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From The Socialist newspaper, 23 March 2006

NHS campaign reports

Fight to save the NHS

NEWS THAT up to 1,200 NHS workers could be sacked by the University Hospital of North Staffordshire has shocked and angered everyone in the area. The hitlist includes 15 consultants, 370 nurses and midwives, 73 scientists, 60 ancillary staff, 180 clerks and 63 senior managers. They plan to cut outpatient appointments by a staggering 27,000 and get rid of another 160 beds by speeding up the length of stay for patients

Andy Bentley, Stoke Socialist Party

As usual we are being told that all this won't affect patient care or the services provided by the hospital! Do these people really think that anyone believes this rubbish?

All this to clear a "debt" of just 18 million which is chicken feed to a New Labour government that is wasting 5 million every day fighting a pointless war in Iraq.

NHS workers are incensed. Despite the stressful conditions they face daily, an appeal for voluntary redundancies has only identified 100 takers. So now they are talking about compulsory redundancies.

In response, staff have gone into official dispute and pulled out of any negotiations on job losses. Nurses told Socialist Party members campaigning against these cuts that: "Many are prepared to strike in the long-term interests of the hospital and to defend patient care."

Stoke South New Labour MP Rob Flello said he would be pressing Tony Blair: "For assurances that funding would be made available for those made redundant to retrain."

This is typical of the New Labour "white flag" response. One nurse's reaction to this was: "We don't want money for NHS workers to 'retrain'. After years of training, newly qualified nurses are already being told there is no job for them. We want 18 million to stop these redundancies and cuts."

A campaign of public resistance is being called for by many groups in the area. Ian Syme, from North Staffs Healthcare said: "This has got to be resisted by the community. It is the equivalent of closing a small acute hospital and cannot be accepted by the public."

Stoke Socialist Party councilors, Paul and Dave Sutton, are pushing for the hospital management to be 'called in' to the council's scrutiny commission which has the power to refer them to the health minister.

But they also joined Socialist Party members in the city centre and in Abbey Hulton to build support for a campaign to defend our NHS and local people from the ravages of these attacks.

Because New Labour, Tories, BNP, Independents and Lib Dems are doing nothing effective to defend the jobs of NHS workers and hospital services, the local Campaign for a New Workers' Party have organised a public meeting to launch a broad-based campaign of opposition.

For a national campaign against cuts and privatisation.

Demand the trade unions call a national demonstration to link together local NHS campaigns.

"We don't need no relocation"

A HUNDRED nursing and midwifery students staged an angry demonstration at Sheffield University last week against plans to relocate their lectures 13 miles away in the Dearne Valley!

The university has lost the contract to provide undergraduate nursing degree courses. It is running down the training school, pushing out current trainees, so it can use the facilities for the post-graduate course and another faculty. Around 500 student nurses and midwives face the prospect of a 30-mile round trip every day just to go to lectures!

Chants of "we don't need no relocation" and "we shall not be moved" rang out as the students protested outside Firth Court (the Vice-Chancellor's building) and Winter Street (one of the training school buildings). The students were encouraged by tooting horns of support and later, after a meeting with the executive, support from the Students Union.

Protest organiser Ian Birkinshaw, a third year student nurse, told the socialist: "The 'typical' nursing student is a 29-year old woman, and usually has family commitments. We'll lose three hours a day just travelling.

"Where do we get those hours from? From associated study time, from assignments, from time with our children? Students are being asked to pay the price for the university's unseemly haste in getting rid of us.

"They say it's down to cost but the two sites will still be used - it's just that they want to make more money on them running other courses. Traditionally nurses are not the most radical of people. But this has got them really angry!"

Huddersfield on the march again

FOR THE third time in as many months Save Huddersfield NHS Campaign took to the streets on Saturday to show that in the last week before the Trust's unelected fat-cats decide the fate of local hospital services the campaign is very much alive and kicking.

