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Victory shows campaigning can save our NHS!
YEARS OF battling by health campaigners at Horton Hospital, Banbury, to save maternity and children's services threatened with downgrading, have won the hospital a reprieve.
Health secretary Alan Johnson rejected closure plans by Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust, admitting that closing these units would mean long and difficult journeys to Oxford for patients. But it was campaigning by local activists, health workers and users, that forced the government into this 'change of heart'.
The local campaign has also been fighting against US multinational United Health taking over health commissioning, the outsourcing of learning disability services and medical records and the closure of community hospitals. For the time being at least, the Trusts involved are now talking of new investment in a service they had marked down as doomed.
ON 5 April Cambridge Keep our NHS Public are marching to save Brookfield's Hospital. Cambridge has already seen savage cuts, made for financial rather than clinical reasons, to mental health services, with the closure of S4 Adult Acute inpatients ward, a quarter of beds for the elderly suffering mental health problems, and the Young Peoples Service, while day services are being 'reconfigured'.
Plans to outsource part of Brookfield's to private sector charity Sue Ryder would take services away from the NHS and reduce accountability for users. Cuts of this type are driven by New Labour's NHS policy of privatisation and reliance on market forces. Private companies, such as Branson's Virgin, are offered huge subsidies to run our NHS. This leads to them 'cherry-picking' the most profitable services while others are left facing closure.
AT A local 'save the NHS' demonstration on 29 March, Chris Flood, Lewisham Socialist Party councillor and psychiatric nurse, congratulated everyone protesting against threatened cuts to Lewisham and other hospitals.
Chris said it was nearly 20 years since he became a health worker and had immediately become involved in a campaign to save Charing Cross hospital, where he worked, from closure under John Major's Tory government. The protesters threatened to occupy the hospital to keep it open. The campaign gained people's support and succeeded.
Charing Cross hospital is still open today, though it is now being attacked by the Labour government's pro-big business policies. The government can find over £20 billion to bail out big business failure Northern Rock. But they let NHS Trusts sack workers and cut services to stop deficits of just over £1 billion last year.
Why is the government not taking action to end the PFI contracts that are ruining the finances of local hospitals across the country? Instead Labour is making big business profiteering a higher priority than improving people's health. Chris called for a united fight to save all the threatened hospitals and all the threatened services.
The three main parties have one thing in common; the NHS is not safe in their hands. The Socialist Party is fighting for a socialist alternative. The Banbury campaigners show that victories can be won against the hospital wreckers. The National Health Service must be rebuilt as a fully publicly funded service, free at the point of use, with immediate cash to end the crisis of under-funding.
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