Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 27 April 2006

NHS in crisis:

Hewitt 'isolated from real world'

THE NATIONAL Health Service is still by far the biggest political issue in most areas of the country. Patricia Hewitt's foolish comment that the NHS was having its best ever year is treated with derision.

Jackie Grunsell, a GP and Socialist Party member who is standing in the council elections in Huddersfield for the Save Huddersfield NHS campaign told the socialist: "That remark shows that she's completely isolated from the real world.

"I haven't met anyone who works in the health service, or anyone who uses it, who would agree with her. At the UNISON health conference, people were angry but they were laughing at her stupid comments."

NHS worker Andrew Billson-Page, standing in South Lakeland council for the Save Westmorland Hospital group, also said that nursing staff mostly saw her remarks as a bad joke.

Socialists have been pointing out that the extra money that Hewitt claims has been ploughed into the NHS had largely been eaten up by privatisation schemes like the PFI, by measures designed to increase competition between hospitals such as payment by results and other measures of market madness.


Protecting majorities or defending NHS?

LOCAL PEOPLE in Lanarkshire, Scotland, demonstrated on 22 April at Monklands Hospital in Airdrie. Even Blair's defence secretary John Reid - a local Westminster MP - was there, hypocritically protesting at policies of the New Labour Scottish Executive!

Ray Gunnion

People fear that proposed changes are downgrading vital health resources and causing disparity between local areas. Lanarkshire has three hospitals, two are PFI at Wishaw and Hairmyres (East Kilbride) and one NHS hospital at Monklands.

The local health board's preferred option is to close Monklands' A&E unit and turn it into a planned surgery hospital. The board's alternative option is to downgrade Hairmyres.

Our broad-based pressure group, Lanarkshire Health United, created by North Lanarkshire Trades Council, has fought for the status quo plus. During the consultation period we consistently won the arguments at public meetings across Lanarkshire.

With only two A&E units, life would undoubtedly be less precious as ambulance staff search desperately for spare capacity in Lanarkshire, with surrounding health authorities unable or unwilling to take surplus emergencies. Our group's tactics included occupying the Health Board's HQ. This won us a full meeting with the Board where we argued for our alternative document.

Now the consultation period is over, we plan to bombard the six Lanarkshire Labour Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) with letters, lobby them at their surgeries and the Holyrood Parliament in Edinburgh. We warn them that their political careers are in jeopardy as local elections approach in 2007. Scotland's First Minister, Jack McConnell is MSP for Motherwell and Wishaw. Health Minister Andy Kerr is MSP for East Kilbride.

The Labour Party have allowed North and South Lanarkshire Labour MSPs and district councillors to play the blinkered game of competing with each other, like ferrets in a sack, to protect their own particular patches. They are more interested in protecting their majorities than in maintaining and improving people's health provision.

Unison health conference

Workers demand action

AT UNISON'S health conference, UNISON president Christine Wilde tried to make sure Patricia Hewitt was heard without interruption (though delegates asked why was she invited to conference anyway?). Her statements were greeted with laughter, jeering and amazement, showing the conference's enormous anger at cuts in services, privatisation of the NHS and job losses around the country.

Gary Freeman, Southern Derbyshire healthcare UNISON, personal capacity

During the conference's first day, delegate after delegate spoke about their local issues and calls for industrial action received a good response. A motion from Eastern regional health committee saying that attacks on the NHS could only be stopped by "concerted national action" was passed.

Such is the pressure building up on the Sectional Group Executive (SGE), that they supported the resolution. SGE chair Dave Godson had spoken earlier saying Blair had managed to do what 18 years of Tory underfunding had failed to do - to break up our NHS. Again reflecting the pressure, he said UNISON was embarking on a local industrial strategy.

Earlier UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said that there was a line in the sand whichever government was in power - opposition to privatisation and marketisation of our health service. UNISON would support members who feel they have no other alternative but to take industrial action to defend jobs and services.

But delegates said more was needed. Socialist Party (SP) member Roger Davey from Swindon and Wiltshire talked of the threat to close four community hospitals in his area with around 300 redundancies. He reported on intimidation of staff threatened with disciplinary action if they attended demonstrations - he said UNISON had to do more.

