Socialist Worker

The fight is on to save our hospitals

by Yuri Prasad
Issue No. 2240

The Tories’ false NHS promises were laid bare last week as more than 1,000 job losses were announced.

Now trade unionists in the health service report a wave of anger among workers that could explode in a poll tax style rebellion.

Nurses, doctors and technical staff are all under threat as the government ploughs ahead with unwanted health reforms and £20 billion “efficiency savings”.

The Royal College of Nursing says that at least 3,000 posts have been axed since the beginning of the year—and that many more are to come.

The axe is even falling on a south west London hospital that David Cameron pledged to protect in the run-up to the election, and where Nick Clegg’s third child was born.

Both leaders used Kingston Hospital to declare the NHS would be safe with them—but now staff are reeling from almost 500 job losses.

In Tooting, just a few miles from Kingston, St George’s hospital has announced that it too will cut 500 jobs.

“Three wards and almost one in five jobs will be axed. The effect on patient care will be devastating,” says Roy, a St George’s worker.

“People here are in shock and angry. Everyone knew there would be cuts but the scale of them is breathtaking.”

But NHS workers and campaigners are determined to stand up to the cuts.

In an echo of the student movement that has shaken the government, they have announced a Day X for the health service on Wednesday 9 March.

Atmosphere

In the capital, protesters are planning a march from the Royal London hospital in Whitechapel in the East End to Bart's in central london.

Bosses at the two hospitals, which are part of the same NHS Trust, last month announced plans to shed 630 jobs—with the loss of more than 100 beds.

“A protest last week against the cuts has really changed the atmosphere here,” says Ed, who works at Barts.

“Everyone is asking when the next one is, and how to get involved. Management are getting nervous.”

Speech and language ­therapists in south London, who struck earlier this month against cuts, are backing the protest.

Rebellion against the Tories’ health service plans is also spreading to doctors.

A stormy meeting of the London region of the British Medical Association (BMA) last week passed a motion demanding the doctors’ union move away from “critical engagement” with the government over its planned NHS reforms.

A majority voted to instruct the BMA to move to “outright opposition” and ballot its members, asking them what they should do to fight the government.

With the Tories looking increasingly isolated over their NHS plans, there could not be a better time to pile on the pressure.

For more on the BMA meeting go to www.socialistworker.co.uk//art.php?id=23970


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Tue 22 Feb 2011, 17:52 GMT
Issue No. 2240
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