Thousands of protesters poured into the streets of London to voice outrage about the government’s proposed changes to the NHS. The protest, backed by an unprecedented coalition of British trade unions, Labour MPs, medical staff and anti-privatization campaign groups, was organized against planned privatisation and closures across London including nine accident and emergency departments, several maternity units and cuts to thousands of hospital beds.
The Save Our NHS demonstrators marched in the British capital on Saturday, holding banners with slogans including “NHS not for sale” and “Keep our NHS public”.
The protesters also handed a letter to the British Prime Minister’s office at No 10 Downing Street demanding him to halt “closures and privatization threats to the NHS”.
The rally was called after a set of closures and downgrades of A&E departments and other services at London hospitals that led to the massive 25,000-srong march to defend Lewisham hospital.
The policies of the successive governments of the rich to privatise the various social services are creating acute hardships for working people of our country. Since the eighties of the last century, all mainstream parties, the parties of the rich in power have privatised state owned companies such as British Gas, British Telecom, British Rail and many other state enterprises. Assets belonging to people were sold for peanuts to private capitalists who are now raking billions of pounds from the sales of these assets. They have made education a privilege only affordable for the sons and daughters of the wealthy elite.
Policies of privatisation and suppression of working peoples rights by Margaret Thatcher’s government were further carried forward by Tony Blair’s Labour government. Now the government of the Conservative – Lib Dem coalition is taking the same banner forward. It is bent on destroying the National Health Service. Healthcare will be affordable only for a few. People will be forced to pay for healthcare and take up private health insurance. Those already with chronic illnesses will even be denied insurance cover as it becomes non – profitable for health insurance companies.
Private companies are being allowed to choose which NHS services to bid for. NHS budgets are being opened up to ‘any qualified provider’.
In North West London Hospitals – Ealing, Charing Cross and Hammersmith – A&E departments, along with maternity and children’s services are threatened with closures. Hundreds of beds in all neighbouring hospitals are being cut. Ealing and Charing Cross hospital will be knocked down and land be sold to private developers. These hospitals will be replaced by clinics instead. People have denounced these plans in many large public meetings and marched in thousands in local demonstrations. Ealing council is planning legal action against the closure of these core services
Over 700,000 patients per year will be affected by these closures.
In South East London, there have been massive protests to destroy Lewisham Hospital. Similar struggles are taking place against planned closure of hospitals across other parts of London. Lives will be lost and people will suffer from health hazards.
The pretext used is that they want to “modernise” health services. The real reason is that the Government is telling them to cut services, dismantle NHS step by step and privatise health care, paving the way for business corporations and health insurance companies to reap massive profits from peoples health.
Before they were elected, the Government promised to protect the NHS. Now they are trying to cut services by £20 billion as well as force our GPs to use private health suppliers.
Government is ‘claiming’ to save money. What value to we place on human life?
Billions of pounds of our money is used to finance unjust wars of aggression and bail out big banks. Working people are producers of wealth. Instead our money is used to shore up declining profits of big business and financial institutions. Working people do not get financial benefits in return. Profits go to big businesses, Working people bear the losses. Government policies shaped at cabinet level, by the executive of Lib -Dem coalition as well as the Labour Party when in power, all benefit giant corporations and financial institutions. Consequently people lose from these policies by erosion of basic rights to free quality healthcare, free quality education, affordable housing, loss of pensions and security of livelihood.
The monopoly capitalist system is facing an unprecedented crisis and is shifting the burden on to working people. Decisions are already made and sham consultations are carried out to give the impression of democracy.
Activists from community organisations, trade unions and from all political backgrounds must unite around the program of defeating policies of privatisation of healthcare, education and other public services along with strengthening real democracy at every level. Democracy enabling working people to be decision makers in shaping policies affecting their lives and fulfilling peoples needs. Policies of privatisation have to be defeated, not a mere change of governments. The growing tide of these mass struggles will eventually result in empowerment of working people in creation of a new society utilising wealth created by working people for providing for their needs, A society in which people are decision makers in ensuring a life of security and prosperity of all
Free quality healthcare, education and provision of public services is a basic right of all!