be allowed to destroy it.

The TUC and all health trade unions must state boldly and publicly that they are prepared to defend the NHS with a general strike to bring down the coalition and bring in a workers government.

Written by Dr Anna Athow

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