Socialist Worker

Shock new attacks on the NHS to come, but there's also resistance

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2518

Protest at Homerton hospital in east London yesterday

Protest at Homerton hospital in east London yesterday (Pic: Guy Smallman)


NHS bosses are drawing up plans to shut hospital departments across England as the Tories ramp up their assault on the health service. The scheme was leaked to several news outlets today, Friday.

This latest attack is a direct result of Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt demanding that the NHS makes £22 billion in “efficiency savings” by 2020-21.

The majority of the sustainability and transformation plans (STPs), which cover 44 areas in England, have not been published. But all 44 areas in England have been ordered to identify “unsustainable” departments.

A letter last month to NHS Improvement, Hunt’s flagship watchdog, ordered NHS bosses to supply a two-page list of services that could be shut down or centralised.

Some existing attacks give a sense of what the STP assault means.

Health campaigners are fighting to safeguard a range of health services at North Devon District Hospital.

Campaigners in Devon on Tuesday

Campaigners in Devon on Tuesday (Pic: Dave Clinch)


Devon is one of three areas where the NHS England boss Simon Stevens’ Success Regime is being piloted. Its “A Case for Change” report means that accident and emergency, children’s, maternity and stroke services could be removed.

These would have to go out to public consultation.

The Success Regime claims to be about improving patient care, but the real aim is to “find” £440 million in savings.

An operational report from North Devon Healthcare NHS Trust said, “The Case for Change presents 20 transformation opportunities for North East, and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group which will be incorporated into the sustainability and transformation plans.”

Demonstration

But campaigners in Devon are already resisting these attacks. 

Over 500 people joined a demonstration organised by the Save North Devon Hospital Services Campaign on Tuesday.

Protesters marched through the town wearing red—in response to the Success Regime saying there would be “no red lines” for cuts.

A hospital campaigner told Socialist Worker, “We decided to launch this campaign on one of the junior doctors’ picket lines—there was a real spirit of struggle.

“The campaign has got real momentum now—we’ve printed all sorts of materials and badges—and new people are coming in.”

The Tories’ assault on the NHS aim to reduce services and smash health workers’ pay and terms and conditions to clear the way for further privatisation.

At Homerton University Hospital in Hackney, east London, outsourced porters, cleaners and domestic staff are fighting attacks on their jobs and hours.

Outsourcing giant ISS took over the “facility management contract”—worth £45 million over five years—last October.

ISS has since threatened job cuts or “redeployment” if workers don’t accept a reduction in hours.

Around 50 workers joined a protest outside the hospital yesterday.  

One told Socialist Worker, “We’ve got to go on strike. We didn’t have the living wage or London waiting before, we fought for it and that’s how we got it.

“We’ve got to fight now”.

Only a serious fight back, including hard-hitting strikes, can repel the Tories’ assault on the NHS.


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