Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Armed police at NHS protest

by New Worker correspondent

DOZENS of protests took place all around the country last weekend against the Con-Dem Coalition’s flagship Health and Social Care Bill. But the one in Whitehall last Saturday, close to Richmond House, the headquarters of the NHS, attracted the attention of the Metropolitan Police’s notorious Territorial Support Group (TSG).
 The protest was supported by members of the Occupy movement, who assembled in Whitehall for some speeches. They managed to block Whitehall completely for 20 to 30 minutes and then moved off, aiming to picket Virgin Healthcare – one of the private health companies seeking to profit from the changes to the NHS structure.
 The demonstrators twice evaded being kettled – first outside the Ministry of Defence and then in Trafalgar Square – before being brought to a halt in the Strand.
 On Sunday a coalition of 250 doctors – including general practitioners and consultants – launched a campaign to unseat Liberal Democrat and Tory MPs at the next election by standing against them on a pledge to fight to save the NHS.
 The doctors sent a letter to the Independent on Sunday describing the Bill as “an embarrassment to democracy” and stating their intent to stand candidates against those MPs who backed it.
 Nick Clegg and other senior Lib Dem Mps will be specifically targeted as well as those in marginal seats.
 Dr Clive Peedell, who initiated the campaign, said he was surprised at the number of doctors who came forward to take an active part in the campaign.
 The Bill cleared its final reading in the House of Lords on Monday – with some cosmetic amendments.
It was due to become law the next day but Labour succeeded in forcing a Commons debate on MPs can consider planned NHS changes for a final time before an assessment of the potential risks to the health service is published.
  The Government has agreed to a series of changes to the bill and want it to become law as soon as possible.
 The legislation would abolish Strategic Health Authorities and Primary Care Trusts and ostensibly give much greater control over care budgets and commissioning decisions to GPs and other health professionals.
 But since these people are full time doctors they will not have the time or expertise to also be accountants and managers, so that work, with all the power and control over future NHS budgeting and policies, will be put into the eager hands of the private health companies who are ready to provide that service to the doctors.
 The Freedom of Information Tribunal recently upheld a decision by the Information Commissioner that the NHS transitional risk register must be published. The Government have said they will not do so until the tribunal has explained its ruling.
 The register was drawn up to calculate the risks relating to the implementation of the bill.
 Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said it was “highly unsatisfactory” that MPs would not have an opportunity to consider the information in the register before finally approving the Bill.
 Burnham said: “Parliament has a right to know, before it is asked to make a final judgment that will have huge implications for every person in this country,” he told MPs.
 In the Lords, crossbench peer Lord Owen called for a similar delay to the Bill’s third reading in the Upper House pending the publication of the document. But his motion was defeated by 328 votes to 213.

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