More than 50 people met in west London tonight (Wednesday) to oppose cuts at Ealing Hospital.
Leaked plans showing that the hospital’s accident and emergency department is under threat have generated huge anger in the area.
John Lister, of campaign group Health Emergency, spoke about the reality of health cuts.
He told the meeting, “The cuts in this part of London are part of a general picture right across the county.
“It seems public services are on the rack in order to bail out the private sector. We’ve given them billions of pounds.”
He pointed out that the government is spending between three and seven times as much to private healthcare companies as it would cost for the state to provide the services.
“If we have to make cuts, let’s start by not involving the private sector,” he said. “Let’s start by not paying private management consultants £500 million last year alone.
“That’s money that wasn’t spent on patient care but was spent on paying managers with clipboards thousands of pounds a day plus expenses.”
Local Unison and RMT branches were also represented at the meeting, which was backed by the trades council.
The local newspaper, the Ealing Gazette, sent a reporter who spoke to offer the newspaper’s support to the campaign. He promised extensive coverage and that the paper’s next front page would be on the issue.
With the election in full swing, the meeting also attracted local Tory candidate Gurcharan Singh and Lib Dem candidate Chris Lucas. They spoke from the floor, trying to pose as friends of the campaign.
But many people at the meeting saw through them, tutting and gently jeering them as they spoke.
“It was the Tories who cut the hospital in the 80s,” one woman said. “People shouldn’t be fooled. I’m not voting for him.”
The Tory candidate left immediately after making his stump speech – and was spotted driving away in a Mercedes soon after.
John Lister condemned the mainstream parties’ policies. “It’s outrageous that whatever people vote for, the one thing the parties are agreed about is that the public sector must be made to pay the price,” he said.
A local nurse added from the floor, “I have to say I think it’s a bit rich for any of the three main parties to come here and say they care about Ealing Hospital when the problem is that there’s a consensus on cuts. It’s an enormous contradiction.”
She pointed instead to workers and grassroots activists as the force that can fight back.
“In Camden they had a huge campaign, very broad, that has made them back off from bringing in a private polyclinic,” she said.
“And there was the huge march of up to 6,000 people for the Whittington Hospital in north London which is making them think again there too.”
There was enthusiasm for the protest to defend the welfare state this Saturday in central London.
Eve Turner, secretary of Ealing trades council, used to be a shop steward at the hospital until her department was closed down.
She told the meeting, “We need a joining together of community organisations, trade unionists and local people. We’ll be on the protest on Saturday – and we’ll be taking our banner too.
“If there’s anyone here who wants to come but has no-one to go with, come and march with us.”
Defend the welfare state, march and rally. Assemble 12noon Saturday 10 April, Embankment, London
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