Organisers behind an emergency conference have called on union activists, community campaigners and the wider public to come together to stop cuts to and privatisation of Greater Manchester's public health services.
Greater Manchester Area Trades Union Council (GMA TUC) will hold a one day Health Emergency summit on Saturday February 16th at Friends' Meeting House in Manchester to plan the future direction and encourage co-ordination of campaigns against potentially damaging changes to the region's NHS provision.
The open event hopes to bring together the numerous groups set up throughout the area to protest and raise public awareness of the prospective changes to NHS services currently being considered under the Manchester NHS 2012 `Healthier Together' review.
The review is considering substantial changes to hospitals and other NHS services which could lead to a reduction in the number of operational sites across the whole of Greater Manchester. The Review's proposals include A&E units being closed in Bolton (see here), Wigan, Trafford, Tameside, North Manchester and Rochdale. Salford Royal Hospital's A&E will be only one of five in the whole of Greater Manchester. And Salford people should be concerned. Very concerned…
"Up to half the A&Es in the country could go because the clinicians who allegedly know better than us ordinary people are saying that the NHS isn't fit for purpose, and that what we need is this new set up with centres of excellence which have got more consultants on hand and better equipment" says Stephen Hall President of Greater Manchester Association of Trade Councils, one of the organisers of the Health Emergency conference.
"But if they get rid of the A&Es the simple fact is that people are going to have to travel further to get to them, which could be a life and death issue. It's pointless how good the A&E unit is if you die on the way to it, or it means people will have to wait twice as long to be seen" he adds "Even though Salford's A&E isn't one of the ones under threat, there's going to be people from Bolton, the second busiest A&E in Greater Manchester, and potentially from Wigan and Trafford travelling in, so people will have to wait longer to get access to this super duper new A&E unit that they are proposing.
"This Healthier Together review – they pick some fantastic names, worthy of Goebbels – will bring Beeching style cuts, and Greater Manchester and London seem to be in the front line of these changes because, I suspect, if they can do it here and London the rest of the country would be pretty much a doddle."
Organisers want to use the Health Emergency conference to ensure the public are adequately aware of the subsequent major public health consultations currently taking place until later this spring which could prove vital platforms for any public disquiet and opposition to the suggested measures. There is scepticism that many members of the public are not aware of the meetings which they are entitled to attend.
The day will also address numerous concerns surrounding the significant change in ownership of Greater Manchester's patient transport service from the North West Ambulance Service to private, profit-making bus company Arriva (see Salford Star article here)
Arriva and fellow private company NSL Care Service who have both been providing the same service in the East Midlands since 2012, have come under fire from several UNISON ambulance workers and patients about the quality of its provision.
Stefan Cholewka, secretary of GMA TUC who has also organised the event and works in Salford, emphasised the need for solidarity.
"It's vital that this year we make concrete, supportive links between the many campaigns involved in issues surrounding the possible and planned changes to different aspect of Greater Manchester's public health service" he says "We need co-ordinated, solid action against the threats to our NHS that pools together all the resources, knowledge and expertise of the union and community-led groups.
"Each threat to a different service has been motivated by the same underlying causes of cutbacks and austerity measures" he adds "We therefore need to be visibly united in our response to ensure no one campaign becomes disadvantaged and that they are all successful as possible."
Stephen Hall reckons that no NHS services need to be cut if the ConDem Government had the will…
"In my view what's driving this is finance, they're saying that the NHS is `unsustainable' but this is bollocks" he argues "We're one of the richest countries in the world and the 0.05% Robin Hood Tax on city speculators [see here] would raise £20billion so they could double the spending on the NHS and no ordinary people would be affected. It's about taxing the people who got us into this shit in the first place, these bankers and speculators who have basically gone onto a casino, while us ordinary people have been forced to bail them out.
"The Tories' 2010 election manifesto says that they're going to increase spending on the NHS in real terms year on year, so where do these cuts come in?" he adds "If someone said to me that these cuts were efficiencies and `We're going to use this money to improve services' fine. But the reality is that it's going to be just a cut which proves, in my view, that they are a bunch of liars. As they say, you know the Tories are a bunch of liars because they move their lips!"
The free summit is open to everyone concerned about the future of Greater Manchester's NHS.
Greater Manchester Health Emergency
Saturday 16th February 12-4:30pm
Friends Meeting House
More details of the event can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/events/490336557675202/?ref=ts&fref=ts
Several Healthier Together public events are currently scheduled to take place in Greater Manchester. Go to https://healthiertogethergm.nhs.uk/events for more information about where you can attend.