On Sunday 29th September, trade union activists from across the UK will converge on Manchester in solidarity against the privatisation of the NHS.
In Scotland, we’re a little more fortunate than our friends south of the border in that our devolved governance has a history of protecting our health service from the effects of creeping privatisation.
“Illness is neither an indulgence for which people have to pay, nor an offence for which
|But that doesn’t mean our membership will stay silent. The general public in England are now paying a terrible price that should be a lesson for those of us in Scotland who rely on the NHS – whether it’s through employment or need.
Below, the chair of Unite Scotland’s Health Sector Committee, Ray Stewart, tells us why he’s encouraging Scottish members to join the ‘Big Queue to Save the NHS’ at the Tory Conference in Manchester next month.
they should be penalised, but a misfortune, the cost of which should be shared by the
community.” Nye Bevan
We just celebrated the 65th birthday of the National Health Service only a few weeks ago. It should have been a much greater, wider public event where we should have been able to cast aside wider differences and celebrate what has been arguably the greatest achievement of any government.
Instead, what we are currently facing in England is a battle for the very future of the NHS and it’s a struggle that Nye Bevan and his parliamentary colleagues in the 1945 government would recognise.
We say the battle is south of the border, so why should we care in Scotland where the control of our NHS falls under the remit of the Scottish parliament? After all there is a general political and wider civic consensus that the overall direction of the NHS here in Scotland should remain more akin to Bevan’s vision.
Firstly, we should care out of basic solidarity with our brothers and sisters in England because, irrespective of what side of the forthcoming independence debate you may be on, neo liberal attacks on the public sector do not respect borders.
Quite simply, for those that have not looked and examined what is going on in England, it is an ongoing attack on the very existence of the NHS as a publicly funded and controlled service. It is not scaremongering to suggest that in ten years England will resemble a more US-style system of healthcare delivery.
In England, government policy has moved beyond staff cuts and wage freezes; it's open privatisation, a sell-off of our biggest national asset. That's not the case in Scotland but that's not to say it can never happen - we can't be complacent. We're not immune from the cuts agenda and with every year that passes new pressures are placed on our NHS staff and services.
There will be some political and vested interest groupings in Scotland that will look down south and even further afield. They will challenge the political consensus in Scotland and suggest alternative methods of healthcare delivery and organisation. So if we are to fight for the future of our NHS as a sustainably funded service free at the point of use for all, we have to fight for it now and not later.
So, no one can say that the NHS here in Scotland is perfect, far from it in many areas but even in a time of reduced budgets and increasing demand there are many positives.
From a patient perspective Scotland has embarked on a new quality approach that has shown very encouraging results. From a staff perspective the overall industrial relations climate is more positive, with the trade unions much more engaged and respected for their views than almost anywhere else in the public or private sector.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to make the link that engaged and happy staff will lead to a higher performing service and a better quality of care for the patient.
No one wants what we have in Scotland to be attacked by privatisation, we want to build on our public model, make it better and by supporting and showing solidarity with our sisters and brothers in England we are saying that there is an alternative; a better way more akin to Bevan’s fundamental vision on why the NHS has survived 65 years.
And we are giving a clear an unambiguous warning to all the political parties in Scotland about what kind of NHS we the people of Scotland want - irrespective of what happens constitutionally after September 2014.
Unite will be running buses from Dundee, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and possibly Ayr and the Borders should numbers allow us to do so. Members from the Aberdeen/Highlands area will be accommodated in Glasgow overnight and returned to Aberdeen/Highlands on the day. Buses will leave at approx 5.30 am to 6am from central locations and will be departing the demo at approx 4.30 pm.
Please spread the message far and wide within branches, workplaces, community member groups and any local NHS campaigning groups and anti-cuts groups you have links with. Unite members will of course be given priority on bus places. We will be sending out flyers to all branches and would ask you to let us know as soon as possible if you would like a place reserved on the bus. You can also download the official flyer here.
Please email Liz Stevenson or Caroline Jeffrey for members coming from West of Scotland including Ayr and Dumfries and Galloway stating which location you will pickup the bus, how many places you will need.
The main 29/09 campaign page can be found here.
For members coming from the North of Scotland, Forth Valley, Edinburgh and the Borders please email Shona White stating which location you will pick up the bus, how many places you will need and, if you are from Aberdeen/Highlands area, accommodation requirements.