One delegate said she never thought she'd say this but "this government is forcing the NHS to look at industrial action."

Brian Loader, another SP member from NHS Logistics, reported on the outsourcing of his organisation to DHL/Novation and called for the unions to call a national demonstration that could have hundreds of thousands of people on it.

Karen Jennings, UNISON's national head of health, who had earlier talked of "the vultures hovering over the NHS", complimented Brian for his excellent work fighting privatisation.

Adrian O'Malley from Wakefield and Pontefract hospitals (another SP member), speaking shortly after Hewitt's speech, likened her to Mrs Thatcher's twin sister.

As we go to press, Wakefield and Pontefract hospitals' emergency motion calling for 'a national day of action against the cuts', has been accepted for debate. SP members will be striving for the motion to be timetabled as soon as possible.

When delegates ask why has it taken so long for the SGE even to reflect any of this mood, we need to explain that their links to Labour, as well as the officials being largely divorced from the membership, will hold our union back.

Now the pressure from the union members is so great that it has had to be reflected, if weakly, in calls for action by the leadership.

By Tuesday morning, 41 copies of the socialist have been sold and 425 fighting fund has been raised including surplus expenses donated by Socialist Party members. Thanks to Hannah from Durham and Leah from Newcastle for helping with our sales.

Doctors' protest at betrayal

Hundreds of doctors from non-EU countries protested outside the health department on 21 April. They feel betrayed by a sudden change in immigration rules which may leave many of them jobless. Thousands may be forced to leave the country without completing their training, even though they were encouraged to come to the UK in the first place.

Donate to the Socialist Party

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.

Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to click here to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

In The Socialist 27 April 2006:

Socialist Party NHS campaign


Hewitt 'isolated from real world'

Socialist Party election campaign

Socialist ideas strike a chord

Education feature

Good quality schools for all, not just the few

1926 General Strike

Workers taste power by Peter Taaffe

Environment: Nuclear power

Is Blair leading Britain to nuclear catastrophe?

Campaign for a New Workers Party

Building the campaign

Socialist Party workplace news

Defend jobs and services

Public services not private profit

Taking the profits and running

Rail unions unite to defend pensions

International socialist news and analysis

Fears of revolution force concessions in Nepal

War looms after Colombo bombing in Sri Lanka

No more tears sister

Anti-cuts alternative confirmed in Berlin city elections

High School students threatened with suspension for antiwar activity


Home   |   The Socialist 27 April 2006   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:


triangleGoing viral - Socialist letters and comments on the coronavirus crisis

triangleNHS supply chain worker: privatisation has cut equipment quantity and quality

triangleNHS workers speak out: austerity has left us unprepared

trianglePPE, Tests, Full pay - for all now

triangleAs coronavirus crisis intensifies, class antagonisms deepen


triangleElectricians pay victory

triangleBig Unison south east regional meeting votes for anti-cuts position

triangleLambeth Unison letter

triangleMake a stand: set legal no-cuts council budgets


triangleCollective action becoming necessary to ensure safety and vital deliveries

triangleNew laws: Unions must be on guard against attacks on workers' interests


triangleSave the NHS: kick out the Tories

triangleLeicester campaigns to save our NHS

Patricia Hewitt:

triangleCorrection: Labour's private health links are worse!

Jackie Grunsell:

triangleTories' NHS cash insult - mass action can save our NHS

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns


Royal Mail

Collective action becoming necessary to ensure safety and vital deliveries



Bus drivers halt sackings - now restore our pay



Fully fund hospices to care for vulnerable children



Help us continue to fight for workers and socialism


Socialist Party

Building the Socialist Party



Postal workers walk out over health, safety and junk mail



Fight for safety, staffing and services - Covid chaos for benefits claimants


Northern Ireland

Bosses concede to walkouts in Northern Ireland


Bin workers

Refuse collection workers strike



Hull construction workers force bosses to shut down site over health and safety fears



Key workers should make bold demands



Self-isolation class divide: decent homes for all!



Leicester: Nylacast worker exposes truth



More than ever, we need accountable union leaders



Councils must use resources now for emergency response

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777


Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 07748 534 891

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 077 0671 0041



Alphabetical listing

April 2020

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020