Health campaigners are planning a national demonstration against the Tories’ assault on the NHS. Called by Health Campaigns Together and the People’s Assembly for Saturday 3 February, it could bring tens of thousands onto the streets of London.
Their call comes as Tory budget cuts and privatisation are pushing the NHS to breaking point this winter. The national demonstration can be a focal point for people’s anger.
Richard Buckwell, Notts Keep Our NHS Public chair, told Socialist Worker, “Everyone wants to do something about the NHS. If we ever do a campaign stall, we always get a big response no matter the specific issue.
“At the moment they’re trying to shut a substance abuse unit in Nottingham,” he added.
“You’d think that would be a hard issue because it’s to do with people taking alcohol and drugs. But people get it when you explain to people that preventative care is better, that it will mean fewer people in A&E.”
Opposition has already forced the Tories to back down on some issues. The Tories have been trying to slash £22 billion from the NHS by 2020/21 using their Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs).
But health campaigns sprung up to oppose the 44 local STPs in England. They forced some, mainly in Labour-councils, to refuse to sign off on the STPs. To get around this quagmire, the Tories are now trailing Accountable Care Systems (ACS) in eight local areas.
One of the areas is Nottinghamshire—and it has already meant big profits for the Centene firm. The US multinational, which offers advice on “integration of systems and pathways”, was awarded a £2.7 million contract as part of the ACS trial.
Richard said, “All the STP rhetoric about ‘integration’ and ‘care in the community’ is nonsense, NHS cuts have the opposite result.”
Big numbers of people joined a demonstration in London to defend the NHS last year. This was despite lacklustre support from the trade unions. The Unison union half-heartedly backed the protest at the last minute.
Unison’s national conference voted to affiliate to HCT and for a national demonstration to defend the NHS. Both the unions and the Labour Party should now throw their weight behind the 3 February demonstration.
Richard said, “Lots of people in the Labour Party support our campaign, but Labour is missing a trick by not getting people onto the streets.
“They only go for the more traditional methods of going through health scrutiny committees, getting people elected into the right places.
“I think some people at the top of Labour and the unions are starting to wake up, but we need more to turn it around.