Saturday, 29 June 2013

Save Weston Hospital Public Event 29th June

Today was the start of the campaign to stop our local hospital from being privatised. We had 7 speakers who came to the meeting to give their support to the campaign to Stop Weston Hospital being privatised and to talk about their fears of privatisation.

Photo (c) Bristol & District Anti-Cuts Alliance

Mike Bell, Liberal Democrat Councillor for Weston Central said that Weston Hospital is faced with 2 unpalatable options - being take over by a private company and as a result run for profit, or being taken over by another NHS Trust. Councillor Bell does not support either option. He talked about how Weston Hospital has always been underfunded, but that there is no evidence that a private company will save money. He also described the engagement undertaken by the Trust as appalling, and that the people of Weston need to let them know that they will fight to defend their local hospital.

Donald Davies, Independent Councillor for Pill talked about why the NHS was created back in 1948 - it was to serve the people of this country, regardless of where they lived or their ability to pay. The current threat to Weston Hospital could mean that we end up with no local hospital. He went on to say that our political masters would love to give the NHS to the private sector, but the private sector would run the hospital for profit for their shareholders rather than in the interests of the people of Weston. He also emphasised that Weston is a small cog in a much larger machine. If Weston Hospital is privatised other hospitals will follow and that we're heading towards an American style insurance system, where the NHS is just a brand - just like Subway or McDonalds - run by multi-national health care companies.

Catherine Gibbons, Labour Councillor for Weston East brought a message of support from the Labour party. She talked about her own personal experience of Weston Hospital and the admiration she has for the staff working there. She also said that the recent adverse publicity and uncertainty surrounding the hospital's future is demoralising for hospital staff. She described the Coalition government's top down re-organisation of the NHS as causing a crisis in health care. She emphasised Labour's promise to repeal the Health and Social Care Act. She understands that under the current conditions it makes sense for the hospital to merge with another NHS Trust. But she cannot understand the reasons behind privatisation for Weston Hospital. She is ideologoically opposed to privatisation, but also thinks that the case for privatisation does not stack up financially - if the finances don't work with the hospital in the NHS, how will a private company be able to run it - their priority will be shareholders, not patients. Councillor Gibbons also referred to the NHS' 65th Birthday this coming week, and talked about how when the NHS was founded we were a country which had been bankrupted by war. We had the will to create the NHS then, we must have the will to keep it going. She also talked about Danny Boyle's Olympics Opening Ceremony and his tribute to the NHS. She ended by urging everyone to sign the petition to Keep Weston Hospital in the NHS.

Dr Richard Lawson, a former GP from Congresbury, former Woodspring councillor and Green Party member talked about how the Tories are obsessed with privatisation - they have an ideological belief that private is good and public is bad. But the reason for this is that many Coalition Government cabinet members have links with Healthcare Corporations. He also talked about how private companies always have to expand into other markets - U.S. Healthcare companies are looking at the UK currently. Dr Lawson said that the NHS is one of the most efficient healthcare systems in the world in terms of money. But it had been made ready for privatisation for a number of years by both Tory and Labour governments. We will need to organise a hell of a campaign to stop the hospital being privatised, and it may be a good idea to lobby our local MP John Penrose. Richard gave us the vision of hundreds of Weston residents queueing outside John Penrose's surgery, and being kettled in the Conservative Association. He ended by saying that in 20 years time if we fail then do not be old, do not be sick and do not be poor.

Photo (c) UNISON South West

UNISON South West Regional Secretary Joanne Kaye talked about the NHS reaching its 65th birthday and how the Tories want to retire the NHS at 65, unlike the rest of us. She also referred to the time before the NHS was created when people worried about whether they could afford to pay for a Dr or midwife to come to see them. But that after the horrors of the Second World War the Labour government created the NHS and the welfare state so that people had security if they were sick, or lost their job. She went on to say that the budget for the NHS is billions of pounds and private companies want a slice. They are selling privatisation to us by saying it will still be the NHS and it will still be free, but this is not the case. Joanne talked about Circle Health Care, a company created by bankers, who have been given a 10 year contract to run Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire. They have said they will make £311 million of savings, but will also be allowed to make a profit of £31 million. But in the first 6 months of Circle being in charge the losses at the hospital have doubled. She went on to say that NHS finances will always go up and down because people don't know when they're going to be ill or what sickness they're going to have. She referred to the fact that the NHS has been broken up since the 1990s and that we need to go back to a co-operative NHS. She ended with Nye Bevan's quote that the NHS will last as long as there are folk with the faith to fight for it.

Dr Gabriel Scally told the audience that he was a former Regional Director of Public Health and member of the Strategic Health Authority but resigned from the Dept of Health over the Health and Social Care bill. because he couldn't work in the NHS as it was being dismantled. He also talked about the media's role in the dismantling of the NHS particularly the BBC who did little to challenge the Health & Social Care Bill as it went through parliament. He talked about the disintegration of NHS services and that the government don't want the NHS to work. The government want it to be split up for their friends to make profits. Before the Coalition came to power the NHS had high approval ratings. The NHS is the most efficient service in the world and it provides excellent value for money. The Government have told us they're increasing funding for the NHS but that is a lie. In recent announcements they have taken £2 billion from the NHS to fund social care, because social care is in crisis - but social care is in crisis because they've cut Local Authority funding. As a result they are robbing Peter to pay Paul, and also robbing Paul. Last year the NHS surplus of £2.2 billion went back to the treasury instead of being invested in the NHS. Lack of funding is why the NHS is in crisis. The Health & Social Care Act also removed the Secretary of State for Health's responsbility for the NHS. Now Jeremy Hunt stands up in parliament and attacks GPs and hospitals. He ended by saying that the public have made is clear that they don't want to see services closed and they don't want a postcode lottery - they want to keep the National in National Health Service.

Kay Carberry, Assistant General Secretary of the TUC spoke about Hospital campaigns in other parts of the country which have been successful. But it is a tragedy that as the NHS approaches its 65th birthday its facing its greatest crisis. If we allow privatisation we will have a service which is accountable to shareholders and not patients. David Cameron said he would cut the deficit not the NHS, but 50,000 jobs have gone in the NHS.

A number of speakers from the floor suggested the following actions:

A massive demonstration and march in Weston
Attending the demonstraton in defence of the NHS at the Tory party conference on 29th September
Getting the message out to people across North Somerset - a leafleting campaign in every village in North Somerset, contacting Parish councils and using Parish magazines
A leafleting campaign in Weston super Mare
A local referendum asking the people of Weston whether they want their hospital to be privatised
Lobbying John Penrose, MP
Lobbying the Trust Board

These actions will be discussed at the Organising meeting to be held at 7 pm on 2nd July at the Working Men's Club in Weston super Mare.

Photo (c) UNISON South West

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