Thursday, July 15, 2010

Now is the time to defend the NHS

John Lister sets out with admirable clarity the scale and nature of Tory plans for the NHS in today's Morning Star (http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/index.php/news/content/view/full/92807).

The ConDem Coalition plan tens of thousands of redundancies with hundreds of thousands more transferred out of the NHS which would "remain in name only as a 'brand' transformed from a major public service into little more than a central fund drawn from general taxation."

As Lister concludes, the attitude of trade unions and our members could be of critical importance.

Doctors' union, the British Medical Association (BMA) could play a key role - but since GPs are already self-employed contractors rather than health service employees - the views of their GP members may be mixed.

This probably explains why the BMA are facing in two directions at once - applauding GPs who are "raring to go" to take on healthcare commissioning (http://web2.bma.org.uk/nrezine.nsf/wp/ESML-87ALSK?OpenDocument&C=17+July+2010) whilst at the same time campaigning against the "commercialisation" of our NHS (http://www.lookafterournhs.org.uk/).

Unless the BMA improbably seek inspiration from the Yugoslav model of self-managed socialism it's difficult to see how the changes to commissioning which they applaud can do anything other than increase the commercialisation which they deplore.

The position of the TUC affiliated unions ought to be more straightforward. Lister says; "The other big question is how strongly the TUC health unions will resist this root and branch attack on the jobs, pay and conditions of their members and the dismemberment of the NHS as a public service, which builds on all the worst aspects of Labour's 'reforms'."

UNISON has slammed the White Paper proposals (http://www.unison.org.uk/asppresspack/pressrelease_view.asp?id=1922) but - whilst we surely should, as we promise, respond to the White Paper in a "thorough and thoughtful" way - this needs to go a bit further than challenging "its most damaging aspects."

We need to be thorough in the way in which we alert all citizens to this grave threat to our NHS and thoughtful about the legal, political and industrial action which may be required.

A good start would be if the NHS Together Website (http://www.tuc.org.uk/theme/index.cfm?theme=nhstogether) were to be updated. A second step would be an Emergency Motion to the TUC calling for a national demonstration and lobby of Parliament in the autumn - although the vital work must and will be done by building local campaigns.

We need to change gear and accelerate work to strengthen the coalition which can be mobilised to stop Lansley's plans in their tracks. As Jeremy Corbyn also says in today's Morning Star, "now is the time to defend the NHS."

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

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