Unions must take industrial action to defend the NHS

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THE Labour government is continuing to pressurise NHS Trusts to become Foundation Trust businesses, and is continuing to force through the privatisation process.

To become Foundation Trusts, NHS hospital managements are slashing their budgets by millions of pounds and closing down hundreds of nursing and other posts.

This is the road that produced the Mid Staffordshire disaster, with its 400 plus estimate of unnecessary deaths, caused by savage cuts.

There are more savage cuts in the pipeline. NW London Hospitals plans to slash 10 per cent of its budget, St George’s in south west London faces £30 millions of cuts, and their patients face a massive danger to their health and well-being.

The Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) are also to have a new task imposed on them by the Brown government.

They are being ordered to carry out what is being called ‘World Class Commissioning’, that is the auctioning off to the private sector of the task of care in the community. This is to replace the district general hospitals, as the government shuts them down, as part of its ‘modernising’, privatising, cost cutting drive.

A new Department of Health, ‘Cooperation and Competition Panel’ is being set up, which will be representing the major private medical companies and demanding that the Primary Care Trusts put services out to tender, thus sabotaging the cooperation between NHS Trusts and the provision of a comprehensive service for local people.

The panel will be chaired by former private health and nursing home boss Lord Carter of Coles. Its task is to see that every service is put out to tender, regardless of the consequences in terms of the quality of care that is given, local access to services, or the financial viability of NHS hospitals denuded of services.

The launch of the Cooperation and Competition Panel has been a state secret. There has been no public notice given about it, and there have been no public consultations.

Instead there has been a stealth ‘consultation’ since January 30, which is due to end on April 30.

This consultation has not been given any publicity in the bourgeois media.

The reason for this is that this is the chosen vehicle for selling off the key local services to rapacious privateers who are solely concerned with profits.

What has happened at Kingston Hospital in south west London is a warning of what is to come.

There the government is pushing a plan to privatise the entire NHS hospital’s surgical department.

It has now emerged that the Trust after repeatedly refusing to name the tendering companies has now admitted that the bidders have been reduced down to one after two private companies withdrew, blaming ‘market conditions’. Clearly their concern was with profitability not healthcare.

Health campaigners have slammed this whole process as a waste of time and money which could leave the hospital with a private company providing life-or-death surgery that will go bust in mid-contract.

This mad method is to be extended to the whole of the NHS via the Cooperation and Competition Panel.

We have seen the killing of patients in Mid Staffordshire, through health cuts and neglect.

We have seen the Healthcare Commission report that showed that brain surgery was performed in some cases at Birmingham Children’s Hospital without specialist theatre nurses, because they were expensive to employ.

Now we know that the competitive tendering process is about to be used to hand over NHS care to private companies – for profit.

The trade unions are united in NHS Together. Now they must stop talking and take industrial action together to defend the NHS from privatisation.

The Brown government must be brought down and be replaced by a workers government that will properly finance, organise and develop the NHS service, with the emphasis on healthcare not profitability.