DEFEND OUR HOSPITALS!– London BMA votes to support Enfield conference

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Many of the 10,000 marchers who demonstrated last weekend to defend Ealing Hospital called for it to be occupied and kept open at all costs
Many of the 10,000 marchers who demonstrated last weekend to defend Ealing Hospital called for it to be occupied and kept open at all costs

Dr Kevin O’Kane, chairman of the London Region BMA told its Annual Business Meeting on Thursday night that London Region felt let down and ‘betrayed’ by the BMA Council.

He said: ‘At the ARM (Annual Representative Meeting) in June, the motion calling for further action over pensions was passed almost unanimously, but Council went back on that with an unjustifiable climbdown. We felt betrayed by Council on this.

‘We voted for recorded votes at Council, yet they have refused to announce who voted for what.’

‘The State of the Capital’s NHS’ was discussed with around 50 members attending.

Dr Andrew Mackay, consultant microbiologist at South London Healthcare Trust (SLHT) in South East London, spoke of the news that SLHT was bankrupt and taken over by a Trust Special Administrator.

He said: ‘We have been picked on because of financial difficulties. This is not clinical. It has become a test case for the government.’

He pointed out that two of the hospitals had large PFI debts and that Queen Mary’s had been turned into a cold site for orthopaedics, outpatients and rehabilitation.

A final decision is to be taken by 5th February 2013. There is no right to appeal.

The trust has to become a foundation trust, or could be acquired, merged or dissolved. Private providers have been asked to show an interest.

Many staff have been downgraded or left.

‘It might be your trust next.’

Dr Philip Howard, consultant gastroenterologist at St Helier’s in South West London, spoke of the plans to turn that hospital into an elective surgical centre and remove the A&E, maternity and paediatrics. The A&E has 83,000 attendances leading to 20,000 admissions a year. There is a ‘public consultation’ on moving these services to St George’s Tooting. He described overwhelming opposition from the public and challenged the legality of the consultation process.

Mrs Anna Athow, retired consultant surgeon from North Middlesex Hospital, called on the meeting to support the All Trades Unions Alliance conference in Enfield this Sunday, calling for the setting up of Councils of Action involving staff, patients, trades unions and campaign groups to be ready to occupy hospitals to stop departments being stripped out and to keep them running.

She also said: ‘It is obvious that we are up against a government determined to privatise all the public services, and in my view the trade union movement should take action to remove it.

‘Indeed a motion to consider the practicalities of organising a general strike was passed at the TUC conference this month.’

Dr J Vaughan, consultant neurologist at Ealing Hospital in North West London, told the meeting that they planned to sell the hospital off for flats.

‘We did a phone poll to GPs and found massive opposition to the plans on the grounds of patient safety, from around 90% of GPs. The Clinical Commissioning Group does not reflect this.

‘Ten thousand people came out on a march.

‘There has to be a better way. We need BMA help. We need a national perspective, it’s not just London. We don’t want McKinseys running our hospitals.’

Motions were passed calling for the BMA to ballot hospital doctors for further action over pensions, for the giving of two days’ pay to BMA staff who took strike action for better pay, for the BMA to officially support the TUC march on the 20th October, to support the Enfield conference and the setting up of Council of Action organisations with a view to occupations; and for the BMA to ballot GPs for a boycott of Care Commissioning Groups.