Socialist Worker

Resistance grows as health cuts bite

by Joseph Choonara
Issue No. 1999

Health workers protesting as part of  the recent Unison union conference showed their readiness to fight (Pic: Ray Smith)

Health workers protesting as part of the recent Unison union conference showed their readiness to fight (Pic: Ray Smith)

Over 1,000 more NHS job losses were announced last week, bringing the total to over 5,000.

The cuts, coming in the wake of health secretary Patricia Hewitt’s claim that the past year has been the best ever for the NHS, have led to growing anger among health workers and threats of strike action.

Some 5,000 workers and residents marched through Stoke-on-Trent last Saturday. The local North Staffordshire hospital faces 1,000 job losses.

Barking, Havering and Redbridge Hospitals NHS Trust in east London is to slash 650 jobs in an attempt to claw back a £24 million deficit.

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital plans to cut up to 450 jobs. It faces a deficit of £15 million. Those workers who remain will face increased stress as workloads increase.

And, across the NHS, workers are facing the growing involvement of the market in providing healthcare.

The money leaking out of the NHS into the hands of private companies, and the costs of running an “internal market” that swallows up about 15 percent of the annual budget, are the main reasons for the deficits.

Workers are now discussing how they can fight back.

A lobby of parliament set for 11 May and backed by the Royal College of Nursing and the Unison trade union will see health workers take to the streets of London.

Some health workers are also discussing industrial action to fight job cuts and privatisation, having been promised support by the Unison union’s general secretary, Dave Prentis, last week.

One group planning action works in NHS Logistics – the publicly run agency responsible for supplying hospitals. The agency is threatened with a £700 million privatisation scheme.

The consortium bidding to take over NHS Logistics includes US corporation Novation. This company is currently the subject of a US Senate inquiry for alleged anti-competitive practices.

Workers in NHS Logistics have enormous power. They could shut the entire NHS down in just three days if they struck.

Another battle is in the NHS Prescription Pricing Authority (PPA). Workers in this service, which deals with the huge number of prescriptions issued each day, face over 1,000 job losses across the country and the threatened privatisation of the service.

Lister hospital, part of the North and East Hertfordshire hospitals trust could see strike action. The trust is trying to transfer work done by medical secretaries to India to save money.

Some 58 full time jobs are threatened. Unison union members there are set to ballot for a one-day strike.

Stop NHS job losses

Lobby of parliament called by the Royal College of Nursing, supported by Unison and Amicus, Thu 11 May, assemble 12.30pm outside parliament. Followed by a rally at Westminster Central Hall.

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Article information

Sat 6 May 2006, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1999
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