NHS campaigners warn: ‘Don’t be fooled over care cuts’
Rally cry against STPs: 'We need hard activity - we must fight back'
05 December, 2016 — By Tom Foot
CAMPAIGNERS last night (Wednesday) urged the council to join the fightback against massive health and social care cuts.
More than 120 people packed into the main chamber at the Town Hall to hear a series of powerful speeches from junior doctors, a trainee midwife, whistleblowers and some of Camden’s trenchant anti-privatisation campaigners.
The meeting was called by Camden Momentum – and supported by Camden Keep Our NHS Public and Hampstead and Kilburn Labour Party – in a bid to kickstart a major campaign against the North Central London Sustainability Transformation Plan (STP).
Objectors believe the STP, which has been developed behind closed doors over the past year, is a thinly disguised roadmap for unprecedented changes to north London’s NHS and social care landscape over the next five years.
The STP warns of a need to address a £900million collective deficit by 2021, having been worked on by the chief executives of hospitals, councils and NHS commissioners across five north London boroughs.
“This looks as if it is harmless, but it is not,” said Shirley Franklin, chairwoman of the Defend Whittington Hospital Coalition.
“We need hard activity. That’s what we must do. We must fight back. The council, and council workers, must not co-operate with the STP.”
Ms Franklin – who led two huge campaigns to save the Highgate hospital – said departments, including haematology, at the Whittington were already threatened with being moved to nearby hospitals, such as the Royal Free.
The STP – a dense 60-page document – was published early against the wishes of NHS chiefs by council leader Sarah Hayward, who criticised the process as not democratically accountable.
But although Cllr Hayward’s gesture was welcomed by the meeting, there were calls for her to go further by blocking it from being implemented and taking a united fight to the government.
Kilburn ward councillor Thomas Gardiner said: “They have built things into the STP that are incentives. There are lots of good things, lots of good things that all of us would want to happen. But to get them you have to sign up to more privatisation, reorganisation, starving of cash to the NHS… we should not be fooled by it.”
Speaking on behalf of the council, cabinet councillor Georgia Gould said: “We have called for political accountability and engagement and for investment in adult social care. Our position is to fight for Camden residents. If plans go against our residents we will stand up and fight against them.”
Candy Udwin, of Camden Keep Our NHS Public, said she was organising a lobby of the next cabinet meeting in the Town Hall, on December 16, where Camden will state its official position on the STP.
Camden Keep NHS Public treasurer John Lipetz said: “You ask the public and they haven’t got a clue about this.”
Dr Yannis Gourtsoyannis, from the British Medical Association (BMA), spoke about the “quiet heroism of NHS workers” and said it could not properly function in an “austerity-driven society”. He added: “A critical force must be industrial action.”
Representatives from Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign spoke about the financial weight imposed on PFI hospitals and a raft of new contracts being awarded to private healthcare companies, such as Virgin Healthcare. Dr Aislinn Macklin Doherty spoke about her “political awakening” during the junior doctors’ strikes earlier this year.
The meeting was chaired by Nina Lopez, of Camden Momentum, and also the Crossroads Women’s Centre in Kentish Town, who began the meeting with praise of Fidel Castro’s health service in Cuba.