[First published on our website: 6 June 2007]
On Tuesday 5 June over 40 local health workers, trade unionists and campaigners attended a successful public meeting to discuss concerns over private sector involvment in our NHS and plans to decimate local health services.
The meeting was organised by the local branch of the Keep Our NHS Public campaign group which has been at the forefront of the battle locally to protect public interests in local health services.
Platform speakers included John Lister, a national health campaigner from Oxfordshire, Socialist Party member and chair of the local Keep Our NHS Public group, Phil Clarke and Mick Malloy, Brighton's GMB Health representative.
Phil Clarke opened the meeting by describing the role of the Keep Our NHS Public campaign and the current situation in Brighton and the surrounding towns regarding private involvment in the NHS. One example included the current and ongoing PFI fiasco which will see the local trust struggle to meet the inflated repayments for a new children's hospital which guarantee large profits for the contractor, Kajima. In total, the local NHS trust will end up paying about five times the £37 million value of the building! That's £163.3 million! Or five new hospitals!
The main thrust of Phil's contribution centred around concerns over the creation of privately-run 'minor' A&Es. The Strategic Health Authority's plan is to leave the only NHS-run A&E department at the county's busiest hospital, the Royal Sussex in Brighton, with privately-run Urgent Care Centres (UCCs) operating in towns across Sussex. As part of this development, these UCCs will only be able to treat the very minor, and profitable, injuries while people in critical conditions will have to travel many more miles to reach the only A&E in the region. From as early as next year patents may find themselves directed to a privately-run UCC to take over part of the Royal Sussex's A&E site with tenders invited from the private sector for £30 million of depleted NHS funds over three years!
These insane, life-threatening and wasteful plans to involve the private sector in the creation of downgraded minor injury clinics, follows another example of this current obsession with privatisation in the local region.
The local health trust, which is already £15 million in debt, is paying £18 million from its funds to US private health firm Mercury Health in Haywards Health. They are being paid in total for only carrying out half the number of operations they are contracted to do because they are cherry-picking the easiest cases! That's money for nothing!
And all of this is occuring while 500 jobs are under threat and 109 beds are set to close at the Royal Sussex alone!
John Lister followed Phil's contribution by speaking passionately about the campaigns going on up and down the country in defence of a publicaly-owned and run NHS. GMB Health representative Mick Malloy gave a firm and supportive speech in appreciation to the work of the local campaign for building solidarity amongst campaigners and health workers. In particular, he drew attention to two GMB health reps present at the meeting who have been the only compulsory reduncies so far. Mick suggested that the health authority is obviously on the defensive up against a strong campaign group if it is sacking those it knows can win if united action is taken by health workers, trade unionists, socialists and community campaigners.
New people interested in joining the local campaign gave their contact details and now the build up is underway for the group's second public demonstration on Saturday 30 June