Wednesday, November 01, 2006

NHS Rally 

From today's BBC website

Hundreds to join NHS cuts rally
Job cuts are proposed at NHS trusts across England

Hundreds of NHS staff are expected to descend on Parliament for a rally
against the state of the NHS.

NHS Together, an alliance of 16 health unions, has arranged the demonstration
against job losses in the NHS and the pace of government reforms.

The health service is facing unprecedented upheaval with increasing
private sector involvement and major hospitals under threat of cuts.

Officials from the alliance will also be lobbying MPs.

A series of speakers, including Unison general secretary Dave Prentis,
have been lined up to address the rally.

They will say that 20,000 posts are being cut - although the government
says only 900 staff will actually be made redundant with the other cuts being
made through natural wastage and voluntary redundancy.

Campaigners will also criticise the government's reform programme which they
say risks "fragmenting" the health service.

Over recent years, the government has increasingly relied on private i
nvolvement through independent sector treatment centres, which carry
out minor surgery, and PFI schemes, which use private money to build
new hospitals.

Some of the NHS's major acute hospitals are also coming under threat as local
health bosses carry out reviews of services to make the health service more efficient.

A spokeswoman for NHS Together, which includes the British Medical Association,
Royal College of Nursing and Unison, said: "NHS staff are proud of the real
improvements in the health service in recent years but we are increasingly
worried that progress is now under threat.

"Staff morale is at an all time low. We support changes that improve patient
care but there is too much top down change that has not won the support or
involvement of the staff who have to implement it."


Steve Sweeney, a psychiatric nurse from Cambridge, who will be joining the
protest, said his area was facing cuts to mental health, inpatient care and
rehabilitation wards.

"I'm going to London because what's happening here is happening throughout
the country.

"The government is diverting money to private companies, who are leeching
off the NHS.

"It's important for people to stand up and show the government that they can't
do this without a fight."

The protest comes as a YouGov poll of 2,000 people showed more than half
believed the NHS had got worse in the last decade.

But Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt said the government was committed to
pushing ahead with its reforms.

"If we know that change will deliver better quality care and better value
for money for taxpayers, then standing still is simply not an option.

"However, what will never change is our commitment to safeguard NHS
values," she said.