Thousands of protesters came out onto the streets of London on 18th May 2013 to protest against the government’s proposed changes to the National Health Services (NHS). This protest was supported by a number of trade unions, doctors and medical staff, anti-privatisation groups and some members of parliament.
The government unveiled plans to close down as many as nine accident and emergency departments, several maternity units and cut thousands of hospital beds in the public hospitals. Earlier, over 25,000 people had turned up in a massive march to defend Lewisham hospital, one of the most renowned public hospitals in England which people have been relying on for several decades.
The working class and people of UK, like those of many developed countries, have struggled for many decades to force the governments to make healthcare and education available to all. However, successive governments since the time of Thatcher have been attempting to privatise education and various social services. The present coalition of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats has taken this further, and is bent on destroying the NHS totally. The government has surreptitiously passed regulations to the Health and Social Care Act in February 2013, to enforce competition on almost all NHS activities, paving the way for private companies to swiftly and effectively dismantle it, cherry-picking services they can easily make profits out of. Private companies are being allowed to choose which NHS services to bid for. NHS budgets are being opened up to ‘any qualified provider'. Thus the government wishes to make people pay through their noses for healthcare and take private health insurance. This is bound to have disastrous consequence for the working people who will be forced to fend for themselves. Those already with chronic illnesses will even be denied insurance cover as it becomes non - profitable for health insurance companies.
In London itself, several hospitals including Ealing, Charing Cross, Hammersmith, Lewisham and others, are threatened with closures, often in the name of “modernisation”. These are to be replaced by private clinics instead. About one million people are directly affected by these closures; and many more closures are bound to be announced once these are successfully carried out.
The struggle against the closure of public hospitals has the support of broad sections of the people. It is part of the struggle of the working people everywhere in the capitalist world against the anti-social offensive of the bourgeoisie.