EARLIER this week Chancellor Alistair Darling promised the most draconian cuts in public spending for 20 years as a result of the Labour government’s public spending review. He has pledged to halve the budget deficit in four years and bring under control the national debt, which is rocketing to more than £1 trillion.
At the same time, the Tory party leader David Cameron, who regards himself as Prime Minister-in-waiting, has declared that, should he take office, he will impose a budget in 50 days to cut the deficit ‘more quickly’. ‘Many departments are going to have to have cuts’, he said.
Although both Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Cameron insist that the National Health Service (NHS) is safe in their hands, it is clear that the opposite is the case!
Cameron’s Health Adviser, Julia Manning, has already said that patients will be charged £20bn for treatments of so-called ‘life-style’ illnesses, including alcohol and drug related conditions, varicose veins, acne, IVF treatment and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels. This will involve a raft of new prescription charges.
The Brown government has opened the door for the Tories who are proposing huge cuts and the ending of free universal healthcare provision.
The Labour government is handing over huge sums from the NHS budget to big business – building hospitals through PFI schemes, employing corporate management consultants, diverting patients into Independent Sector Treatment Centres (ISTCs) and bringing in healthcare corporations to run NHS walk-in centres, polyclinics and GP practice groups.
This state-sponsored subsidising of big business is a life-line for bankrupt British capitalism, guaranteeing huge profits for shareholders out of taxpayers’ funds for the NHS.
The financial meltdown in 2008, Brown’s bail-out for the banks and the resulting massive budget deficit and national debt, demands that a capitalist government – whether Labour, Tory, or a National government – impose massive cuts in the NHS, hugely accelerating its privatisation and imposing charges.
The Labour government has already commissioned secret plans from McKinsey to slash the £100bn NHS budget by £20bn, through sacking 137,000 staff, closing down and selling off NHS assets, shifting treatment out of hospitals into ‘cheaper out of hospital care’, and forcing people to stay at home, denying them care.
The NHS – based on GP practices, District General Hospitals, Specialist Hospitals and NHS Community Care – is not ‘fit for purpose’. As far as the capitalist class and the government are concerned, these four pillars of the NHS have to go!
The main barrier to these plans is millions of workers and middle-class people for whom the NHS has been part of their social being for more than 60 years. The ruling class knows that, just as the NHS was gained by the threat of revolution in the post-war years, ending of the NHS will provoke a revolution.
The attacks on the NHS are most advanced in London, where Lord Darzi’s plans are being implemented to cut the number of District General Hospitals (DGHs) from 32 to between eight and 12 Acute Major Hospitals. This is a pilot scheme for the whole of England and Scotland and Wales.
In North-East London, Chase Farm, King George’s and Whittington are under immediate threat of destruction and there are plans to run down Homerton and Newham.
That is why the North East London Council of Action, which has waged a three-year struggle to stop the closure of Chase Farm Hospital, is organising its Conference in Enfield this Saturday. News Line calls on everyone to come!
• No hospital must be closed, or downgraded! The whole of the local trade union movement, alongside tenants and other community organisations, must be mobilised in Councils of Action in areas to do whatever is necessary, including organising occupations and local strike shutdowns, to halt cuts and closures.
• In the NHS trades unions, like Unison, RCN, BMA, Unite and GMB, where national leaders have accepted government plans and collaborated with them, these leaders must be removed and replaced with those who will mobilise a national campaign of demonstrations, rallies and mass strike actions to defend the NHS.
• The whole trade union movement must be mobilised in a general strike to kick out the Brown government, block a return of the Tories and go forward to a workers’ government, which will put an end to the cuts and privatisation and expand the NHS.