Reclaiming the NHS Agenda for Workers and Users Alike

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2014 Health Care Service Group Conference
7 December 2013

At the public launch of the World Health Organisation Europe Report on health inequalities in 2013, internationally acclaimed Chairperson, Professor Michael Marmot stated that, “The Conservative-led Coalition government uses the word ‘fairness’ as if it has no meaning at all. They cut the top rate of tax – and they call it ‘fair’. They cut benefits to the poor – and they call it fair. They cut services to the disadvantaged – and they call it fair. I call it a grotesque parody of fairness.”

The outcome of this “grotesque parody of fairness” is a growing attack on working class people, their jobs and growing health inequalities across all jurisdictions.

In Northern Ireland, for example, the government’s own figures show a growing gap in life expectancy between the richest and poorest. Almost as many have died from suicide since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement than died as a direct result of the conflict.

The UK-wide attack on the welfare state is also being made worse by ongoing cuts in the public sector and the increased privatisation of our health and social services. Up to 3000 health workers are expected to lose their jobs as a result of the new health privatisation strategy ‘Transforming Your Care’ which borrows significantly from the English model.

Our NHS residential care homes and homecare services are being offered to the lowest private sector bidder. The number of patients from our National Health Service treated by the private sector and being sent across the Border to private hospitals, paid for from the public purse, increases, while waiting lists continue to grow in both jurisdictions.

Conference agrees with Marmot that key to the tackling of health inequalities is the promotion of a genuine public health system and fair employment and good work for all – including the eradication of exposure to unhealthy, unsafe work as well as the protection of the employment rights of the most vulnerable and lower paid.

Conference therefore calls on the Health Service Group Executive to work with UNISON national structures, regions and branches in a renewed campaign to:

1)highlight the impact of growing health inequalities on the most vulnerable;

2)lobby national and devolved Governments to develop genuine public health systems with specific targets for the removal of health inequalities;

3)challenge national and devolved Governments on the growing privatisation of medicine and social care;

4)continue to press for better pay and equal pay and the living wage as a key anti-poverty imperatives and

5)ensure that this campaign for the protection and betterment of terms and conditions extends to those in the most precarious outsourced employments.