The government is continuing its attempts to formally privatise the National Health Service by stealth.
It was forced into a climb-down on implementing Section 75 of the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, which would have forced “commissioners” to open up every aspect of healthcare provision to tender by private companies. But widespread opposition, including from Labour MPs, forced the government to redraft the law.
But the new version, due to come into force on 1 April, is described by the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign as “the same wrecking ideas spruced up, cowardly repackaged.” Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham hailed the redrafting as a “U-turn”, but the changes are cosmetic. The government’s attempt to impose the law without any Parliamentary scrutiny is also, even by the government’s low standards, deeply undemocratic.
The Save Lewisham Hospital campaign and Unite are organising a lobby of Parliament at 12pm on Tuesday 26 March. The lobby follows the Lewisham campaign’s successful “Born in Lewisham” event on Saturday 16 March.
The day also saw thousands of people march in North London against massive cuts at Whittington Hospital in Archway. The Whittington faces reduced maternity services, ward closures, fewer beds for the elderly, 570 job cuts, and no on-site accommodation for nursing staff. Recent months have also seen action against hospital cuts and closures in Ealing, west London, and Bolton in Lancashire.
A coalition of campaigning groups has called a London-wide demonstration for Saturday 18 May.
Each local campaign must be fought on its own terms and on the basis of clear, winnable demands, as well as linking up across cities and regionally.
Unions should call a national demonstration in defend of public healthcare, which opposes the Coalition’s attacks and demands that Labour reverses them if it wins the next election.
Activists from local Labour Parties and unions will attend a meeting called by the NHS Unity Network on Saturday 23 March at the headquarters of Unite to discuss how the fight for public healthcare and against PFI can be taken up inside the labour movement.
Demanding Labour fights for the NHS does not mean waiting until 2015 or having blind faith that the Labour Party, run by people just as committed to cuts as the Tories and Lib Dems (only “slower” and “shallower” cuts), will undo the damage.
It means letting the Labour Party, which retains the affiliation of the biggest trade unions, know that its government will face industrial and civil direct action if it does not challenge the Tory agenda.