Call to halt NHS reforms

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Furious trade unionists from Leigh are calling for national demonstrations against controversial government NHS reforms.

The Leigh branch of UNITE, one of Britain’s largest trade unions, is also backing Leigh MP Andy Burnham’s call for the Health and Social Care Bill currently passing through Parliament to be scrapped.

Leigh UNITE passed a motion at its meeting last week, calling on the union’s national executive to “take the lead for the organisation of a national demonstration in London, as soon as it might be practically feasible, to add weight to the campaign initiated by Leigh’s Labour MP”.

The union believes the bill, which will have far-reaching effects on public healthcare including promoting greater competition in the NHS and abolishing 151 Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) and 10 Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs), will result in the “wholesale giveaway, break-up and privatisation of the National Health Service.”

The legislation will soon begin the report stage in the House of Lords, prior to its third reading in the upper house. After that, it will be signed into law unless the passage is delayed by disagreements over the content and wording of the bill or the government drops the legislation due to public opposition.

UNITE are now hoping that potential wrangling over the content of the legislation will lead to the bill running out of Parliamentary time for debate and being dropped.

Branch Chair Stephen Hall said: “For the bill to run out of time will require combining mass public pressure from outside Parliament, in particular on cross-bench members of the House of Lords but also Tory and Lib-Dem ones as well, with the efforts of Labour peers and members of the House of Commons submitting as many amendments as possible to the Bill, as well as expressing their continued reservations about the existing provisions and wording of the bill in both Houses, with the intention of ‘talking’ the whole bill out of Parliamentary time.

“That would represent a major victory for those fighting to save our NHS from wholesale privatisation including our own union, nationally and locally.

“We believe the executive council should seek the broadest possible involvement and support of the wider trades union movement, the TUC, Labour Party, campaigns such as Keep Our NHS Public, the RCN, BMA and the public as a whole.”

The union are hoping to have a demonstration date fixed for mid-February, and the Leigh branch will invite Andy Burnham to address a public meeting on the matter.