In the middle of the public piazza at Media City this morning, a `surgeon', watched by `patients' in dressing gowns and bandages, removes the heart from the NHS to symbolise what is happening to our health services, now that the ConDem Government's Health and Social Care Act is in force.
Holding up the blood dripping heart she proclaims that the privatisation of the NHS has begun…
"We are alarmed at the rapid rate of privatisation that is taking place" she says "In the Greater Manchester area, you will notice when you go to your GP that if you need a scan, if you need a hearing test or various other things, you will be sent to private companies.
"The Government has recently brought in additional clauses to the Health and Social Care Act which more or less force the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to put out every bit of the health service to private tender" she adds "We, in Keep The NHS Public, 38 Degrees and other campaign groups, are calling on the CCGs to purchase services from the NHS to keep a holistic free service in the NHS."
The `surgeon' states that private companies are only meddling in the NHS for profit, and gives examples of how badly wrong privatisation can go - including recent death of a woman who was being treated in a surgical centre run by a building company who had no back up services. The woman died from a simple procedure.
Today's protest comes on top of another protest in Salford last week, when a contingent from Salford NHS Support Group attended a meeting of Salford CCG, handling over a 2000 signature petition and urging the GPs, who are now in charge of commissioning health services, not to send people to private health companies.
"We asked the CCG to adopt powers in its constitution to look after the needs of Salford patients, protect existing services, not do deals with private companies which are for profit, to keep Salford residents informed about their plans, and to ensure any services they commission are high quality" says Mary Eminson, of the Salford NHS Support Group, who has joined the protest today.
"Today is a very symbolic day" she adds "It's the first day really when the new rules of the Health and Social Care Act are coming into force, and that's really going to put increasing pressure on the NHS to be privatised, split up and atomised, and I'm very worried about that."
Her sentiments are echoed by Karen Reissmann, a health worker and member of UNISON's National Executive…
"We're protesting against the huge reorganisation that the Government did after promising no top down reorganisations – it's the biggest reorganisation that the NHS has seen since it was created in 1948" she says "Most crucially they are doing these things at a time of massive cuts to the NHS, £20billion over the lifetime of this Government.
"Our health service are being cut when need is going up massively and that's the context in which they want to open more services up to private care" she adds "But private care doesn't make things better, it just costs more and makes things worse. Look at PFI beds, they cost four times as much as the old NHS beds so we have less of them. And, increasingly they're now looking to close hospitals and cut beds because they can't afford them…because they are using a crazy commercial system to run a service. It's stupid economics, it's like paying your rent on a credit card, then wondering why you can't afford to eat or put the electric on."
Meanwhile, the `surgeon', still holding the heart of the NHS, says "We're calling on the public to join us in our campaigns to keep the NHS public and the trade union movement to take general strike action - because that is what it will take to save our health services."
• Keep Our NHS Public has produced postcards for people to hand to their doctors including the statement… "I wish to be offered tests, treatment and care from NHS providers only and not from private companies contracted to the NHS…Please could my notes be tagged `NPP' or `No Private Providers'…" Further details at www.keepournhspublic.com
• The Salford NHS Support Group is urging people to report which services are being privatised. For further information see www.salfordnhssupportgroup.org.uk
* The Save Bolton NHS campaign has organised a public meeting on Saturday 6th April 1pm Lecture Theatre, Central Library, Bolton. 500 jobs are to go at Bolton Hospital and community health services, where £38million cuts are being made.
* For further details of 38 Degrees see www.38degrees.org.uk
* During the protest the `surgeon' was asked to remove her operating mask by Peel Holdings security staff as it covered up her face. The protest was also moved from the centre of the Media City Piazza to some steps at the side of the square. Security staff insisted that the area was private property owned by Peel Holdings - even though £3million of public money went into its construction.
See also Salford Star article - Salford NHS Support Group kicked out of Salford Community Leisure centres - click here