Every day the press reports more reasons why we need to demonstrate on Saturday to defend our NHS.
A week ago, there was a demonstration in Bridlington. Three thousand turned out to protest against plans to run down Bridlington Hospital – closing two acute wards and the cardiac monitoring unit. Unite played a central role in organsing the demonstration – “the largest ever seen in Bridlington” – and our Head of Health, Kevin Coyne, was a speaker.
It shows, yet again, that ordinary people do not accept the Government’s plans for reorganising the Health Service.
It’s not surprising. People recognise that the NHS won’t always get everything right – but it is trusted. The NHS is available when people need it.
That will not necessarily be true if the privatisation plans go through. I saw a press report today about the Government’s “Care Closer to Home” pilot. The official evaluation says that private firms in primary care are under-cutting hospitals and destabilising secondary care services. The report comes from the National Primary Care Research and Development Centre and the University of Birmingham.
We know the private sector always tries to take the less complex work because that is where it is easiest to make the profits. The report confirms this: “Creaming off or cherry picking of easier work from secondary care to primary care leaves the more complex cases to be managed in secondary care – to a tariff that does not fully fund the cost. Such creaming is also naturally attractive to private providers who can bid to offer part of a dermatology service at a cost below the tariff.”
This is just one report into one pilot scheme but the picture is clear. If the commissioning of services from the private service increases at the pace it is doing currently, the NHS will be left with only the most complex and difficult work. We will then be told we are less efficient than the private sector and will have to face more “reorganisation”.
Am I exagerating? Look at the breaking of the Royal Mail monopoly. The private firms immediately made a grab for the business deliveries. The rural routes were left. The Royal Mail was “less efficient” because it has all the business the private sector is not interested in. The Royal Mail management then announce changes in working practices to “catch up” with the private sector, i.e. make everyone work harder. The result was the CWU strike.
We want to stop privatisation before it gets to that stage. The bigger the demonstration on Saturday, the more pressure on the Government.
11am: Assemble at Temple Place, Victoria Embankment, London (transport details)
I’m looking forward to meeting lots of fellow Unite members there!