Three months to save NHS – ‘from free market free-for-all’ says Miliband

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Union leaders at the front of a march demanding no cuts and no sell-off of the NHS
Union leaders at the front of a march demanding no cuts and no sell-off of the NHS

‘We have three months to prevent great harm being done to the NHS,’ Labour leader Ed Miliband said yesterday.

In an article for the Observer, Miliband added: ‘Now is the time for people of all parties and of none, the professions, the patients and now peers in the House of Lords to work together to try to stop this bill.’

He said that the ‘botched health bill. . . remains what it was in the beginning: a misguided attempt to impose a free-market free-for-all on our National Health Service.’

He added that the bill ‘is hindering the efficiency savings we must urgently make in order to meet the rising needs of an ageing population. The NHS needs reform, but not David Cameron’s.’

A Unite trade union spokeswoman told News Line yesterday: ‘We welcome Labour’s campaign. We believe the NHS as we know it is in danger of disappearing.

‘We believe the Tories have become true to form, wanting to privatise the NHS.

‘They want a health system where the rich will be better served and the rest of us will not be given the service we’ve been used to in the past.

‘Unite is organising a rally on March 7th. We hope people will come down to the rally and lobby MPs to throw this Bill out.’

Asked what if the Bill is passed, will there be industrial action, she replied: ‘We’ve not reached that stage yet.’

RCN leader Dr Peter Carter said yesterday: ‘Doctors, nurses and midwives have honestly felt concerns that the Bill is flawed. We need to sit down with the government to seek a sensible way forward.’

A BMA spokesperson told News Line: ‘The BMA opposes this seriously flawed Bill and wants to see it withdrawn.

‘The government should then work with health professionals on finding ways to improve the NHS. Sensible reforms that empower clinicians and patients could be achieved without legislation.’

BMA Council member Anna Athow said: ‘At the eleventh hour Ed Miliband calls on people whether in a political party or not, the professions, patients and the House of Lords to work together to stop this bill.

‘He omits to call on the trade union movement, knowing that Unison, Unite, the GMB, BMA, RCN and others representing the majority of the million strong NHS workforce and having the muscle to get rid of this government.

‘The coalition has not lightly decided to ram through the Health Bill, with measures for private companies to deliver health care on an open market, and to hand over the £100bn NHS commissioning budget to the large US corporations under the guise of the “GP commissioning” fraud, and the so called “independent” NHS commissioning board.

‘The wolves are at the door. They are not going to turn back now, because of verbal opposition from the professions, unions or anyone else.

‘There has to be a trial of strength with the trade unions. The battle to defend terms and conditions and pensions cannot be separated from the fight to defend the NHS as a public service.

‘Both require the organisation of united industrial action by the trade unions.

‘The belated 7th March Rally to save the NHS called by the TUC should be turned into a day of action of the whole working class and the starting point to remove this government.’

ATUA national secretary Dave Wiltshire said: ‘We have heard absolutely nothing from the leadership of the Labour Party on fighting to save the NHS until now.

‘This is what terrifies Miliband. The realisation that the defence of the NHS is creating a movement within the working class that will bring down this government.

‘His call for a Parliamentary coalition to oppose the bill is an attempt to say to the union leaders “back off and leave it to us politicians”, completely ignoring the fact that he explicitly supports NHS “reforms” agreeing with the Tory coalition that British capitalism cannot afford a free health care system.

‘The future of the NHS must not be left in the hands of a Labour leadership that actually started the entire process of letting the privateers into the health service through PFI.’