The fight against Tory plans to axe hundreds of hospital departments and services is gaining momentum.
Up to 600 people joined a meeting in Hammersmith Town Hall in west London last Tuesday night. It was organised by Labour-run Hammersmith and Fulham Council against new plans that would force the closure of Charing Cross and Ealing hospitals.
Eve Turner, chair of the Save Ealing Hospital Campaign, told Socialist Worker, “We have been in the firing line in Ealing. We were the forerunner for a lot of the changes being pushed through in the NHS and now they’re coming for more.”
Under the “Shaping a Healthier Future” plan, the accident and emergency (A&E) units at Central
Middlesex and Hammersmith hospitals shut in 2014.
The Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) have repackaged this programme and threaten more brutal cuts. In north west London this means slashing the number of hospitals from nine to five.
Eve said, “We now face losing what’s left of A&E services—and when an A&E closes, the hospital’s acute beds also go.”
The Tories claim “centralising” services will improve patient care. While some procedures are best done in large hubs, the plans are about wholesale cuts to services. As Eve said, “They’ve said all along that it’s about clinical outcome, but we know it’s about cutting services.”
Bosses at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust have said that Charing Cross Hospital’s A&E will be “safe”—but only until 2021. If successfully pushed through, the STP would run down services and prepare the way for more closures.
In an attempt to divide opposition, the Tories have also turned to scapegoating migrants for the NHS crisis. Some hospitals are demanding that patients show two forms of ID to determine if they are migrants.
Eve said, “We’ve always been clear in our campaign that it’s not migrants but the cuts that cause pressure in the NHS.”
But the growing opposition to the STPs shows that the Tories’ assault on the NHS can be pushed back.
Hammersmith and Fulham and Ealing councils have both refused to sign up to the STPs—a major roadblock to pushing through the attacks.
Eve said, “Having a strong campaign in the area helped the council take that stand and now we’ve got to support them.
“We’ve also got to help them stand firm, because there are attempts to bribe councils to sign up to the STPs with promises of more social care funding.”
Health Campaigns Together has called a national demonstration in defence of the NHS for 4 March, which the Unite union is backing. Labour and other unions should back it too.
Eve said, “We’ll be pressuring the two councils to support the demonstration.
“There’s been a real mushrooming of groups fighting the STPs—that’s given us a boost and having a movement means that we’re not isolated.”