Everyone must add their voice to the clamour for a national protest to defend the NHS. Trade unions have been forced to raise the possibility of a demonstration and want to know how many people would come.
We need to deluge them with a clear message that a national demonstration is wanted and desperately needed. And after this week, it is even more urgent than ever.
Health secretary Patricia Hewitt doesn’t just want the NHS to break even on its restricted budgets – she wants it to make a profit!
“By the end of March next year, we will have the NHS as a whole in financial balance,” she said on Monday.
“So in the next financial year, the NHS should expect to make a financial surplus.” She predicted this would be £250 million in 2008. This “surplus” will be paid for by further rounds of cuts and closures.
Martin Booth, of Cambridge health Unison union, told Socialist Worker, “Health workers have been taking the lead all round the country in organising and supporting local demonstrations in support of NHS services under threat.
“Many thousands of people have taken part in big local marches and rallies. They are outraged that wards, departments and whole hospitals are under threat of closure, with the loss of many hundreds of jobs, so that the NHS can be turned into a ‘big business’.
“But for a long time now, those taking part in such rallies have been aware that what is required is national action – since the problem is the national government, not local health managers or NHS trusts.
“And it has been clear for a long time that a national demonstration would give a focus for such national action.
“As a result of pressure from rank and file health workers, union leaders have been pushed into starting a national campaign, which began with the NHS Together lobby of parliament on 1 November.
“Now several unions are asking branches and regional organisations to say how many people they can commit to either a national demonstration on 3 March or coordinated regional activities on that day.
“The Eastern regional health committee of Unison has strongly recommended that the call must be for a national demonstration in London on 3 March, as it was felt that this would give the necessary lift and focus to this vital campaign.
“As one committee member said, ‘This needs to be even bigger than the campaign which sank the poll tax.’
“So all trade unionists must call on their leaders to set the date for 3 March for a national demonstration in London – to stop the cuts, defend the NHS and keep it public!”
Trade unionists, health campaigns and community organisations should rush support for a national demonstration to [email protected] The official deadline for the consultation is Friday 15 December, but keep them coming after that as well.