Hospital workers and NHS campaigners are gearing up to defend jobs and services at east London’s massive Barts Health Trust. More than 100 people came to a meeting in Walthamstow, east London last week, and launched a campaign to fight for every job.
Victimised union rep Charlotte Monro spoke from the platform. A few years ago in 2009, Whipps Cross bosses gave Charlotte an award for campaigning to save the hospital for being downgraded.
She is chair of the Unison union at Whipps Cross. But now she faces disciplinary action for raising the alarm about swingeing cuts.
Straining under the weight of £1 billion debts to private contractors, bosses say they can’t afford to even light or staff the top floor of the Royal London Hospital.
The Royal London was built under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI), introduced by the Tories and enthusiastically supported by New Labour.
PFI has lumbered NHS trusts with debts to building firms that have spiralled out of control. Barts has to pay an eye-watering £2 million a week. It runs hospitals and other health facilities for a huge swathe of London, from the City to the outer East End—and 2.5 million people rely on the services that could be for the chop.
One nurse who had brought colleagues to the meeting told Socialist Worker, “We’ve been misled about PFI. They’re making out the problem is immigrants. “We didn’t grasp how much money goes to PFI. It’s like a payday loan.
“PFI has taken the Royal London from being one of the world’s best hospitals to what it is now—chaotic. They haven’t even consulted us but we do the work.
“This is the cracking point—but it’s good to have everyone together. We’re coming to the 29 September march in Manchester now, and we’re going to drum up more people.”
Other speakers at the meeting included health campaigner John Lister. The campaign has also called a protest at Whipps Cross on Monday 16 September, and a march from the hospital on Saturday 21 September.
Supporters of the cuts had a propaganda offensive earlier this month, with a highly critical report into care at the hospital. But the main problems come from understaffing and underfunding—and will get much worse with cuts.
The only solution is to free our hospitals from their debts to private profiteers—for an NHS that’s run and funded as a public service.