Unite, the biggest union in England, is appealing to people to stop the government from taking sweeping powers that allow them to shut any English hospital in a matter of days without any consultation, in a hard hitting digital campaign launched today, (Monday 3 March)
The union, which has over 100,000 members working in the NHS, says that with one in five hospitals swamped by debt, dozens of hospitals could be at risk of closure within 40 days, leaving communities suddenly bereft of local health care.
The warning comes just days after Unite said that the government was appointing people who stand to make money out of privatising healthcare – such as ex M&S boss Sir Stuart Rose – to influential positions at the heart of the health service. Sir Stuart holds shares in Care UK, one of two private health companies bidding to take over the running of the threatened George Eliot hospital in Nuneaton.
Unite – which recently announced it would commit to a concerted leverage campaign to target the businesses exploiting the NHS – says that with 230 MPs, most Conservative, holding interests in the private health industry, the public can no longer trust the government with the safe keeping of the health service.
In the run up to the Commons consideration of the `hospital closure clause’ (clause 119 of the Care bill), presently being rushed through parliament by the Conservatives, Unite is launching a digital campaign to help raise awareness of this latest shocking power grab, which comes in the wake of its defeat by the people of Lewisham who took the government to court over their plans to run down that hospital.
Should the closure clause be passed by MPs clinical input into the decision making process will all but disappear. Reconfiguring NHS services can produce outstanding results. The London Stroke Plan hailed by politicians as an example of exemplary working across organisational boundaries has greatly improved clinical outcomes. It took many months of comprehensive consultation to make work, not 40 days.
Launching the digital campaign to inform the public of the audacious attack on the NHS by the government, Rachael Maskell, Unite’s head of health, said: “This latest assault by the government is breathtaking, attacking not just the NHS in England but people’s right of protest too.
“Such is the government’s haste to transfer our greatest public asset, the NHS, to the private sector, they are willing to trample over people and communities to do so. But even more worryingly input from clinical professionals is all but swept away.
“People need to know. Their hospital could close in a matter of days and there is not a single thing this government will let them do to stop it. Your views are not wanted. No English hospital is safe.
“We only have days to stop this so we are appealing to people, take action – do not let this government take your NHS and do not let them gag you.”
Since April 2013 70 per cent of NHS contracts have gone to private and non NHS providers, thanks to the government’s Health and Social Care Act 2012 which has unleashed a full blown competitive market into the NHS.
Clause 118 (now 119) of the Care Bill allows for the privatisation or fast track, financially driven closure (in as little as 40 days) of hospitals at the whim of Westminster bureaucrats – no matter how successful, solvent or supported by the local community it is. It is set to be debated by MPs in the first few weeks of March 2014.