Over 3,000 protesters marched in north London on Saturday 16th March to show their anger about the planned changes to the Whittington Hospital in Archway. Many were wearing “I Love the NHS” T-Shirts quoting Aneurin Bevan’s famous declaration “The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it.” The fury at the proposed destructive cuts to the hospital was evident.
On Saturday 16th March, over 3,000 protesters marched in north London to show their anger about the planned changes to the Whittington Hospital in Archway. The protesters ranged from trade unionists, hospital workers and angered local residents, many of whom were wearing “I Love the NHS” T-Shirts quoting Aneurin Bevan’s famous declaration “The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it.” The fury at the proposed destructive cuts to the hospital was evident.
The changes that the hospital board are proposing will be hugely detrimental to the workers at the hospital, as well as to the huge amount of local residents it caters for; the Whittington covers parts of Islington, Camden, and almost all of Haringey – a borough which no longer has a single general hospital! The proposals include: a capping of births at 4,000 per year – this is startling in an area which is becoming ever more popular for young families; closing of in-patient wards and the scrapping of beds for the elderly; and all NHS hospital staff accommodation to be sold off. The board of the hospital is disguising these adjustments as “the best thing for patients” arguing that patients want don’t want to go to hospital but would rather be treated in their homes. While there’s little doubt that patients should have choice in their care and be comfortable during their treatment, Shirley Franklin, chair of Defend The Whittington Hospital Coalition points out that, “The hospital’s board argues people don’t want to be in hospital but privatised community care with underpaid staff with insufficient time to treat their patients is not the answer.”
So why are the board deciding to make these cuts if it’s not the best thing for patients? Essentially they have little choice. The board is trying to raise £17 million in order to meet the criteria for gaining Foundation status, which offers no real benefit for patients and opens the door to further privatisation. However it’s important not to view these attacks on Whittington hospital – or Lewisham hospital – in isolation. They are all related to the global capitalist crisis that is affecting working people worldwide and this is why the NHS, and the welfare state as a whole, are being attacked. The board of the Whittington should join the calls of angry local residents and fight the cuts being imposed by the government.
However this movement cannot proceed alone. Many Labour MPs have joined the fight to save the Whittington, as well as local unions, with a representative from Unite calling for workers at the hospital to turn towards direct action. Talk however is not enough and the only way this movement for the Whittington, and against the cuts on the whole, can progress is by the workers, the Labour Party and the unions working together with socialist policies in order to stop the attacks of the capitalist crisis. Amongst the loudest applause generated from speakers at the rally was when Rob Murthwaite called for Labour to organise a national demonstration in defence of the NHS.
This shows the way forward. The labour movement must take up the fight with confidence and bold socialist policies, instead of peddling the uninspiring and hopeless talk of making ‘better’ and ‘slower’ cuts. We therefore welcome the fact that Labour has decided to support the ‘Keep our NHS Public’ May 18th demonstration in London, which promises to be huge.
- Keep the NHS Public
- End PFI and all other forms of backdoor privatisation
- Absolutely no cuts or ‘savings’ in the NHS
- Only a socialist programme of nationalisation of the banking system and the commanding economic heights under workers control can shield public services from cuts.