The date has been set for a mass demonstration to defend the NHS from cuts and privatisation. The protest has been called by the national steering committee of Health Campaigns Together and will take place on Saturday March 4th 2017, under the banner of “It’s Our NHS”.
The announcement of the demonstration follows unprecedented funding cuts from central government.
Under the Tories’ so-called “Sustainability and Transformation Plans” (STPs), hospital trusts will be required to carry out cuts of £22bn by 2020. The health campaigner and academic John Lister states that these cuts “will spell the end of the NHS as we know it”.
A progressive alliance of MPs have hit back against these proposals with the NHS Reinstatement Bill.
This Bill was first tabled in Parliament by the Green Party MP Caroline Lucas on July 1st 2015, and proposes to fully restore the NHS as an accountable public service by reversing 25 years of privatisation carried out by successive Tory and New Labour governments.
The bill is supported by Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Diane Abbott, but it is now also gaining more widespread support across the party. Nevertheless, many on the right wing of the Parliamentary Labour Party remain opposed to it.
Indeed, Labour’s former Health Secretary Heidi Alexander, who recently resigned from Corbyn’s shadow cabinet, actually cites Corbyn’s support for the NHS Reinstatement Bill as evidence of his “ineptitude”.
Alexander, like so many other Blairites, claims to oppose the bill because it would be “disruptive”. Given the wholesale destruction that is currently taking place in the NHS, arguing against nationalisation because it is “disruptive” is nothing short of bizarre.
The next reading of the bill takes place next week on November 4th, and a lobby will be taking place outside of Parliament on the same day.
Unfortunately, the trade union response to the Tories’ planned £22bn in cuts has been more restrained.
UNISON, which represents more than 500,000 health workers nationwide, has written to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt demanding he “slows down the pace of STPs, involves the public and allows full consultation with unions on the plans.” But this is not enough!
The Tories are ideologically opposed to the concept of free universal healthcare; they would rather we moved to the American model of insurance. For ordinary working class people, this would mean that medical care would become unaffordable.
The trade unions must begin to discuss coordinated strike action in defence of the NHS to bring it under democratic workers’ control and management. We know that the bureaucratic union leadership will not voluntarily take this course of action, so they must be pushed by their members.
Since the Tories limped to power in 2015, the number of local campaigns against NHS privatisation has snowballed. Yesterday alone, there were two separate (though related) mass protests against NHS cuts, taking place in Leicester and Grantham.
But now that a national demonstration has been called, there is an opportunity to bring all these campaigns together.
Ken Loach’s breathtaking recent film, I, Daniel Blake, crystallises exactly why we need rid of the Tories; a nationwide fight in defence of the NHS has the power to complete this task.
What you can do:
Get your union branch or local community group to endorse the demo. Start to publicise the date, and let’s call on the Labour Party to get behind it.
Write to, and lobby, your MP to get them to support the NHS Reinstatement Bill.
Get the following model motion passed at your local union branch:
Motion: Support for the NHS Bill to reinstate a publicly funded, publicly provided and accountable NHS.
We need our health services to be comprehensive, transparent, equitable and affordable. The only way all these goals can be attained is through full public ownership.
On 1st July 2015, 12 MPs from five political parties including Jeremy Corbyn and Caroline Lucas tabled the National Health Service Bill in the House of Commons, based on the second version of the NHS Reinstatement Bill. The NHS Bill is scheduled for its second reading on the 11th March 2017.
We note that the NHS Bill sets out the way to fully restore the NHS as an accountable public service by reversing 25 years of marketisation in the NHS, by abolishing the purchaser-provider split, ending contracting and re-establishing public bodies and public services accountable to local communities. It gives direction for the integration of health with social care and it removes the NHS from EU competition law.
The Bill has the official backing of the Medical Practitioners Union, the BMA, The Green Party, the SNP, Keep Our NHS Public (KONP), Doctors for the NHS (previously the National Health Service Consultants Association) and Disabled People Against Cuts.
The Bill is also supported by many prominent individuals, including Joan Bakewell, Natalie Bennett, Helena Kennedy, David Owen, Wendy Savage, Melvin Bragg, Alan Bennett, Ken Loach, Sienna Miller, Michael Morpurgo, Peter Pinkney, Jonathan Pryce, Steve Redgrave, and over 70 more individuals who signed a letter published in the Guardian calling for a bill to reinstate the NHS.
xxxxxxxxxxx calls on (the Union/ the Labour / other political Party) to support the NHS Bill as official (union / Party) policy and for national bodies and national officers to actively campaign for its promotion by using media and working with other campaign groups and trades unions.
We also call on individual members to promote the bill and to lobby their own MP both via the Bill’s website http://www.nhsbill2015.org/the-bill/ and directly through local action.