Defend NHS!

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GPs in Harrow are up in arms against plans to close down health centres and combine GP practices into large units, turning them into privately run Polyclinics.

There are fears that many of the 39 GP practices in the borough will be closed, and that the elderly will find themselves having to travel very long distances to get medical care.

Northwick Park Hospital is now under threat from this plan, which is based on the Darzi plan for polyclinics to take over around 50 per cent of the work currently done by District General Hospitals.

The private sector has already opportunistically opened up ‘the UK’s first 24-hour self pay emergency care centre’ at the BMI Clementine Churchill Hospital, within striking distance of the Northwick Park hospital.

In this private A&E facility an initial examination will cost £47, with further treatment available at further charges.

In north east London the moment of truth is fast approaching for Chase Farm District General Hospital.

Threatened with closure and replacement by a polyclinic, the Independent Reconfiguration Panel, headed by its chairman Peter Barrett, is due to recommend its closure to the Health Secretary on July 31 2008.

‘Independent chairman’ Barrett has already stated that the closure of Chase Farm Hospital’s Accident and Emergency department can be in the ‘best interests of the community’.

In fact the hospital is due to be stripped of its A&E, its Maternity Department and its Paediatric Department, leaving a shell behind to be filled by a polyclinic!

Barrett, a former GP, has been asked by Health Secretary Alan Johnson to reassess plans for a redistribution of hospital services across north London.

Residents of north east London are however determined to keep Chase Farm Hospital open and fully working, providing all its services.

The North East London Council of Action has called a mass demonstration on Saturday July 26, five days before Johnson gets the go-ahead to take the axe to Chase Farm.

Its secretary, railway trade unionist Bill Rogers has already stated that the Council of Action intends to stop the closure.

Rogers said yesterday: ‘The Council of Action recognised right from the start that it is a political fight to defend the NHS and the reconfiguration is part of the national plan to smash the NHS and introduce privatisation into healthcare in Britain.

‘Already in the last year there have been three large demonstrations to defend Chase Farm, monthly pickets for over a year, petitions have been organised with over 10,000 names on, and lobbies of PCT meetings.

‘This so-called Independent Reconfiguration Panel is just a rubber stamp for a government hell bent on privatisation.

‘We’ve called a march for July 26th which is less than one week before the report of the reconfiguration panel, which we fully expect to go along with the cuts and closure of the A&E, Maternity and Paediatrics. We want people to join us on this mass march.

‘We are on record as stating that we will occupy this hospital to save its services and stop its closure and we will do so. We want a really mass march to ram this message home.

‘People have had enough of these cuts and closures and they will stand up to defend the hospital.