NHS Crisis: Turn Anger into Action!

6th June 2013

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From the Socialist Newspaper 5 May

People are angry about this assault on a vital public service but they need to get organised. Health campaigners should get behind the call for health unions to build a massive national weekend demo and for trade unions to organise a 24-hour general strike to defeat this NHS-wrecking government.

No cuts at Royal Glamorgan Hospital!
United campaign against the South Wales Programme needed!

People in Rhondda Cynon Taff have reacted with anger and alarm at the threat from the Welsh government to close a fully functioning A&E at Royal Glamorgan hospital near Pontypridd.

The cuts at the Royal Glamorgan are part of the South Wales Programme recently proposed by the Welsh government to centralise core hospital services in South Wales in just five hospitals.

Rhondda Cynon Taff has one of the highest levels of health needs in the UK. People in the Rhondda have already lost a doctor-led service at Llwynypia hospital. Now they will be expected to travel long distances in emergencies. And the ambulance service cannot cope with the distances it already has to cover.

The South Wales Programme has been put out to public consultation ending on 19 July. Various other 'options' for centralising the services are offered as alternatives, but the downgrading of Royal Glamorgan is the preferred option. All options should be rejected because they all mean cuts.

The Welsh government has cut funding to the NHS by at least £300 million this year, close to a whopping £1 billion so far since the cuts began.

In reality the different options really come down to a choice between downgrading Royal Glamorgan or downgrading the Princess of Wales in Bridgend. The Welsh Labour government is cynically trying to play off hospital against hospital, borough against borough, working class against working class, in the hope that by dividing them they can force the programme through.

And the Labour Party representatives are more than happy to play that game. Labour Assembly Members (AMs) and MPs have trotted out in Pontypridd and the Rhondda to oppose the downgrading of Royal Glamorgan while supporting the South Wales Programme overall.

As the ITV interviewer put it to Mick Antoniw, AM for Pontypridd, "you are just Nimbys ('Not In My Back Yard') really aren't you?" It would be more accurate to describe Antoniw and his partner in crime Leighton Andrews as 'Himbys' - they want a 'Hospital In My Back Yard' instead of someone else's. Incredibly, Leighton Andrew is a prominent member of the same cabinet that is putting forward the plan to close core services at Royal Glamorgan.

The danger is that hospital campaigners in Rhondda Cynon Taff and Bridgend will be drawn into a war against each other. The Royal Glamorgan would be likely to lose out because the First Minister, Carwyn Jones, is the Assembly Member for Bridgend.

And what will be the situation for the 'victorious' hospital? Thousands more patients from outside the area pouring into its A&E. All the A&Es are at breaking point with six hour waiting times common. There can be no winners in the war between hospitals - the NHS will be loser.

Campaign

The only way to save services at the Royal Glamorgan is to unite health campaigners across South Wales against the whole South Wales Programme. Unity really IS strength.

Unfortunately trade union leaders in Wales are so close to the Labour leadership that they prefer to bury their heads in the sand and pretend there are no significant cuts in Wales.

On the same day that the South Wales Programme was announced the Wales TUC conference dominated by trade union bureaucrats rejected a call by Swansea Trades Council to oppose the Programme. The convener of Unison Cymru, 'representing' the majority of the tens of thousands of health workers in Wales, opposed the motion, uttering the immortal words "if we pass this motion we will have to oppose all NHS cuts in Wales"!

But trade union members across South Wales will not support the campaign to downgrade any hospital. Welsh trade unionists were at the forefront of the struggle for the NHS and we will not surrender it easily.

Socialist Party members will be at the very forefront of this campaign: a united campaign to defend the NHS in Wales. But time is short. We must not let the Labour leaders set our communities against each other.

No cuts in the health service!

  • Kick big business out of the NHS
  • Cancel privatisation and outsourcing contracts - reintegrate all health services back into the NHS.
  • All hospitals to be fully run and funded by the NHS
  • Adequate staffing levels to provide good quality care for all patients. Decent pay and conditions for all staff
  • Health service unions to organise industrial action to defend every part of the NHS

Dave Reid
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