by Daphne Liddle
HEALTH service trade union members, patients and local community groups are set to descend on London in hundreds if not thousands this Saturday for a national demonstration in support of the National Health Service and to protest at creeping privatisation.
The demonstrators will assemble at 11 am on the Victoria Embankment by Temple Tube and march to Trafalgar Square for a rally on 3rd November.
All around Britain patients, local community groups have been joining with nurses, doctors and other health workers to campaign locally against cuts, ward closures and hospital closures and to support the demonstration.
While beds, wards, hospitals and jobs are being axed an escalating process of privatisation is happening as services and resources are being transferred to the public sector to be run for profit for shareholders.
There have been events all around the country in this demonstration organised by the umbrella group Keep Our NHS Public! won the backing
The campaign was launched in September 2005 and has won the backing of hundreds of senior doctors, academics, health workers and trade union leaders, celebrities, MPs and local campaigners for its launch statement.
These include public meetings in Manchester and Tower Hamlets this week and another in Shrewsbury on 7th November. The giant public sector union Unison is urging its members to support the demonstration.
Unison head of health Karen Jennings said: “We want your help to encourage as many members and campaign supporters as possible to join us on the march and rally in a mass show of support for the NHS – a world-class public service that takes care of our health and gives us all peace of mind.
“Help us campaign to defend the NHS and to celebrate its founding principles. Join the demonstration and send a strong message to the Government that big business and the profit motive have no place in our health service.”
Meanwhile in Scotland the union has welcomed a decision by the Scottish Information Commissioner to force Edinburgh Royal Infirmary to release its private management contract.
The union said that this would be an important precedent for other contract information.
Earlier this month a Unison report showed how using private firms to build and run schools and hospitals in Scotland was wasting billions of pounds.
It showed how these financial figures were kept from the public due to claimed commercial confidentiality.
Unison Scottish organiser Dave Watson said: “This decision is good news and could be the first step to a return to transparency in public finances.
“We have consistently said that such bogus commercial confidentiality is being used to hide the rigged calculations used to justify PFI and PPP schemes. All the figures should be provided for public scrutiny.”
The union has a number of appeals to the information commissioner challenging attempts by public bodies to keep information about private finance initiative and public-private partnerships secret by citing demands by contractors.
“While this decision will help, it also shows how important it is to bring companies involved in PFI/PPP contracts under the scope of freedom of information legislation,” Watson said.