Taking the battle to save the NHS into our communities

A new TUC guide for NHS campaigners aims to help people fight to defend the NHS, as the impact of cuts and the speed of privatisation intensifies.

Matt Dykes
26 September 2013

People from all walks of life joined together to fight the Health and Social Care Act that the government pushed through in 2012.

And again we mobilised when the government introduced the Section 75 regulations which appeared to enforce competition throughout the NHS, contrary to government assurances.

Despite huge mobilisations and some hard campaigning, we are left with an Act on the statute books that threatens the very future of our NHS and regulations that, regardless of a cosmetic redraft, are still forcing commissioners to put nearly every service out to tender.

The fight is far from over. Now is the time to regroup as we are enter a new and important phase, as the anticipated intensifying of privatisation begins to kick in and as the austerity-induced funding crisis deepens.

This Sunday, the TUC is calling on campaigners to gather in Manchester outside the Conservative Party conference to give them a resounding message - hands off our NHS, and no to austerity.

But the battle to save the NHS will take action back into our communities, too. The TUC’s new NHS Campaigners Guide provides a set of tools to help community groups, grassroots campaigners and union activists develop on-the-ground activity to help keep the fight going to save our NHS.

Let’s be clear about this. The fight is well and truly on.

Analysis from the NHS Support Federation shows how outsourcing has escalated in recent months:

- An estimated £2.5 billion worth of NHS contracts have emerged in the 4 months since the competition regulations were passed by Parliament.

- Nearly 200 NHS contract opportunities in the pipeline since April.

- Contracts awards made since April show 21 to the private sector and only 4 to the NHS.

- Twice the number of contract notices for clinical services compared with the same quarter last year advertised on the Official Journal to the European Union.

In Cambridgeshire, we are seeing the first £1bn outsourcing contract up for grabs, with all older people’s health and social care being offered up for tender. 7 out of the 10 organisations invited to tender are private providers, including Virgin, Serco, United Healthcare, Capita and Circle.

The privatisation of the ambulance service is increasing dramatically under the current government. London’s spending on private ambulance contractors has increased almost tenfold in the last 2 years, from less than £400,000, in 2010/2011, to £4.2m, in 2012/2013. In Manchester, Arriva has taken over non-emergency patient transport, beating the NHS in-house bid on price not quality. Whistle blowers suggest that private contractors are increasingly being used for 999 emergency calls.

All this is taking place at a time when the NHS is facing a growing financial crisis. Flat-lining budgets, increasing demand and the impact of £20bn efficiency savings are leading to cuts, closures and increasing rationing of services.

Now is the time for us to regroup and strengthen our coalition to save the NHS by:

- exposing the cuts and privatisation that threaten to break it up

- campaigning for patient safety and safe staffing levels

- campaigning against NHS money going into private profits

- lobbying for transparency and openness from all providers. 

 The NHS Campaigners Guide has been developed by the TUC in partnership with our friends at Keep Gloucestershire’s NHS Public to help people get involved in action to save our NHS where you live and work.

It provides ideas for:

- campaigning around local cuts, privatisation of local services or financially driven closures

- lobbying MPs and councillors to protect our NHS from cuts and privatisation

- joining with others from unions, patients’ groups and anti-cuts campaigners in your area.

The guide provides context on what is happening in the NHS and why, information about how to find out what’s happening in your area, ideas for campaign plans, activities and events and a guide to NHS jargon and terms that you might come across. It’s designed so that readers can dip in and out and includes links to articles and other campaign organisations, unions, bloggers and a range of other resources that should be of use.

Successful local campaigns such as the fight to stop the outsourcing of Gloucestershire’s community hospitals from the NHS and the campaign to prevent the closure of Lewisham Hospital show that we can win when local communities organise effectively.

But we also know it is no use to just produce these resources and sit back and expect local campaigns to just happen. The speed, scale and scope of the changes facing the NHS can be bewildering. So this is going to take pro-active work from campaign groups, unions and the TUC working together to stimulate, co-ordinate, support and resource a broad range of activity. The NHS Campaigners Guide is just one tool of many that we will need in the fight to save our NHS.




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