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The Battle for the Future Direction of the NHS:
Tens of Thousands March and Demonstrate to Demand a New Direction for the NHS
Fight For An Anti-War Government:
Nationwide Tour, Why We Need An Anti-War Government
The High Court on January 26 granted permission to Professor Stephen Hawking, Dr Colin Hutchinson, Professor Allyson Pollock, Professor Sue Richards and Dr Graham Winyard to bring a judicial review against the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Jeremy Hunt, and NHS England to challenge the introduction of Accountable Care Organisations (ACOs) into the NHS. The legal challenge is against the plan of the government, Department of Health and NHS England to allow private companies to take direct control of the NHS. The money to fight the case was raised by a crowd justice fund, which has so far raised £180,000 at the time of writing.
The organisers of the case point out that the government and NHS England "are resisting every inch of the way and have already run up over £90,000 that they have claimed from us. On the basis of their estimated costs we have been advised that we face a potential liability of £350,000-£450,000 if we lose. Plus maybe VAT. If we can't limit our potential liability, then the case is over. We would have to withdraw." The Secretary of State and NHS England have also refused their suggestion that each side bear its own costs whatever the outcome of this important case. "We have therefore asked the court to hear our application for cost capping at a short hearing and have revised the application to ask that the amount we would have to pay, should we lose, be capped at £160,000." In the meantime the organisers have launched a third crowd justice fund, which has presently raised more than £50,000.
At the same time, as a result of the pressure from the resistance of the people to the privatisation of the NHS, NHS England suddenly announced on January 25 that it will be launching a twelve-week "consultation" on the contracting arrangements for ACOs. Having fragmented the NHS into competing commissioners and providers, both "public trusts" and "private companies", they are now claiming that ACOs will allow health and care organisations to formally contract to provide services for a local population in a "co-ordinated way".
The statement makes apparent that it is in response to the legal challenge with the claim that an ACO is "not a new type of legal entity and so would not affect the commissioning structure of the NHS". NHS England then goes on to claim that the two areas at the forefront of using an ACO contract of this sort are Dudley and Manchester's proposed local care organisation. "Emerging bidders for both proposals are NHS bodies, have the support of local GPs and are not private sector organisations."
However, what NHS England is hiding is not whether Dudley and Manchester will be run by "public" or "private" companies, but that the whole direction reveals the sheer scale of involving the private health companies with "public" Trusts in running the NHS, where the destruction of public authority is replaced by precarious arrangements directly dominated by private finance with its narrow self-serving aims and the interests of cartels and oligopolies.
The people are right to fight and resist the government and NHS England, who are trying to impose ACOs in running the NHS without any legislation being passed in Parliament. It is a key move in the government's aim to replace the rule of public authority by the diktat of finance capital, insurance monopolies and the like over health services. But fighting for the alternative is not a question of restoration of the old public authority, which has now been abandoned by the ruling elite and in which the people had no real role to play. What this fight against ACOs puts on the agenda is who decides and the need for the power to enforce the ownership of the people and guarantee their rights, which are absent at present. It is the decision-making power of the working people that is required.
Tens of thousands of people from all over the country took part on Saturday, February 3, in a day of action demanding a new direction for the NHS and an end to its privatisation. In London, 60,000 marched in the cold and rain through the centre of town to a rally outside Downing Street. It is reported that there were 54 other events across England, together with solidarity events in Wales, in Scotland and in the north of Ireland. The day of action was called by Health Campaigns Together and the People's Assembly.
The London demonstration was very militant, beginning with stirring speeches in Gower Street near University College Hospital, and ending with a rally in Whitehall outside Downing Street, where many speakers and health workers recounted their own experiences and called on everyone to join together to safeguard the future of the NHS, end its privatisation, and ensure funding for public delivery of the NHS services.
The slogan "Health Care Is a Right!" was taken up at by a number of different contingents along the route, as well as many cries of "Whose NHS? Our NHS!". Many discussions took place up and down the march on the way forward to safeguard the NHS and block the moves to privatise it and use it as a cash cow for the rich. Many local fighting campaigns were represented on the demonstration, as well as staging actions in their own localities.
Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth joined the London protest, while Jeremy
Corbyn spoke out in support of the demonstration in a video message.
Actions across the North East
People in the North East joined thousands across the country who took to the streets to fight to safeguard the future of the NHS. As huge crowds in London marched on Downing Street on Saturday, protesters in the North East signed petitions, shouted slogans and handed out leaflets. There were protest stalls organised beside Grey's Monument in the centre of Newcastle, in the centres of South Shields and Sunderland, as well as in other towns and cities in the region
In Newcastle, John Whalley, a nurse and co-ordinator of Keep Our NHS Public North East, said: "The concerns are massive, there has been huge under-funding over a long period of time for the NHS. Our nurses are getting blamed, patients are getting blamed, immigrants are getting blamed, the flu is getting blamed, but the reality is that this government needs to face up to its responsibility to fully fund the NHS that the people of the UK deserve. More and more people are becoming aware of the issues in the NHS and they won't stand for it being eroded. What we've seen over the last six months is a ground-swell of public support for the NHS."
In South Shields Town Centre, the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign,
including local MP Emma Lewell-Buck, were using the national day of action to
highlight their ongoing protests against the downgrading of their hospital.
Maddy Nettleship, a spokesperson for the day of action, said: "The problem
here in South Tyneside is that they're trying to take a lot of vital acute
services, starting with maternity, stroke and children's A&E, to Sunderland
which will make services here less accessible and less safe. They will make the
services in Sunderland more overstretched for the people of Sunderland. We've
had a big campaign going for over a year and our demand is that it's our
hospital, our NHS and we have a right to these services, yet the government and
its commissioners are giving the people no meaningful say on what is vital to
their healthcare needs at their hospital."
Isle of Wight Save Our NHS March and Rally
Around 200 people gathered in Newport to show their support for the fight against cuts in the Isle of Wight NHS.
Assembling outside St Mary's Hospital in Newport, the march set off to St Thomas's Square for a rally.
The march followed news of major changes in the way health services are delivered on the Isle of Wight. The local press has reported that some of the planned changes include around 11% of patients requiring more complex, urgent care being transferred for specialist care to the mainland. This includes neonatal (premature babies) requiring advanced support and children needing more than 24 hours inpatient care. This follows the pattern in many other parts of the country where local services are cut under the guise of providing high level specialist care elsewhere.
(Workers' Weekly reporters, Health Campaigns Together)
Nationwide Tour, Why We Need An Anti-War Government
Beginning last month, and stretching into March, the Stop
the War Coalition
For the dates of the meetings across England, Scotland and
This coming Thursday, February 15, marks the 15th anniversary of the massive two-million strong anti-war demonstration through London, in conjunction with other national and international demonstrations, which declared "Not In Our Name!" to the disastrous course on which Tony Blair, allying with George W Bush, was taking the country. Meetings on this date are taking place in Cardiff and London.
For a report of the meeting organised by Newcastle Stop
the War, with recordings of the speeches, see:
Report of Friends of Korea (Britain) meeting hailing the spirit of the PyeongChang "Peace Olympics"
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