Protesters sang outside Lewisham Hospital before marching into the town centre market where they performed a short theatre piece against government plans to privatise the National Health Service. London, UK. 4th June 2011
Protesters sang outside Lewisham Hospital before marching into the town centre market where they performed a short theatre piece against government plans to privatise the NHS.
Although the government in public plays down the effect of their proposed reforms, claiming that the NHS will not be privatised, a senior member of David Cameron's panel of health policy experts, Mark Britnell, made their plans clear in talking to healthcare companies last October at a conference organised by private equity firm Apax Partners.
In the seminar report on the Apax site, recently commented on by the independent non-profit organisation Spinwatch, Britnell stressed the huge opportunities coming up for private healthcare providers in the next couple of years, saying "The NHS will be shown no mercy" and that in future it "will be a state insurance provider not a state deliverer."
The protesters from Lewisham Keep Our NHS Public who gathered outside the University Hospital Lewisham at lunchtime on Saturday were quite clear about the government's intention to sell off at least the more profitable parts of the NHS. It will mean the end of a universal healthcare provision, and those with more complex problems and needs will fail to get the care they need.
The government plans are based on a failing US model, where a large proportion of the population are unable to afford health insurance, and those who have it and need complex treatments often find that their insurance will only cover a fraction of their medical costs. Some of these problems were dramatically shown in the short street theatre piece the group performed in the centre of the market in Lewisham High Street, as well as in the songs sung by the 'Strawberry Thieves' socialist choir (augmented by members of 'La Chorale des Sans-Nom, visiting from Nancy, France.')
The proposed reforms, with their emphasis on competition will erode the cooperation between different services and institutions which is vital for the efficient provision of the high quality health provision which the government state as their aim. Virtually everyone who has seriously examined the NHS has stressed the need for greater cooperation to cut down waste and improve the patient experience, the Lansley Bill and government cuts will make the situation worse.
The NHS is urgently in need of reform, but not the destructive proposals currently before the Houses of Parliament. There is indeed a much better, more pertinent and closer model for its reform - without massive privatisation - north of the border in Scotland.
The protesters had planned to perform some of their protest songs outside the Accident and Emergency Department of the hospital, but after a couple of them had assessed the situation there decided that they could possibly be in the way of patients being brought there in an emergency and so simply walked along the main road into the centre of Lewisham. At one point they stopped and stepped to the edge of the pavement to allow an Emergency ambulance to speed by, its siren wailing. It was a reminder that the NHS too is facing an emergency.
Many of those who saw the protest stopped briefly to take the leaflets and show their approval for the campaign to 'Kill the Bill'. They were urged to e-mail their MP with their objections and to write to Nick Clegg urging he reject the bill and to sign the online 'Save the NHS' petition. Lewisham Keep Our NHS Public who organised the event also offered to provide speakers for workplaces, churches and community groups to explain the threat to the NHS.