EVERY day brings a new savage attack by this Tory government on the NHS.
At the beginning of the week the shock announcement broke that 19 hospitals across the country are earmarked for complete closure. By Thursday, on top of the 19 hospital closures, a further eleven maternity and neonatal units across England face closure.
The affected areas where maternity services are marked to shut or move substantial distances include Lancashire and South Cumbria, West Yorkshire and Harrogate, South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw, Lincolnshire, Leicestershire and Rutland, Birmingham and Solihull, Milton Keynes, Dorset, Coventry and Warwickshire.
It has become as clear as day that the government is taking a wrecking ball to the NHS, using the Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) to break up the NHS, smash up the pieces and flog each fragment to the worldwide capitalist class.
The 44 STPs, drawn up in secret, cover every hospital across the country and are a recipe for putting an end to the NHS as a nationalised service, free at the point of need. This makes the NHS the battleground within which the class struggle in this country is being fought out to the finish.
The maternity crisis is compounded by the Tories’ removal of the student nurses’ and midwives’ bursary which covered their tuition fees and some of their living expenses. As a result, the number of students applying to study to become nurses or midwives has dropped by nearly 26%.
This is absolutely devastating news for the NHS which is already desperately short of midwives and nurses. The next generation of nurses and midwives is being prevented from studying. The importance of maternity care is highlighted in the struggle of campaigners fighting the closure of maternity services in Lincolnshire. Plans to remove consultant-led services in Boston and ‘centralise them’ in Lincoln mean that babies’ and mothers’ lives will be at risk.
Under the proposed changes, which include downgrading some local A&E services at Grantham Hospital, women with complicated pregnancies and premature babies would have to travel 35 miles to Lincoln for care.
Alison Marriott, whose two-and-a-half-year-old daughter was born prematurely at Pilgrim Hospital Boston’s maternity unit, said: ‘Without the doctors and nurses who were there, my daughter wouldn’t have survived. My daughter was born floppy and blue, not breathing. She needed to be on a ventilator and without that she wouldn’t have survived. She had to be delivered in 15 minutes to save her life and that also saved her from brain damage. So she’s a happy, healthy child. We mustn’t lose the unit here. There will be too many babies that will be lost.’
The closure of eleven maternity departments on top of 19 entire hospitals will mean the loss of life on an unprecedented scale. These are life and death questions and the STP plans must be stopped at all costs. The Tory government is attempting to drive the working class back to the bad old days, pre-1948 where if you were poor and sick you died.
Childhood diseases like rickets, polio and scurvy were common and many children died before they reached their teenage years. Workers were lucky to live past their forties with tuberculosis, cholera and typhoid rife.
The working class did not fight tooth and nail to establish a world class health service, free at the point of need, to stand by and watch it be smashed to pieces. Last Saturday at the well-attended All Trades Unions Alliance conference, a resolution was voted for unanimously.
The resolution states: ‘This Conference must give a lead in the struggle to defend the NHS and stop it being destroyed by this Tory government … Trade union organised occupations and a general strike are the only way to save our NHS and save our services, by bringing down the Tories and bringing in a workers government and socialism.’
This resolution makes it absolutely crystal clear that protest is not enough. A general strike to bring the Tories down is the only way to defend the NHS. There is no other way. This resolution must be fought for and carried out to the letter.