The NHS is presently facing off against a callous lying executioner — the Government — and our local Labour Council has the potential to ward off this terminal threat. But despite the threatened bloodbath, it is not clear that our Council are all that bothered to intervene to save our health service. This is a tragedy indeed that will be most felt among our city’s most vulnerable residents.
With this lack of resistance in mind, earlier this evening the Campaign Against NHS Privatization staged a protest outside City Hall to voice their concern that major proposals for health service change are not being properly scrutinised by the City Council. What the protestors were particularly concerned about was the introduction of the government’s dangerous Sustainability Transformation Plan (STP) – which is more accurately known as their planned Slash, Trash and Privatisation of our health service!
Leicester’s Labour Council could, if they felt the need, reject the latest blatant plans by the Tories to destroy our health service, but the tragedy is that they are so weak-willed and subservient to corporate interests that they simply don’t feel inclined to act in our defence!
Spokesperson for Campaign Against NHS Privatization in Leicester, Robert Ball, explained:
“Under the [proposed STP] plan for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, three hospitals in the city and county will be closed, 280 beds will be lost, staff numbers reduced, maternity services trimmed and care rationed as services shrink.”
Tonight’s protest took place before the Council’s latest Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Commission meeting, which was chaired by Councillor Vi Dempster, with Deputy City Mayor Rory Palmer also in attendance. Robert Ball noted that his group was concerned that the Council had “excluded members of the public from asking questions at the meeting… We wanted to participate in this by asking question but our questions have not been accepted and we are being told they will not be taken at the meeting.”
He added that the Campaign Against NHS Privatization, which had attended previous meetings of the Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny, had “come round to the view that the City councillors do not have sufficient expertise to scrutinise the plan and are not examining the issues closely.” He said:
“Further, documents on financial and the workforce have been withheld by the NHS. The City Council should demand them — otherwise the STP cannot be scrutinised effectively.”
It seems that Labour Party representatives must be forced to wake up to the terminal threat facing the future of the NHS, and wake up now! This is no time to be complacent, our lives and hospitals are under attack.
Labour councillors must take a stand and do everything in their power to reject the Government cuts (disguised as improvements) which will certainly only act to bring more needless illness and deaths to our city.
We must demand that our MPs act to defend the NHS too. For instance, why is Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, Jon Ashworth (Leicester South), not even willing to back the NHS Reinstatement Bill? What is the point of being in Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet if Jon isn’t going to even commit to reversing the shameful privatisation of the NHS that is taking place now, and had previously taken place under New Labour’s watch?
In the meantime, join the protest in London on Saturday that has been called by Health Campaigns Together http://www.healthcampaignstogether.com/ to fight for the future of the NHS. We must make it clear that we reject all cuts, all closures, and all privatisation! Then join the protest against the closure of Glenfield Heart Unit on Thursday March 9 (from 4.30pm), outside of Leicester Tigers’ ground on Welford Road.
As was noted in the Socialist Party newspaper:
“From the 4 March demonstration we need to build local campaign groups in all 44 STP areas, brought together under a national umbrella, as Health Campaigns Together has begun to do. As a next step, Health Campaigns Together should name the day for a nationwide day of protest, calling on local trade unions to join the campaigns.
“We should build 44 massive local demonstrations on the same day to stamp on the STPs! That should be followed by a Trade Union Congress (TUC) national demonstration to save the NHS – mobilised for by all trade unions and by the Labour leadership.
“Labour can play a vital role in building this movement. It is good that Jeremy Corbyn plans to address the demo. Now he should use his position as Labour leader to campaign for a mass movement to renationalise the NHS.
“Such a stand would help give people confidence to fight back, and make clear to millions the advantages of an anti-austerity Labour leader.
“Jeremy should also call on the 100 or so Labour-led councils to stop making cuts now, including cuts to social care, and to reject their local STP; STPs include local authorities. So far a handful has done so, but if every Labour council was to publicly oppose its local STP, the whole thing would become unworkable.”