Anyone who cares about the health service is invited to support a national day of protest entitled ‘ NHS in Crisis – Fix it now!’ taking place this Saturday (February 3).
Aside from a mass demonstration in London, there will be events around the country including a vigil outside the Countess of Chester Hospita l in Liverpool Road from 9.30am.
Organised by West Cheshire TUC and the Unite union, this will be followed at 11am by a rally at The Cross in Chester city centre .
Speakers will include Ellesmere Port and Neston MP Justin Madders (shadow health minister), Felicity Dowling from Save Liverpool Women’s Hospital, junior doctor Seth Horsu and Nigel James from the Socialist Health Organisation.
Encouraging the public to go along, Mr Madders said: “I think what we have seen over the last month or so has been horrific with people being treated in hospital in appalling conditions – in corridors, cupboards and car parks.
“Staff are under unprecedented pressure and I think this is certainly one of the worst crises in the last couple of decades so people really need to make their voices heard about the need for extra funding in the NHS because we can’t carry on like this.”
Aside from the immediate funding shortfall, government critics point to ‘creeping privatisation’ with examples including the establishment of a private fertility clinic in the Countess of Chester Hospital after NHS commissioners restricted access to fertility treatment on the NHS.
And there are concerns about a move towards ‘Accountable Care’, an idea imported from the US that evolved from the controversial Sustainability and Transformation Plans which hit the buffers.
The stated aim is to integrate health and social care across a health region but Accountable Care Organisations (ACOs)have been portrayed by critics as ‘a Trojan horse for privatisation’ because the job of running these organisations would go out to tender. ACOs could be run by the NHS or by private health care companies like Virgin, Circle, a US health insurance corporation or a newly formed company.
Mr Madders commented: “The risk is that you create a new organisation required to deliver all services and the whole lot ends up being run by a private company.”
The government faces two judicial reviews over the secret project – one targets the illegality of the ‘accountable care’ model while the other is backed by world famous theoretical physicist and NHS patient Professor Stephen Hawking who has challenged the lack of parliamentary debate or consultation.
Mr Madders hopes the beleaguered government may have ‘backed off’ the idea, for now at least.
He said: “There are a couple of judicial reviews. One of the grounds is lack of consultation so the government has probably seen the writing is on the wall.”
NHS bosses deny a privatisation agenda is being played out on the ground during the 70th anniversary year of the National Health Service.
Tony Chambers , chief executive at the Countess of Chester Hospital, would love more resources but told The Chronicle: “I don’t see any appetite politically or with the public or with the service for privatisation of the NHS. It’s a national religion, isn’t it? The 2012 Olympics saw people bouncing on beds to celebrate the NHS. To me, it would be inconceivable to see how that might come about.”