Rally for the NHS, UNISON urges TUC delegates

Join the rally and march to defend the NHS in Manchester on 29 September, UNISON urged delegates at the TUC Congress debateon the health service this morning.

Roz Norman, the chair of the union’s health service group executive, told the hall thatHealth and Social Care Act had brought with it “a massive, top-down re-disorganisation that no one was told about and no one voted for”.

Competition law and markets had been thrust to the heart of the country’s most-cherished institution. she said, “chopping up our NHS and selling it off to the highest bidder.

“This was all done in the face of near universal opposition and at huge cost to the taxpayer, and with companies set to make a killing – as much as £20bn, a fifth of the NHS budget.”

Congress heard that a second district general hospital, the George Eliot in Nuneaton, is “being lined up for franchising, with the usual suspects lying in wait.

“Far from being protected from the cuts, the NHS has been starved of the funds it needs,” said Ms Norman, and pointing out that, 5,601 nurses, midwives and health visitors have been lost to the NHS since the 2010 election, while thousands more jobs remain under threat.

“Over the summer, the NHS faced its first serious crisis for the best part of a decade, as hospital waiting lists reached a five-year high of nearly three million people and the surge in-patients at accident and emergency deparments revealed a service creaking under the pressure of cuts, privatisation and upheaval.”

Ms Norman said that the government’s “first concern is to blame everyone but themselves: whether the previous government, managers, nurses, doctors.

“Cameron and Hunt will do anything but look in the mirror for the real culprit.”

She told delegates that “there is no low to which they will not sink to denigrate the NHS and its staff – witness the shameful way they have tried to make political capital out of the tragic events at Mid Staffs hospital, rather than guaranteeing the safe staffing levels that everyone in the service knows would make a huge difference.”

Ms Norman said that, “over 65 years, the NHS has completely changed our society – and changed it immeasurably for the better.

“We cannot stand by and let Cameron and his cronies pension it off.”

Campaign: 999 – answer the call for your NHS

Key issue: Fighting cuts and privatisation in the NHS

Key issue: Be Safe – campaigning on NHS staffing levels

George Eliot: UNISON urges rethink on hoslpital plans