Government war on health unions


David Cameron has convened a summit at Downing Street this afternoon to discuss the ‘implementation of NHS reforms’ with a ‘range of national healthcare organisations and clinical commissioning groups’.

Those specifically excluded from this summit are the British Medical Association, along with the Royal Colleges of Nursing, of GPs, Midwives, and Paediatrics and Child Care, as well as Unison, all of whom have come out in total opposition to the Health and Social Care Bill that Cameron and Health Secretary Lansley are determined will be fully implemented by this spring.

Who will be invited to this meeting remains secret, although it is believed that the NHS Confederation representing NHS managers and carefully selected GPs will be in attendance.

For nurses and doctors, however, the message from this summit could not be clearer – the coalition government has absolutely no intention of backing down from implementing this bill and driving forward to the complete privatisation of the NHS, and their organisations are now formally considered to be the enemy.

Cameron and Lansley will be using this summit to launch an all-out war against the BMA and RCN and all of the Royal Colleges who oppose the bill.

This war was opened by Lansley in a television interview he gave on the 24th January when he denounced the opposition of the RCN to the bill as a result of their ‘vested interest’ and accused them of ‘indulging in trade union-like behaviour.’

This is a far cry from the days when the leadership of the BMA were welcomed with open arms into Downing Street and invited to give their ‘constructive’ views on how to give a veneer of approval to the planned destruction of the NHS.

Forced by the anger and determination of their members to defend the National Health Service from destruction at the hands of the privateers and come out in complete opposition to the bill, these leaders now find themselves cast as the enemy by Cameron and they will doubtless now feel the full weight of the anti-trade union laws.

Labour shadow health secretary, Andy Burnham, has naturally jumped in to denounce the government for leaving out the Royal Colleges from the meeting, thus diverting attention away from its real purpose as a war summit.

Already, the coalition has moved decisively to implement the bill before it has even reached the statute books and become law.

The 151 primary care trusts that control the £80 billion NHS budget for GPs have already been merged into 50 consortia, while the 10 strategic health authorities have been merged into four ‘super hubs’.

New GP commissioning groups have already been set up ready and waiting to be swallowed up by the private commissioning companies.

The Tory-led coalition is preparing for a war to privatise the NHS, and in this war any opposition from the BMA, Unison, the RCN or other colleges will be denounced as ‘vested interest’ and dealt with through the ruthless application of the anti-union laws.

The reformist dream of convincing the government to change its plans is exposed as pure fantasy as the capitalist crisis demands that the NHS be thrown open to the privateers desperate to make huge profits out of the health budget.

There can be only one response to this declaration of war by the coalition and that is to demand that  the health unions and the entire trade union movement mobilise in a general strike to kick this government out and bring in a workers’ government that will not just preserve the NHS but extend it through the expropriation of the banks and industry and advance to a socialist system where production is not for profit but for human need.