Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Seven days to save the National Health Service

The Health and Social Care Bill is coming back to Parliament for its third reading next week with a vote expected on Wednesday 7 September. Even after the "listening exercise" the amended version on the bill is a major attack on the National Health Service (NHS) and will lead to increasing amounts of private practice within and outside the NHS. It will lead to increasing fragmentation of the service and to competition, rather than collaboration between health service providers. The reorganisation will cost a huge amount of tax-payers money at a point when we are repeatedly told there is no money available for basic services. Tax-payers money would be better spent on services to patients. The improvements to the NHS mentioned in the bill, such as increasing clinical involvement and providing a greater say for patients, can be done without any need for this expensive and destructive legislation, which opens the door for the eventual privatisation of the NHS.

According to campaigning website 38 Degrees, who have paid for independent legal advice,
"The Secretary of State’s legal duty to provide a health service will be scrapped. On top of that, a new “hands-off clause” removes the government's powers to oversee local consortia and guarantee the level of service wherever we live. We can expect increases in postcode lotteries – and less ways to hold the government to account if the service deteriorates.

"The NHS will almost certainly be subject to UK and EU competition law and the reach of procurement rules will extend across all NHS commissioners. Private health companies will be able to take new NHS commissioning groups to court if they don’t win contracts. Scarce public money could be tied up in legal wrangles instead of hospital beds. Meanwhile, the legislation lifts the cap on NHS hospitals filling beds with private patients."
The NHS remains a central plank of the Tory agenda, and the attacks on it are a source of anger for working class people all over the country. A defeat for the government over these proposals would give a massive boost to the campaign against their cuts, job losses and privatisation.

Unison and the TUC have put out a call to health union branches across to country to organise protests and vigils. In London, Unison and the TUC have called a candle-lit vigil at Parliament at 9.30pm on 7 September. The Health Worker Network, Keep Our NHS Public, Right to Work and Unite the Union are organising a demo at 6.30pm on 7 September to dovetail the TUC event and provide a chance for health workers to attend. It will march from St Thomas’ hospital on Westminster Bridge Road and march across the bridge to Parliament.

London Keep Our NHS Public is hosting an emergency London-wide mobilising meeting tonight at 7pm to co-ordinate building the demo. It is at Camden Town Hall. The London Health Worker Network will meet at 6pm in the same venue, and join the mobilising meeting at 7pm.

In Cornwall there is a 'debate' on the bill tonight at 7:30pm in St. John's Hall in Penzance hosted by Andrew George MP who is on the Health Select Committee. George's leaflet says "if the Bill is not changed for the better, he will vote against the government when the Commons debates it on 6th and 7th September". This is good news but we need to hold him to account and ensure he keeps his word.

On Friday 2 September Unison are arranging a stall in Redruth to let people know about the bill with a petition asking all MPs to vote against the bill. They are meeting in the car park at the back of Wilkinson's at 10:30am then going through onto Fore Street to catch the shoppers. They will probably stay until about 2:30pm.

On Monday 5 September there is a film showing of Michael Moore's film 'Sicko' (see trailer, left) hosted by Penwith Anti-Cuts Alliance. It is at 6:30pm at the Ritz on Queens Street in Penzance. Although focusing on the American privatised healthcare system, and holding up the NHS as a positive example of a better system, the film demonstrates well what we might have here in a few years if the Tories get their way, and just what we stand to lose. There is a suggested donation of £2 and there is a bar available.

It is also not too late to email your MP calling on them to vote against the bill next week.

If the bill passes it could well be the end of the NHS as we know it. We have to fight and we have to win.

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