The Tories are ramping up their assault on the NHS with plans to shut hospital departments across England.
NHS England bosses’ 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 have been ordered to identify “unsustainable departments”.
Details of the plans for seven areas, including north west London, were leaked last Friday.
Oliver New, secretary of the Ealing Save Our NHS campaign, told Socialist Worker, “We’ve already suffered a programme of cuts because our area was a prototype for the STPs.
“They shut down two accident and emergency (A&E) departments at Hammersmith and Central Middlesex hospitals two years ago.
“Ealing Hospital’s A&E is their next target.”
The plans to “consolidate acute services” would mean slashing the number of hospitals in north west London from nine to five.
The Tories and health bosses claim the STPs are about improving patient care by consolidating
health services in “centres of excellence”.
But Anne Drinkell, chair of the Charing Cross Save Our Hospitals campaign, hit out at their spin. “The STPs are just another way of imposing cuts that we’ve been resisting for four years,” she told Socialist Worker.
“They claim it will improve care, but their decisions are based on cost, not clinical reasons.”
Oliver added, “Yes of course some operations in high speciality areas are best done in big centres, but we always need local hospitals that provide emergency care.”
Some existing attacks give a sense of what the STP assault means.
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. The Success Regime also claims to be about improving patient care, but the real aim is to “find” £440 million in savings.
Dave Clinch from the Save North Devon Hospital Services campaign warned, “The risk is that lives will be lost.
“We’re one of the most acute hospitals—the nearest ones in Plymouth, Exeter and Taunton are more than an hour away.”
These plans are not being incorporated into the local STP plans.
An operational report from North Devon Healthcare NHS Trust said, “The Case for Change … will be incorporated into the sustainability and transformation plans.”
But health campaigners are resisting these attacks and junior doctors were also expected to announce a programme of industrial action this Wednesday.
The Tories are determined to break up and privatise the NHS but a serious fightback—including hard-hitting strikes—can repel their assault.
Ambulance workers to strike
Outsourced ambulance workers in Sussex plan to strike next Monday.
The 60 GMB union members, who provide non-emergency medical transport, work for subcontractor Coperforma.
It took over on 1 April after the previous company went into administration.
Coperforma’s chief executive Michael Clayton publicly stated his commitment to funding all outstanding pension and holiday liabilities and paying all outstanding wages. He said it a staff meeting and at the East Sussex County Council’s overview and scrutiny committee in June.
The firm reneged on these promises last week.
The workers have still not been paid some £45,000 in overtime and unsocial hours payments.
They voted by 78 percent for strikes.
Protest to save A&E in Huddersfield
Hundreds plan to march through Huddersfield this Sunday as part of the campaign to save the accident and emergency (A&E) department at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary (HRI).
Their march comes after NHS bosses released consultation findings about plans to centralise all acute care at Calderdale Royal Hospital in Halifax.
Some 60 percent said they would be hit negatively by the plans.
Martin Jones from the Hands off HRI campaign told Socialist Worker, “They actually said people were against it because they didn’t understand the plans.
“But the nearest A&E is in Halifax which is a difficult car journey away and we’re quite a rural area.”
NHS bosses will announce their final decision on 20 October.
The campaign has already mobilised thousands of people.
Over 5,000 people marched through Huddersfield in February and some 1,000 protested outside one of the consultation meetings in April. Martin said, “The campaign is organised into local groups and a lot of leafleting goes on.”
He added, “The only weakness is that health workers aren’t really involved yet, but we’ve got to work on that.”
Huddersfield shows there is a mood to fight for the NHS—and that it’s possible to turn that into mass resistance.
Homerton workers fight against company’s cuts
Health workers at Homerton University Hospital in Hackney, east London, are fighting attacks on their jobs and hours. They work as porters, cleaners and domestic and security staff for outsourcing giant ISS.
ISS took over the “facility management contract”, which is worth £45 million over five years, last October.
They have since threatened job cuts or “redeployment” if workers don’t accept a reduction in hours.
This would mean them losing between 20 and 25 percent of their pay.
They held a 50-strong lunchtime protest outside the hospital last Thursday. Jeremy Corbyn, shadow chancellor John McDonnell and shadow health secretary Diane Abbott have sent messages of support.
But many of the workers want to go further. As one Unison union member told Socialist Worker, “We’ve got to go on strike. We didn’t have the living wage or London weighting allowance before, so we fought for it and that’s how we got it.
“This company got the contract for another five years—we’ve got to fight now.”
Unison should immediately ballot its members for strikes.