The Independent London Newspaper
24th May 2017

Occupy wards threatened with closure, say OAP leaders

    Wendy Savage, the founder of Keep Our NHS Public

    Cries of ‘Shame’ as Labour Party is mentioned at Health Service protest meeting

    Published: 18th November, 2010
    by TOM FOOT

    NHS campaigners from across the capital gathered in Camden Town Hall on Monday night with the rallying call: “Follow the students!”

    The packed chamber heard a series of speeches urging “insurrection” against the government white paper Liberating the NHS.

    The Conservative and Lib Dem Coalition is proposing a massive overhaul that campaigners say will bring about the “destruction” of the NHS.

    They called for a reawakening of the collective people power that shook Margaret Thatcher during the 1990s poll tax protests and those that drew thousands out on the streets in support of the Whittington Hospital earlier this year.

    Pensioners’ leaders called for protesters to occupy wards threatened with closure and health workers spoke of the need for strike action and lobbying of Parliament.

    “Like the students, we need to take to the streets to make our voices heard,” said consultant radiologist Dr Jacky Davis, referring to the march that tore through London last Wednesday in protest against rising university tuition fees.

    The NHS White Paper proposes designating hospitals as “social enterprises” – outside the family of the NHS – allowing them to increase profits from private treatments.

    A massive shortfall in NHS funding over the next five years threatens crucial lifesaving services across Camden. The meeting heard how the NHS would be “dismantled” and sold off to “any willing provider”, such as United Health or Care UK.

    Campaigners argued that “the state must accept financial responsibility” for the nation’s health.

    National Pensioners Committee general secretary Dot Gibson said: “This coalition government is throwing down the gauntlet to those who uphold social justice. We must mobilise, organise and fight.

    “We, as pensioners, remember what it was like in 1945 and 1948. We are facing it again – and it is our responsi­bility to take forward the struggle.”

    Wendy Savage, founder of Keep Our NHS Public (KONP), said: “We need a march, a demo. We need one in early January. We have got to get the unions to mobilise and do something. We need a mass lobby.”

    Janet Maiden, a nurse for 18 years at Univer­sity College Hospital, said: “I have heard staff talking about strikes in the last few weeks like I haven’t heard in 20 years.”

    Language therapist and Unite trade union rep Gill George said: “We need to rediscover the spirit of civil diso­bedience – the mass breaking of the law.”

    But Shirley Franklin, who led the Whittington Hospital campaign, said: “Most of all, we need a message that resonates amongst people. The NHS is being destroyed. We must organise. We must agitate.”

    The meeting heard cries of “shame” when the Labour Party was mentioned.

    Camden KONP chairwoman Candy Udwin said: “We need national, militant action – and very urgently. 

    “We need to start the resistance now – with unity across the board and inspiring people to resist.”

    The White Paper proposed abolishing primary care trusts (PCTs) – the unelected bodies currently deciding which NHS services get funded – and devolving responsibility to GPs. Doctors will be held accountable for the cuts.

    GP Louise Irvine said: “Who better to sugar-coat this radical denationalisation than doctors? 

    “We will take the flak. We will be seen as the instruments breaking up the NHS. I don’t see how they can push this through without the support of GPs.”

    John Lister, chairman of Health Emergency, said: “GPs have their chins on the floor about this. They are about to give £80billion to loads of people who don’t want it.”

    The White Paper could become law as early as next year.

    Thousands are expected to attend a meeting called by veteran activist Tony Benn to launch a “Coalition of Resistance” at the Camden Centre on November 27.

    • To find out more about the White Paper contact Camden Keep Our NHS Public at www.camdenkeepournhspublic.org.uk

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