Last week I responded to the news item “Defending Jobs at Salford Royal Hospital” after a report leaked to the Manchester Evening News detailed the loss of at least 750 jobs despite a massive expansion of the site off Eccles Old Road. This week Salfordians were horrified to discover the cherished Eric Rawlings ward (offering a wide range of dedicated Women’s health facilities) is to close permanently in July. Absolutely NO public consultation has been carried out.
Salford’s new “Keep Our NHS Public” campaign officially launched this afternoon at a lively protest outside Salford Royal (formerly known Hope Hospital). The demonstration was called by a broad cross-section of the community in response to escalating cuts to a large number of critical public health services across the city, and the threat of privatisation. I am looking forward to supporting the campaign, not just leading up to the elections but in the long-term.
Above – Salford & Eccles Parliamentary Candidates: David Henry (Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition – Hazel Must Go), Councillor Norman Owen (Liberal Democrats – Opposition Leader) and Kersal Prospective Council Candidate Alice Searle (Respect Party) joined dozens of healthcare workers, community activists from Greater Manchester Trades Council, Salford UNISON, Nursing Staff, Students and Midwives at today’s event.
Despite vague promises from Conservatives that a future Tory government would not slash NHS budgets, there was ZERO presence at today’s event from both the local Conservative Party and Labour Party. Hazel Blears could not be contacted, despite her home being less than 100 yards from the hospital buildings.
We engaged with crowds of local residents and patients handing out information about closures to the women’s ward, mental health services, the maternity ward and the ever impending threat of privatisation outside the hospital gates.
Mainstream Politicians respond- simply not good enough!
Despite our current rivalry as candidates for the Salford & Eccles parliamentary seat, Councillor Owen’s attendance was warmly welcomed, although there were no other representatives from the Liberal Democrats. Furthermore Councillor Owen refused to have his photo taken with the rest of the campaigners in front of any Trade Union banners (as the above photo shows). This is nothing new, since the Lib Dems ongoing failure to fully support trade union rights or workers interests over the bosses is incredibly disappointing. Perhaps they will reconsider when they realise it is critical to any political success they as a party wish to achieve?
Labour and Conservatives – missing in action?
The most notable absence was that of incumbent Salford MP Hazel Blears, who infamously stood outside the hospital’s doomed Maternity Ward with a megaphone claiming she would “fight to save the department”, shortly before going back on her pledge in Parliament by voting for legislation to seal it’s fate. Last week the Salford Star revealed the former cabinet minister’s husband (Mike Halsall) has been reappointed as a non-executive director of Salford Royal Foundation Trust which manages the hospital and is in receipt of £1,000 per meeting.
The Hazel Must Go campaign since discovered Mr Halsall had failed to register any relevant interest with the trust in his formal application to be a board member. Normally any political activity must be declared and published – including pamphleteering for political parties. Mr Halsall has been spotted out on the campaign trail canvassing with Hazel Blears only a few days ago, despite facing up to a tough grilling from many local residents still angry at her involvement in the expenses scandal.
In a video interview with Salford Online earlier this week, Blears claimed the 750 job losses were merely from “senior management” and cited “efficiency savings” – a claim strongly disputed by staff who came out to show their support for the campaign this afternoon.
Insiders tell us Blears and her counterparts were too busy “canvassing for votes” to attend today’s protest during the busy run up to the General Election. However this campaign is open to everyone – and is calling for a united coalition of all political and community figures to work with us regardless of their affiliations. Whilst the protest was in full swing this afternoon, Salford new-comer Matthew Sephton (unable to attend as he had a prior engagement) of the Conservatives did made an effort to respond in his blog despite his own party’s poor track record makes it difficult for the general public to invest any trust in David Cameron’s plans. Unfortunately Sephton’s comments around “wasteful spending” are almost identical to Blears dressed-up justification for NHS job losses. Both fail to grasp the reality, however much they would prefer we all had private medical insurance instead, no amount of spending on the NHS is a waste.
The Salford campaign launches two weeks after 10,000 people representing over 30 trade unions, the British Medical Association, the NHS Consultants Association, Carers, Students, Patient Networks and Pensioners Groups marched through central London following a major “Fight For Our NHS” demonstration held on 10th April in Trafalgar Square.
Speaking at the London rally, a spokesperson from the National Keep Our NHS Public campaign told the crowd: “Many PCTs and hospitals are already running “deficits” due to the imposition of the market on the NHS. Most mainstream politicians are convinced that privatisation is the way forward to “efficiency savings” in the health service” and fear huge cuts are inevitable regardless of who wins the 2010 General Election – underlining why a broad, long-term campaign in Salford is so vitally important.
Lend your support by signing up to Salford Keep Our NHS Public. Although still in the early stages, the campaign promises more public demonstrations and hopes to unite the entire community in fighting further cuts and closures.
Photos by Albert