|Volume 52 Number 6, March 26, 2022||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
As part of the SOS-NHS national day of action on February 26, a rally was co-hosted by the North East People's Assembly, and the Keep Our NHS Public North East at Grey's Monument, Newcastle. The organisers pointed out that the NHS is facing its worst crisis ever. This is a national emergency in which, despite heroic efforts by staff, the performance for ordinary people has sunk to its worst ever level due to privatisation and disinvestment. The underlying problems which existed before the pandemic have been deepened by the continued high level of Covid infections. The NHS needs emergency funds to save lives now.
Speakers at the rally included Dave Allan (Unite National Exec Committee), Dr Pam Wortley (Socialist Health Association), Roger Nettleship (Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign), Tay Pitman (Newcastle Green Party), Sean Fahey (North East Pensioners Association), Dr Helen Groom (Retired GP, NHS campaigner and member of the "No to Hassockfield Campaign"), Stacey Richardson (NHS Staff Voices, North East Peoples Assembly), and Jude Letham (Keep Our NHS Public North East).
We reproduce below the speech given on behalf of the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign.
We would like to bring you the support of the activists and supporters of the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign (SSTHC) to this SOS NHS emergency day of action organised by Keep Our NHS Public North East and North East Peoples Assembly organisations which we have worked alongside for over 6 years.
The fact that we have to call for emergency funding, for investing in a fully publicly owned NHS and to pay staff properly shows how far particularly the present government and successive governments have taken the NHS by fragmenting it into competing Trusts and opening it up to increasing privatisation. This whole corporate direction has become not only marked by the loss of vital hospital beds, vital hospital services and staff but a regime in control that refuses to listen to the public concerns. We are the ones justified in our calls to to retain and improve health and social services in our local areas, towns and cities.
This is why it is so vital that the people of every area take up the fight to not only save our health services but to involve everyone in speaking out and becoming ourselves the new public authority, a public authority that those in power are increasingly abandoning to the corporate directors of private and so-called public bodies. The most profitable sectors of the NHS, supplies, diagnostics, elective surgery are already handed over to the health care corporations and even within our own NHS Trusts. Some 40% of elective operations are now done in the private sector.
In South Tyneside vital imaging services are being handed to the private sector under a national and local contract of NHS England and Department of Health to the Alliance Medical Corporation. For a long time minor urgent care has been handed to a private company Vocare at South Tyneside and Sunderland.
SSTHC has fought for 6 years against the downgrading of South Tyneside District Hospital (STDH). Our petition of over 40,000 was handed in last year to Parliament. Our Judicial Review was finally rejected by the Supreme Court last year after a 3 year fight in the courts. However this so-called "path to excellence" that closed our full maternity services cannot now sustain the midwife led unit that they put in its place. As we predicted it has already temporarily closed twice and has been closed since January 4th.
There is the continued worry for parents with the loss of our 24/7 consultant led children's A&E. Added to this even though staff have performed with great resolve and professional courage in the pandemic we now have 45 thousand patients that are on the waiting lists for operations in South Tyneside and Sunderland, partly because of the halt of elective care that was ordered during the pandemic. However, the waiting lists pre-date the pandemic and have been caused primarily by the previous closures of beds and services. Now we are faced with the authorities quoting the pandemic as the justification to further downgrade South Tyneside District Hospital acute services. Now they want to transfer all emergency surgery to Sunderland which will further undermine the Accident emergency at ST. This when prior to the pandemic and during it, the A&E at STDH, with its emergency surgery has played an indispensable role.
Of course we do listen to the need to modernise services but what is happening is that they are not taking account of the concerns of the people because these changes in health and social care services, and their continued privatisation, are driven by corporate considerations and not human centred considerations. They do not, and will not meet the needs of the people for a 21st century. It is not a path to excellence as they claim. It is a wrecking of the public health care system in the interests replacing it with the anarchy of the private sector which has always eliminated the right to healthcare.
The necessity is for a public healthcare system that is human centred. A human centred system is where health staff and the communities engage to provide health and social care that is accessible to all day and night. For a modern borough like South Tyneside with a growing population 160,000 plus it is not acceptable that our hospitals do not provide full maternity services, a consultant-led Children's A&E and an A&E with all the acute services necessary. It is the people who should decide. They are our hospitals, they are our workplaces and it is our NHS. Health care is as right!