Campaigners in Preston are celebrating a decisive victory against the privatisation of health services.
Lancashire primary care trust (PCT) announced plans last January to introduce new Clinical Assessment Treatment and Support centres (CATS).
These would be funded by the NHS but run by the South African multinational Netcare.
Mick Mulcahy, a Unison union health steward in Preston, told Socialist Worker that there was widespread opposition to the plans from the beginning.
“We had a very big campaign against the privatisation plans,” he said.
“It was very broad, uniting service users, health workers, trade unionists and people from different political parties.
“We had big meetings and a very successful demonstration through the town.
“The ‘consultation’ meetings were packed out with members of the public. It shows how important the NHS is to people.
“At the meetings we moved a vote from the floor. The majority present voted against handing parts of the NHS to the private sector.”
Campaigners are now raising questions about why the PCT persisted for so long with plans that were obviously widely opposed in Preston.
“The ‘consultations’ were a huge waste of money,” said Mick. “The PCT should be held to account for wasting public money in this way.
“Despite it being such a popular campaign, our local MP didn’t come on board at all. He’s got egg on his face now after first the government and then the PCT here turned against Netcare.”
The government announced in November that it no longer supported the PCT’s plans. But the PCT responded by saying that it would go ahead anyway.
Then on 17 December it announced that it was scrapping the plans.
Mick said, “Our victory over Netcare shows that campaigning works.”
Respect activists were central to the campaign from the beginning.
Preston Respect activist Mukhtar Master told Socialist Worker, “I am really pleased that the activity of local activists supported by the vast majority of the public has brought about the demise of CATS.
“It is a real slap in the face for the government and the PCT hierarchy. It clearly demonstrates that we will not tolerate any privatisation of our NHS.”