Socialist Worker

New threat to hospitals as Tories launch NHS cuts

by Tom Walker
Issue No. 2212

Keep Our NHS Public activists hand in a 25,000-strong petition against NHS privatisation last Friday  (Pic: http://www.guysmallman.com/Guy Smallman )

Keep Our NHS Public activists hand in a 25,000-strong petition against NHS privatisation last Friday (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Two London hospitals that were saved after protests are again under threat, a leaked letter reveals.

The Tory government is resurrecting plans for cuts and closures at Whittington Hospital in north London and Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield.

The plans, initiated by Labour, were been scrapped as politicians came under pressure from huge protests.

Now they are part of a new package of cuts that would devastate the NHS.

North Central London NHS, which covers Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Haringey and Islington, has launched a new “review” of services, according to the letter seen by Socialist Worker.

The so-called “rapid stocktake” is being rushed through in the space of less than a month.

Now furious activists are set to take to the streets again to defend their services, starting with a protest outside the department of health on Thursday of this week.

Campaigners fear that hospitals across London could see whole departments closed.

Shirley Franklin, joint chair of the Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition, spoke to Socialist Worker.

“The letter is written in jargon,” Shirley said, “but essentially says that they’re reopening the issue of closures.

Broken

“This is about broken promises—and it’s the same at Chase Farm.

“We replied to their letter, asking for a guarantee that there won’t be closures. But we didn’t get any—so we’re organising this protest.”

The Whittington campaign organised a 5,000-strong demonstration before the May election against plans to close its A&E department.

The campaign won pledges that the hospital would be protected.

The new Tory health secretary Andrew Lansley even declared a “moratorium” on closures—but it only seems to have lasted two months.

The Chase Farm campaign dates back further. Mass pressure over the hospital hit its peak when 10,000 people protested in its defence in 2007.

Public support for the hospital and the campaign was so strong that there were even “Save Chase Farm” councillors elected in 2006.

Now a new “review” group on closures at Chase Farm has been set up and is supposed to make a decision about the hospital’s future by November.

Kate Wilkinson, of the Save Chase Farm campaign group, said, “After barely two months, the moratorium on Chase Farm has clearly been lifted.

“The worrying thing is that the faces on these key decision-making bodies are very familiar. We already know their views.”

The current proposed “strategy” says Chase Farm will lose its vital maternity and children’s services by this time next year and its A&E department by 2014. The new review will probably call for worse.

Vital

A local health scrutiny panel meeting also confirmed that 50 bed closures are planned at the hospital—more than 10 percent of its capacity.

They will hit the Durban and Canterbury wards, and the Essex ward, which specialises in women’s services.

The two hospital campaigns are set to come together at the protest this Thursday.

This is the kind of movement we will need to build if we are to save the NHS from the Tories’ privatisation plans (detailed below).

The Tories are going to keep trying to cut our hospitals and services in their drive to slash public spending.

But the campaigns at Whittington and Chase Farm hospitals have shown that mass resistance can push them back.

We can do the same again and defend our health service.

Protest at the department of health: “Don’t make a casualty of our NHS”. 1pm, Thursday 29 July. 79 Whitehall, London SW1A. www.dwhc.org.uk


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