‘WE WON’T LET THE NHS BE BUTCHERED’ – doctors tell BMA open meeting

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‘I WANT to see you all out on April 10,’ London doctors’ leader Kevin O’Kane said on Thursday night, calling for a massive march to stop the NHS and the Welfare State being ‘butchered’.

O’Kane was chairing a public meeting of more than 300 people at the headquarters of the British Medical Association in London

The meeting was called to organise a struggle against the government’s plans for mass hospital closures in the capital and to halt the privatisation of NHS services.

At the conclusion of the meeting, O’Kane said that a mass turnout on the ‘10-4-10’ demonstration to Trafalgar Square was vital to send ‘a powerful message to the government’.

The demonstration has the support of 24 trade unions.

O’Kane also announced that the BMA would be inviting other unions to attend a second public meeting on April 24.

The chairman of the BMA’s London Regional Council spelt out that doctors are ‘not prepared to stand for the privatisation of the NHS’ and ‘not prepared for the London NHS to be butchered as is being proposed’.

Many doctors addressed Thursday night’s meeting, from the platform and the audience.

‘This is the McKinsey Health Service not the National Health Service!’ said Michelle Drage, chief executive of London-wide LMCs, a member of the audience.

‘We’re with you. Well done for organising this meeting,’ she told the BMA.

‘London’s population is 20 per cent larger than is accounted for and they’re prepared to pay over a billion pounds for management consultants and solicitors to implement the plans,’ she warned.

‘PCT management costs two thirds of what you get allocated for your general practice.’

Bill Rogers, secretary of the North-East London Council of Action, also spoke from the audience and called for the occupation of hospitals threatened with closure.

Rogers said he was a member of the train drivers’ union ASLEF and said that the working class was determined not to let the NHS be smashed up.

He said Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield is facing the closure of its A&E, maternity and children’s departments.

He said that despite an official consultation showing that Enfield residents were opposed to the closure, ‘they’re still pushing forwards’.

‘Our Council of Action calls for occupation of any hospital faced with these cuts and closures,’ he said.

‘They’ve got no right to shut down any of these hospitals.’

He said: ‘The Visteon workers occupied their factory to get their dues and won their dispute and they’ve joined our campaign.’

Anne Dringle, from UNISON community health branch in west London, said that ‘our staff’s committee are very committed to attending’ the April 10 demonstration ‘and I urge others to do so’.

Kambiz Boomla, a Tower Hamlets GP in east London, said private takeovers of NHS services ‘can and have been fought’.

He said in Tower Hamlets, district nurses and health visitors were refusing to accept privatisation.

Donna Soley said: ‘All PCTs have been ordered to decide where their provider services go and that could be anywhere.

‘The decision about this has to be made on March 19.’

Ron Singer said: ‘People are trying to move community health services lock, stock and barrel outside the NHS.’

Speaking from the platform, BMA Council member and consultant surgeon Anna Athow, said she stood for the BMA Council to ‘oppose the Darzi plan, save our District General Hospitals, cancel PFI debts, return a socialist government pledged to public ownership and provision of our NHS – and I got voted in.’

She added: ‘I have been part of the BMA’s Campaign Working Group to launch the BMAs ‘Look after our NHS’ campaign, publicly funded, publicly provided.

‘ And we’ve just produced a pamphlet for doctors and a leaflet for members of the public and posters, as a beginning.

‘I did not imagine that 18 months later I would be standing in front of you describing the plan to decimate and destroy a huge proportion of London’s acute hospitals, which is being pursued by NHS London.

‘NHS London’s “Integrated Strategic plan 2010-15” is based on Lord Darzi’s 2007 “A Framework for Action’’.

‘This Framework has two goals: one – all high throughput, high volume procedures must be taken out of the district general hospitals and transferred into three entities: polyclinics, elective treatment centres and urgent care centres.

‘The second goal is that half to two thirds of London’s district general hospitals must be closed or downgraded to a Darzi “Local Hospital’’.

‘This plan is now being carried into practice.’

She concluded: ‘Let us remember that only a few hundred yards down the road, in the mid 1970s, the staff of Elizabeth Garret Anderson occupied the hospital and worked on and saved it.

‘This should inspire us to whatever it takes, today.’

Jackie Davis, a consultant radiologist and a member of the Keep Our NHS Public Campaign, said: ‘When patients are taken away under Payment by Results, it’s not at all clear these hospitals can survive, because their income will be taken away.

‘Our firm feeling is all changes need to benefit patients.

‘With a strong medical staff committee we can make our voice heard,’ she said, urging everyone to join the march today to stop the closure of the Whittington Hospital in Islington.

Dr Laurence Buckman, chair of the BMA’s GPs committee, said: ‘We want quite a bit of change – we want the NHS to improve.’

But he said NHS London’s plans for ‘polysystems’ instead of hospitals would be a disaster.

‘If you move people out into the community you will have more people who are unequal.’

He said patients with money ‘will then go private and people who can’t go private will be thrown on the mercies of the community, where there isn’t enough of anything’.

He added that mental health services were grossly underfunded.