Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2237

Health workers and local campaigners took to the streets of Ilford, east London, on Saturday of last week in a bid to save threatened A&E and maternity services at the King George hospital. (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Health workers and local campaigners took to the streets of Ilford, east London, on Saturday of last week in a bid to save threatened A&E and maternity services at the King George hospital. (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Profit drive is behind crisis wracking NHS

Newspapers last week were eager to report the tragic death of Laura Martin, who died shortly after being sent home from Queen’s hospital in Romford, east London.

Her husband says she waited in casualty for five hours because doctors there were too busy to see her—and that this was because the hospital was “clogged up” with weekend clubbers who were drunk.

But the crisis in emergency care in east London is not the result of alcohol—it is because of cuts and privatisation.

Casualty departments at Queens, and the nearby King George and Whipps Cross hospitals, are regularly so overstretched that patients wait for hours—even during weekday afternoons.

Ambulances are often “diverted” from one hospital to another in an attempt to spread the load. London’s health bosses now plan to make matters worse by closing the A&E and maternity units at King George. They say that this will make services “more efficient”.

What nonsense. The background to casualty closures is the Private Finance Initiative (PFI), used by both Labour and Tory governments to privately fund the building of new hospitals.

Since 2007, more than 20 percent of England’s hospital Trusts with active PFI hospitals have closed, or proposed to close, A&E units—compared to just 4 percent of Trusts without PFI hospitals.

Fewer than a quarter of England’s 168 hospital Trusts have significant PFI projects. But these Trusts account for almost two thirds of A&E closures, or proposed closures.

Queen’s hospital in Romford is one such PFI hospital. The high “service charges” associated with PFI means a flow of money to private firms behind the projects.

This is the real reason for the axing of services elsewhere.

It is all too convenient for newspapers and right wing politicians to blame drunks for the crisis in the NHS.

As champions of the health service, we must be careful not to fall for their lies. Instead, we should demand that profit-making firms are driven out of the public sector.

Health worker, East London

Thanks for featuring the crisis in maternity care in your article about the NHS (A system on the verge of breakdown, 29 January).

It seems that in Manchester things are about to get a whole lot worse. Health chiefs are recommending the closure of three out of 12 of our maternity units—Rochdale, Fairfield and Salford Royal (Hope).

This will put the lives of women and babies at risk, and we must fight the proposal.

I hope that midwives will join with the community and show the health authority that they are going to have a fight on their hands.

Amy Perkins, Salford, Greater Manchester

Thanks for Tunisia coverage

As a British Tunisian living in Britain I would like to express my appreciation to Socialist Worker for its recent articles on the Tunisian revolution ( Mass protest topples tyrant , 22 and 29 January).

They have told the true story of ordinary Tunisians, how they have overcome suppression and emerged as heroes in the fight for rights and freedoms.

I have been disappointed by the way the rest of the Western media has reported the revolution.

As a young girl my father told me never to bad mouth the dictator Ben Ali either in Tunisia or even in Britain for fear of retribution on our return.

Over the last month, for the first time in my 25 years, I have been able to speak freely with my own family in Tunisia about their struggle, and how Ben Ali has ruled Tunisia with an iron fist.

The government in Tunisia, like so many others in the world has been riddled with fraud and corruption. The ruling families bled Tunisia dry.

For the poor in Tunisia, no amount of education or intelligence was enough to work within certain sectors without money for bribes to secure permits and keep police from the door.

Mohamed Bouazizi was a humble fruit seller, pushing his cart through the streets to earn an honest living.

Yet he was harassed by the authorities for bribe money.

He may have killed himself in protest but his memory will live on as the man who spurred on a whole nation to fight for their freedom.

In Egypt the masses are drawing on their neighbours’ courage and also taking a stand against oppression.

I am deeply proud of the strength and solidarity displayed by ordinary men and women.

I am incredibly pleased that at last we can begin to enjoy freedoms that so many take for granted.

What has happened in Tunisia shows that if we stand together and campaign for what we know is right then anything is possible.

Farah Khazri, Southport/Jendouba (Tunisia)

We’ll resist the cuts with or without Labour

The Guardian’s Polly Toynbee and new Unite union leader Len McCluskey have spoken of the “awkward dilemma” of taking action against a Labour council that is administering cuts to services.

The Con-Dem vandals have slashed £110 million from Manchester council’s budget. Even while implementing the cuts, council leader Sir Richard Leese has said that this level of savagery will massively affect services.