Vicky Perrin, Save Huddersfield NHS Campaign

Around 250 campaigners braved the bitter cold and the mood was one of fighting to the last. Andrew Bilson-Page from the NHS campaign in Kendal and Socialist Party member addressed the rally with a very encouraging report of how their campaign had successfully kept maternity services, accident and emergency and the mental health unit in Kendal.

Dr Jackie Grunsell, campaign secretary and Socialist Party member, called for a mass turnout by the campaign at the Trust's meeting at the football stadium on 22 March to show the true force of the opposition to these proposals.

The campaign is standing three candidates, including Jackie in the local elections giving the people of Huddersfield the chance to vote for councillors who will fight for their public services.

The demo was well attended by Socialist Party members from across the region and 45 copies of the socialist were sold.

Union secretary slams Labour's health policies

IN THE space of only a month the size of the Sheffield NHS Trusts' deficits, reported on the front pages of the local paper, has shot up from 16 million, to 25 million, to a staggering 100 million - projected in three years time.

JON SMITH (GMB branch secretary at the Sheffield Children's Hospital) gave his reaction to the socialist:

"AS AN NHS employee for over 10 years and a trade unionist for nearly 15, I'm shocked, hurt and dismayed how a so-called Labour government can systematically demolish our health service.

"I'm sick and tired or hearing on local and national news how the NHS deficit is down to staff pay, more expensive drugs, or simple bad management. Never a mention of the money this government has pumped into the private sector.

"Never a mention of the money being pumped into making trusts apply for Foundation Trust status. Never a mention of how much it's cost to set up independent treatment centres and definitely not a mention of the contracts these centres have been given to carry out operations that are never carried out!

"Times are now getting desperate in the NHS. If we are to carry on with this 'market' system we may as well say goodbye to it all now. Trade unions, the public, and MPs need to act now to keep our NHS."

Sheffield: 165% increase in our home care charges!

IN FEBRUARY, without any consultation with service users and carers, Sheffield's New Labour council announced that it intended to increase home care charges by 165%!

Mike Higgins

The council wants to make 3,400 older and disabled people pay, on average, 500 more each year so that it can raise 1.7 million to enable it to balance its budget.

Disabled and older people organised a lobby of the cabinet and full council meetings where these increases were discussed.

The council promised consultation with disabled and older people about the increases before making a final decision. Yet the day after the council meeting, service users received letters telling them about the increases in their charges! Then we received letters inviting us to a 'consultation' meeting with less than five days notice!

We need these services to live independently and safely at home. The real effect of these increases will be that many older and disabled people will withdraw from using these services because they cannot afford them.

This will mean an increase in hospital admissions and an unacceptable increase in risk to life and limb as people withdraw from using services.

One single person, Lee, only has benefits to live on. But this hasn't stopped them raising his charges from 16 a week to a staggering 40 a week, leaving him in an impossible situation.

My charges are due to increase from 20 a week to 67-75 a week. My partner faces an increase from 51 a week to the maximum of 100 under the new punitive charging regime. We neither of us have any savings and both pay taxes. We simply can't afford to pay this massive increase.

A group called Sheffield Coalition Against Community Care Charges (SCACCC) has been set up to campaign to get this increase dropped.

We will petition and lobby the next council meeting at the end of March and ensure that, if the council still doesn't see sense at this meeting, this becomes a key electoral issue in the forthcoming 4 May council elections with candidates being put on the spot across the City about where they stand.

Contact SCACCC: email us at

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Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

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In The Socialist 23 March 2006:

Hands off our pensions!

How to win the battle to defend pensions

Time for a new workers' party

Successful Campaign for a New Workers' Party launch conference

Socialist Party members protest against Labour education minister Ruth Kelly

France: Millions protest against Villepin government

Iraq: A three-year nightmare

Can the Israeli-Palestinian conflict be resolved?

How to plan a revolution

Fight to save the NHS

Lewisham: Socialist Party takes up the fight against ALMOs

Fight privatisation in universities and colleges

Sheffield bus protest blocks the road

NUJ Conference: Defending pay and conditions


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