Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Health workers step up cuts fight

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis warned the Government will be 'turning the clocks back' on healthcare if services are privatised

Unions and campaign groups are stepping up protests against the Government's controversial reforms of the NHS, warning they are costing jobs and damaging services.

Protests, marches and lobbies will be held across the UK in opposition to the Government's Health and Social Care Bill which unions believe will lead to health services being privatised.

MPs will be lobbied and protests held in cities including Rotherham, Sheffield, Nottingham, Bolton, Sunderland and Winchester.

Dave Prentis, general secretary of the Unison union, said: "The Government cannot afford to keep ignoring the anger of voters. We saw nearly half a million people march through London on Saturday to protest against public service cuts.

"April 1 will see our members again taking action to challenge their MPs and to defend the NHS against Andrew Lansley's privatisation plans. The Government is a lone voice for NHS privatisation and, by turning their back on the electorate, they are turning the clocks back on healthcare across the UK."

The All Together for the NHS campaign, co-ordinated by the TUC and bringing together unions and campaigners from across the health sector, warns that the Government's proposals risk taking up to £3 billion away from patient care when the NHS is already being asked to make £20 billion in "efficiency savings".

TUC deputy general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "The speed and scale of these changes is huge, and while private sector companies stand to make a mint by cherry picking services, patients and staff will be big losers.

"The challenge now is to maintain public concern about the impact of spending cuts but also to make clear these reforms will alter the NHS that we know and love out of all recognition.

"So-called efficiency savings are already costing jobs and damaging services, and these proposals will open up every bit of the NHS to any private company willing to have a go at running a service. We are seeing the beginnings of a contract culture where only lawyers and management consultants are the winners.

"No one voted for these changes which will simply direct taxpayers' money into the hands of company shareholders and away from patients."

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