Services for the elderly, disabled, libraries—everything is under threat up here.

But the “awkward dilemma” applies only to Labour councillors who choose to do the Tories’ dirty work. For the rest of us it’s clear we must collectively resist the attacks, by any means necessary.

So, it’s welcome that the Unite union at the council is running a consultative ballot. A full ballot is needed—action of any sort could start to transform the mood from shock to resistance.

It’s also welcome that the Unison union branch has decided to ballot for action if—more like when—anyone is made compulsorily redundant.

Labour councillors have a clear choice. They can choose to work with trade unionists and anti-cuts campaigners to stop the Tory butchers.

Or they can choose to wring their hands, then proceed to wield the Tory axe. Either way, the rest of us have no choice but to fight back.

Mike Killian, Manchester Unison member (pc)

Judges shouldn’t have the power

The Mark Kennedy undercover police officer affair shows the lengths the state is prepared to go to undermine environmental organisiations in the interests of big business.

It shows the level of unaccountable power excercised by the Association of Chief Police Officers.

Sadly, the fact that a lot of unaccountable and semi-privatised police agencies grew up under New Labour should be of no surprise to us.

But there is another lesson in all of this.

Networks like Climate Camp need to rethink their direct action tactics.

Direct-action involving secretive methods, such as the one which led to the eventual uncovering of Mark Kennedy, are vunerable to this sort of infiltration.

The fewer secrets a network holds the less harm is done by police infiltration. The best sort of direct action is mass and open.

We have seen this organised by students, starting with the magnificent occupation of the Tory HQ at Millbank, the overcoming of police kettling tactics on the numerous Day X protests and the student occupations.

John Sinha, by email

Don’t back judgement

It isn’t often I disagree with Socialist Worker but the paper’s support for an unelected judge removing an elected MP for lying makes me uneasy.

However objectionable the views of ex-Labour MP Phil Woolas are, he was voted into paliament by the electorate of Oldham—and should only be removed by them.

We have seen Tories and Lib Dems elected to parliament by lies about tuition fees but no High Court judge has called for their sackings.

The Chartists had a six point charter, five of which have been implemented.

But their call for annual parliaments to make MPs more accountable has never been approved.

This Chartist demand is more preferable to a High Court judge interfering with the parliamentary process.

John Appleyard, Liversedge, Yorkshire

Palestinians sold out

The documents leaked to Al Jazeera television station detail the total political bankruptcy of the Fatah organisation and the full extent of its cynical betrayal of the Palestinian people to Zionism.

This will at least give an answer to those deluded characters, supposedly on the left, who can’t understand why the Islamic resistance group Hamas have a big following in Gaza and beyond.

Sasha Simic, East London

The chance to struggle

In the lead up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 there was the idea Saddam Hussein had to be removed because he was a dictator and oppressor of his people.

This meant that many of my friends and workplace colleagues were torn as to the “morality” of George Bush’s and Tony Blair’s project.

Events in Tunisia and Egypt show us there is an alternative path to remove dictators and instil democracy.

There’s only so long humans can live without freedom of some sort. People will rise up.

Such a path fully pursued leads to a democracy rooted in workplaces, communities and a different sort of world altogether.

Paul Brandon, North London

Donate, don’t discriminate

Upon going to donate blood recently, I was astonished to be rejected purely on the basis that I am a bisexual man the reason being that they “have to protect the blood”.

Having never had unprotected sex in my life, I am enraged that in this day and age, men who have sex with men still face this kind of discrimination.

This needs to end—not just for the sake of gay and bisexual men, but for people across the country who desperately rely on this much needed resource.

Richard Dalglish, Glasgow

Police repress students

A small protest left Goldsmiths university in south east London on Wednesday of last week to raise awareness for last Saturday’s education demonstration.

There were students from Goldsmiths Fightback and Defend London South Bank University! campaigns on the demonstration.

We took the road and gained lots of police attention as we marched.

Later the police kettled the group.

One demonstrator was kicked to the ground as he refused to let police smash the megaphone.

Another was arrested for blowing a vuvuzela.

We were held for 45 minutes.

We were told we had to wait for the inspector to come and give us warnings.

We are sick of the police treating protesters in this way.

Defend LSBU!, by email

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Tue 1 Feb 2011, 17:11 GMT
Issue No. 2237
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