Smash the STPs! Trade unions must occupy hospitals threatened with savage cuts and closures!

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THERE is no doubt that the 44 STPs (Sustainability and Transformation Plans) that were prepared in secret are in fact part of one Tory plan to smash the NHS and privatise its remnants.

Yesterday, health chiefs in North West London published their plan for cutting £500m of care, cynically called ‘Healthier North West London’, under which Ealing and Charing Cross hospitals are to become ‘local hospitals’. NHS officials in North-West London intend to remove critical care, blue-light ambulances and all surgery from Ealing Hospital.

A second phase of changes would see Charing Cross, in Fulham, also becoming a ‘local hospital’ to help save £1.1 billion over the next decade. Ealing has already lost its maternity and paediatric departments. Meanwhile, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs St Mary’s and Charing Cross, and the London Ambulance Service have warned that proposed road closures could make ambulance access to St Mary’s ‘unsafe’ and would threaten the viability of its major trauma centre.

Healthier North West London is one of the first STPs to reach the stage of seeking a government rubber stamp. However, the report was able to state that: ‘In keeping with the Secretary of State’s explicit request, Ealing and Charing Cross hospitals will continue to offer an A&E service although it may be in a different shape or size from that currently offered.’

The STP insists that a further £314 million of savings would be required to make changes at Charing Cross, which are being fiercely resisted by Hammersmith and Fulham council. One health official said: ‘We are definitely intending to deliver the model of care at Charing Cross as well.’

The changes will mean that large numbers of people will have to be cared for at home in north west London rather than in hospital, and will die at home. Health chiefs are seeking to maintain that the earlier closure of the A&Es at Central Middlesex and Hammersmith hospitals helped to improve community care – resulting in fewer patients having to be admitted to a hospital bed. They died at home.

The NHS is already in a huge crisis before even these STP death strokes are administered, with more than one in 10 patients in England facing long delays for a hospital bed after emergency admission, and with nearly 475,000 patients waiting for more than four hours for a bed on a ward in 2015-16 – almost a five-fold increase since 2010-11 when 97,559 patients waited over four hours for a bed. Hospitals already report using side rooms and corridors to cope with the growing number of ‘trolley waits’.

No wonder patients in the near future after further hospital closures will be required to treat themselves at home! With the STPs there will not be any beds at all in large numbers of hospitals that will be become urgent care centres, with sticking plaster the main tool.

Meanwhile, the private sector predators are licking their lips at the billions of NHS money that will be handed to them by the STPs. They are already making millions out of the NHS. Drugs giant Pfizer has been fined a record £84.2m by the UK’s competition watchdog for overcharging the NHS for an anti-epilepsy drug. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) also fined distributor Flynn Pharma £5.2m for the 2,600% overnight price increase for the drug in 2012.

NHS spending on the capsules, used by 48,000 UK patients, rose from £2m a year in 2012 to about £50m in 2013. The NHS is to be an even bigger source of maximum profits for the privateers. The NHS is now being set up to be knifed by the 44 proposed STPs. There is only one way forward.

The trade unions have a duty to now step in and take action to defend the NHS with action that will be supported by millions of workers in the communities. The TUC must defend the NHS, the greatest ever gain of the working class before it is smashed. The TUC must reject the STPs and all NHS cuts, closures and privatisations.

Further, the NHS trade unions supported by the whole trade union movement must occupy threatened hospitals and keep them running normally to stop their closure and save people’s lives.

The trade unions must take the lead with occupations in all of the areas and the millions in the communities will follow them without a doubt. The trade unions through the TUC must speak for the people and warn the government that they must withdraw the STPs and properly finance the NHS so that it can carry out its function.

If they will not, then the TUC must call a general strike to bring down the government and bring in a workers government that will properly finance and organise the NHS so that it can do its job. This is the only way forward. However, it must be fought for and it must prevail.

This is why all workers and youth who want to defend the NHS must attend the ATUA conference in London on February 11 (See ad page 1) to organise for the trade unions to stop NHS closures with occupations and for the TUC to save the NHS by calling a general strike to bring down the Tories and bring in socialism.