Public meeting in Liverpool calls for local campaign to save NHS services.
“The vast majority of people in the NHS are appalled at what’s going on. There’s £1 billion+ going into PFI (Private Finance Initiative) schemes on Merseyside, but there are always going to be cuts in services under this type of scheme. The drive to privatise the NHS is all about Blair’s flirtation with Bush, and the market economy.”
So said Dr Alex Scott-Samuel, speaking at the ‘Keep Our NHS Public’, a meeting of between 60-70 people held at the Friends Meeting House, Liverpool, on Thursday 24th November.
Bill Barry, a full-time official from UNISON, spoke of the 18 changes to health provision that had happened in the last 18 years. He described this as the, ‘Economics of the madhouse’.
“Working for the NHS is still ‘special’ precisely because it is a public service,” said Jill George, an Amicus member, who works as a speech and language therapist. “The set of values that says, ‘We care about people’ is under attack, and 250,000 health workers will be ‘outsourced’,” with massive job losses. “If we let this go ahead we are going to pay a high price, and so are our children and our children’s’ children. This winter is going to be incredibly difficult. Just as we need more services we are going to see hospital closures.” She called for the TUC to organise a massive demonstration, and a plan for industrial action. “This is a campaign that we can win; have got to win.”
Julie Hodgekiss, Wigan and Leigh Director of Public Health, told the meeting how having ‘choice’ had meant that her Primary Care Trust (PCT) was forced to spend 8% of its income on services at an independent health centre not even in their area.
The present integrated system of the PCTs will change to one of multi-providers, with patients ‘shopping around’ for their health care. Baby clinics, leg ulcer dressings, speech therapy, physiotherapy, chiropody, family planning, or any of the other community services that the PCTs provide are under threat from these changes.
In the discussion it was suggested that the name of the campaign: ‘Keep Our NHS Public’ should be changed because, “People aren’t bothered if the NHS is private or not, as long as it’s free at the point of delivery.” In response examples were given of the rise in MSRA since hospital cleaning was privatised, and of the inconsistency in Home-Care services. “People know that you don’t make profits out of the sick”, it was pointed out.
It was raised about the state of Wallasey hospital, which is on the point of closure. But campaigns have been successful, in Manchester, in Oxford, and in Kidderminster, where a hospital doctor was elected MP.
Jane Calveley, the chairperson, closed the meeting with announcement that a local ‘Keep Our NHS Public’ campaign group is to be started.
The first meeting of the new local group is on Monday 5 December, at the Crown, Lime St, Liverpool.
- Nerve 7: Interview with Alex Scott-Samuel, Inequalities of Health.
- Allyson M. Pollock book, NHS plc: The Privatisation of Our Health Care, Verso