Union vows to lead community struggle 'to save the NHS'

By staff writers
April 5, 2011

"Keep your hands of our health service," Margaret Roberts of Trafford health branch told the government yesterday (4 April 2011), speaking to delegates at a UNISON health conference in Liverpool.

The gathering vowed to continue mobilising "a million voices in defence of the National Health Service."

Ms Roberts told Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg: "We will not stand by while you privatise the NHS and condemn our members and our families to a second-class service."

Service group chair Lilian Macer noted when opening the conference earlier in the day: "The cuts are affecting all four countries in the UK, with job losses reaching 50,000."

Member after member queued up to speak in a debate on campaigning and building alliances to defend the health service - and warned that campaigning needed to be pushed forward after the PM announced at the weekend that he was delaying NHS legislation, to call for consultations and give the government more time to explain its case.

The debate, said service group member Eric Roberts, "is at the very heart of why we are here this week, it is at the very heart of what we are as a union".

"The tide is turning," declared LGBT delegate James Anthony, "but nearly is not good enough. Watering down is not good enough." And Christine Sullivan of the service group executive warned: "We can't afford to be complacent."

Mick McEwen of the national nursing sector congratulated the union on its part in the viral internet sensation The Lansley Rap - a song and video about the changes to the NHS which is proving a massive hit on the internet. There is now a campaign to get the track to No1 in the UK music charts.

Just days after the 'Altogether for the NHS' day on 1 April and the massive turnout for public services on the huge London march on 26 March, UNISON members should be proud of the role their union had taken in making the argument against the government's proposals, said fellow service group speaker Clare Williams.

"But if we're going to win this, and we're in for the long haul," warned Ms Williams, "we need to keep unity going, we need to maximise it - among all our members in all our workplaces and among non-workers. We need to build alliances in our communities."

"Nye Bevan once said: 'The NHS will be here as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it'," recalled Clare Williams. "Well, we are those people."

More on UNISON: http://www.unison.org.uk/


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