Defend the NHS with trade union led occupations and a general strike!

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THE creation of new nursing assistant posts should be scrapped and money invested in ‘real nurses’, experts said yesterday ahead of the rollout of the new nursing associate roles next December.

In fact, research in the BMJ Quality and Safety journal linked the use of junior care roles to higher death rates. This expert opinion has been dismissed by the government, despite the fact that the experts pointed out that a 10% increase in the ratio of fully qualified nurses was linked to an 11% fall in the chances of a patient dying.

However, the emphasis of the Tory government is in the opposite direction. The Department of Health is getting rid of student nurse and midwife bursaries in 2017 and says that bringing in loans will free up £800m a year to create extra nursing associate roles.

It is taking this draconian action despite the warnings of experts that this will cause more patient deaths. This stance comes after all the government’s demagogy during the recent junior doctors strikes, that they forced with their contract imposition.

Health Secretary Hunt said then that the strikes, despite the full cover that was put in place, would cause patients’ deaths, and caused a real hue and cry.

Now, when the Tory government is confronted with evidence that getting rid of registered nurses costs lives, they simply shrug their shoulders and issue denials, while pushing forward top secret STPs. In fact, the attacks on nurses and midwives are part of the Tory drive to smash the NHS, and to privatise its remnants. This drive is now under way.

Its battering ram is the STPs that the government has pushed forward in a secret operation to establish the mechanism for cuts and the closures of entire hospitals, and also large numbers of A&Es, Maternity and Childrens’ units, up and down the country.

The STPs are short for Sustainability and Transformation Plans. The guiding principle is that what is unsustainable as far as Tory finances are concerned should be transformed, ie closed or handed over to the private sector. No wonder most of the STPs are still top secret. Currently, there have been a total of 44 secret reviews. They constitute nothing less than the Tory assault to smash the NHS.

What is known is that one out of five of the south London hospitals will be completely shut down. The hospitals threatened with complete closure are: St George’s in Tooting, Kingston, Croydon, Sutton’s St Helier or Epsom.

The North Tees STP proposal includes plans to ‘downgrade’ services at one of the three major hospitals in the area, turning the A&E into an ‘urgent care centre’ that cannot deal with emergencies. In Devon, health bosses are looking at whether to close A&Es, maternity and stroke services at hospitals across the county.

In Merseyside, there are plans to cut £1bn from health services and merge four hospitals – the Royal Liverpool, Broadgreen, Aintree and Liverpool Women’s, while in Birmingham and Solihull, maternity services are to be merged or shut.

The Tories are about to make their big push to destroy the NHS. The first round of the onslaught was their efforts to destroy the movement of the junior doctors. Shamefully, the TUC trade unions leaders looked the other way, and now we are all going to pay the price for that betrayal!

They must not be allowed to betray the whole of the NHS in the same cowardly way. There must be a recalled TUC Congress to organise the defence of the NHS and to elect a new fighting leadership!

The NHS trade unions must step forward and defend the jobs of their members and the healthcare of the whole working class. There must be trade union occupations of all threatened hospitals, supported by all trade unions.

These must be kept open, be fully supplied and be fully functioning in an NHS that is put under trade union control and workers’ management. At the same time, the Tories must be told by the TUC that any attempt at hospital closures will be met with a full and indefinite general strike to bring down the government and bring in a workers government and socialism.

This is the only way out of the crisis that the Tory government is creating!