To stop Tories axing the NHS, TUC must call a general strike!

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SECRET plans have been uncovered to cut £23bn from the NHS. Such a cut, if it is allowed to proceed would mean the closure of so many wards, A&Es and entire hospitals that the National Health Service will be completely undermined – the Tories will have collapsed it!

There are 44 areas around the country where hospital wards, A&Es and entire District General Hospitals are to be axed under the proposals. Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) are being drawn up for each area of England.

The STP is not just a cuts programme, it is a transformation programme to usher in NHS privatisation. The STP areas will not get the money from the Transformation funds unless they make the massive cuts, and accelerate the setting up of the ‘new market structures’ modelled on the USA private medical system. STPs, in plain English, equal massive cuts and privatisation.

However, standing firmly between the Tory plans and their implementation is the entire working class, a working class that is getting angrier and angrier at the way that the Welfare State is being destroyed along with its basic rights. Every single man, woman and child in this country relies on the NHS – from the cradle to grave – and will fight tooth and nail to defend it.

The chief executives of trusts and local authorities have been issued the following ultimatum: Make the massive cuts, and accelerate the setting up of the ‘new market structures’ or you will not get the money from the Transformation funds and will just go under and be shut down.

This blackmail is to bring in the ‘new models of care’ that copy the market-style structures of the US and are designed to be contracted out to the private sector very rapidly.

Dr Mark Porter, BMA chair of council, remarked yesterday: ‘On the one hand you have the government saying they want to expand services across the week but then Trusts are being asked to make plans to scale services back. This just shows the widening gulf between what the government is saying, versus what it is actually doing with our health service.’

Head of Health and Social Policy at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), Sean O’Sullivan, said: ‘The RCM and our colleagues in other NHS trade unions and professional bodies will vigorously challenge attempts by Trusts to cut staff numbers or keep vacant posts unfilled.’

A privatisation and closure plague is being spread rapidly throughout the NHS. Virgin Care has been awarded a seven-year contract to provide community services in Bath and north east Somerset, which have a current annual expenditure of £69.2m.

This sort of outsourcing of NHS services to private business is to become the rule. Every section of the working class must be mobilised to drive these privateers out of the NHS! Junior doctors have shown the way. They have defied the Tories with a series of strikes, refusing to accept an unfair and unsafe contract imposed upon them. They rightly insist that they are standing up for the entire NHS and are crystal clear that Tory cuts mean opening up the NHS to privatisation.

They are set to renew their strike action in a ‘rolling programme of escalated industrial action beginning in early September’. The problem facing the working class in Britain is the leadership of the TUC. The cowardly leaders in the Trade Union Congress (TUC) have at their fingertips the power to shut the country down through mass strike action. However, they have refused to take action to defend the NHS.

Let alone act, yesterday they did not even make a comment on what is the biggest attack on the NHS to date. As usual, the bigger the issue the less the TUC has to say on it. On this burning issue, they must be forced to act – even if it means removing the present general council of the TUC to achieve it.

The President of the Bakers Union, Ian Hodson, yesterday demanded: ‘The TUC must take collective action including a general strike and be prepared to call out workers to defend our NHS. It is the most precious thing we own in this country and the labour movement must take a lead in defending it.’

The TUC begins its annual congress on Sunday September 11 in Brighton. They cannot be allowed to stand back and gawp as hospitals are closed one after another and patients are allowed to die.

The Young Socialists have called a lobby for Monday September 12th at 8am outside the Brighton Conference Centre. There are now two weeks to mobilise for the lobby. We urge tens of thousands of workers to lobby the TUC – and to force the TUC to carry an emergency motion to call a general strike, to defend the NHS by bringing down the Tories.

This is the way forward. Make sure you and your workmates are at the lobby of the TUC on Monday September 12 at 8am. The working class won the NHS for us in 1948 – we cannot allow the Tories to smash it!