Campaigners for the Whittington hospital in north London were holding a day of action today in jubilant mood today as health secretary Andy Burnham was forced to confirm that vital services there would not be axed.
It’s proof that campaigning can halt the cuts.
London’s health bosses had wanted to close both the accident and emergency unit and maternity services at the hospital. But following massive pressure from workers and the community, Burnham has appeared to overrule them.
He told the Camden New Journal, “I will order a complete halt in the process that is being run and I’m asking NHS London to go back to the drawing board. As a government we only support changes in the NHS when the local clinicians propose them and when there is evidence that they will improve quality and save lives.
He added, “The Whittington A&E is a vital service in its local community. This is a service in which we have invested £32 million over the past few years and as far as I’ve seen there is no clinical evidence or clinical support for any kind of downgrading or closure.
“On that basis, it’s simply inconceivable that Labour would support the closing or downgrading of the Whittington A&E or its maternity service.”
Responding to the news, Shirley Franklin, joint chair of the campaign to save the Whittington, told Socialist Worker, “This is a fantastic victory, and is testimony to the strength of the opposition we have built.
“We put 5,000 people on the streets in a demonstration against the closure earlier this year, and have held a very successful day of action today.
“But we cannot simply sit back and congratulate ourselves.
“We know that all the main parties that might form a future government are committed to major cuts in public spending, so we must keep up our guard.
“In fact, I think that health campaigners need to be proactive. We need a London-wide campaign to defend all our hospital services from closure and the threat of privatisation.
“To do that we need to unite communities with health workers. Our slogan in the Whittington campaign has been, ‘Defend our hospital, defend your jobs’.
“Mental health is one area where health cuts are continuing. In north London we are facing scores of job losses among temporary workers and at least 25 beds at St Luke’s hospital are being axed.
“If we want to defend the NHS, we must be prepared to fight for every part of it.”
For the full story behind the campaign see next week's Socialist Worker