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Growing resistance to NHS cuts shown in Redditch
Over 1,000 people attended a march and rally in Redditch, Worcestershire, on Saturday 4 August to protest against the threat to services at the local Alexandra hospital, particularly maternity and A&E.
The cutbacks are being considered as part of £200 million savings sought by Worcestershire NHS by 2014/15, £50 million of which must be found, they say, from the three acute hospitals.
These cuts are planned despite the population growing, with thousands more homes planned, the population of the county is older than the average as it is seen as a place to retire, and the county covers a large area.
The rally organisers have an 'inclusive' approach, meaning we had to listen to the Redditch Tory MP tell us she supported the campaign.
Why then did she vote for the Tory budget and why did she vote for the Health and Social Care bill which entrenches privatisation in the NHS? The NHS trade unions should take action to defend their members' jobs and the services they provide. Will she support that action?
It is good to defend local services but if services are retained at Redditch at the cost of those in Worcester this would worsen services as a whole, including for Redditch.
Money can be saved by scrapping the PFI deal for Worcester Royal Hospital which will cost £16 million this year and more in future. Will Tory MPs support that?
Some people on the demo made the point that spending on the NHS was meant to be ring-fenced. With the cuts being made, the fence must be provided by G4S, with a massive hole in it!
Socialist Party members attended the demo and had a good response to our leaflets, petitions and papers.
It is clear that attempts to slash NHS services and spending will meet determined resistance and that we cannot rely on fair weather friends whose eyes are on the next election.
We have to rely on the fighting capacity of health workers and the communities they serve.
Pete, Worcester Socialist Party
Clive Walder, Birmingham Socialist Party, adds:
Currently all the main political parties say they are against any cuts at 'the Alex' and all had speakers at the rally after the march.
All made eloquent and passionate cases against any cuts. Unfortunately there were no trade union banners on the march or trade union speakers at the rally.
No real strategy was put forward to defeat the cuts except getting as many people as possible to sign the petition and to write to their MPs and councillors.
The last attempt to force cuts on the Alex was made under a Labour government and this one is under a Tory government.
Anti-cuts campaigns can't rely on the support of political parties with a track record of ordering swingeing cuts to public services.
A more militant campaign involving industrial action by hospital workers and coordinating action with other workers facing cuts may be necessary.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 7 August 2012 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.