Over 200 residents and health workers from Hackney, east London, crammed into a Keep Our NHS Public campaign meeting last Wednesday.
Speakers at the meeting talked about the huge threats facing the NHS, through the outsourcing and restructuring of community services, creeping privatisation and financial chaos.
A particular concern was the private finance initiative (PFI) crisis at Barts and the Royal London hospitals. The trust has a planned £1.2 billion PFI project that threatens to tip the organisation into bankruptcy.
Even Patricia Hewitt is scared to let it go ahead – but while Hewitt dithers, the trust pays £500,000 each month in penalty charges to the private sector “partner”.
The trust faces payments of £111 million a year for the next 42 years if the project continues, or costs of £100 million if Hewitt pulls the plug. Either way, there is a strong risk people will lose much needed specialist cardiac and cancer care.
People at the meeting also talked about local problems. Homerton hospital – a “foundation trust” run as a business – makes as much money as it can out of patients.
Patients are charged £3 a day to watch the TV. It costs 50p a minute to ring an in-patient at the Homerton – more than it costs to phone Australia!
The meeting was angry but upbeat. One of the speakers said, “The NHS is ours. We pay for it and our parents paid for it. The government has no right to destroy it.”
This meeting needs to be the launch of a serious campaign in Hackney. There has never been a more urgent need for a fight.If we don’t fight for the NHS now, we will lose it.