I mentioned the fight to save Britain's national treasures last week as the battle to keep the post public entered a new phase. This week it is the turn of another, the NHS. The NHS was built to care for Britain and is one of the things that makes the UK great. As the NHS turns sixty-five, there is a growing fight to expose the cuts and privatisation that threaten to break it up.
Since April, 80 per cent of contracts have gone to the private sector, taking £2.5bn out of the NHS budget in just four months. Recent figures show that over the last three months alone 21,000 jobs have been lost in the NHS, to the detriment of vital frontline services. The North East already has many of the worst health indicators and lowest life expectancies in the whole country and as services continue to be cut or sold, these dreadful health inequalities will continue to grow.
At a very recent regional conference and rally organised by the TUC Northern Public Services Alliance, a diverse range of campaigners came together, including unions, medical professionals, service users and local MPs, to raise awareness of the impact the government's policies are having on the NHS and are likely to have on health in our region.
Grahame Morris, MP for Easington, spoke at the rally and emphasised that the NHS is an institution based on equality of access - free at the point of need, and that there are very few of us who have not needed it at some point. No matter how much money there is to be made by the private healthcare sector, the government simply cannot afford to put profit before patients.
The 2013 Conservative Conference began yesterday and was met with a large Save Our NHS protest to highlight the impact of huge job losses and spending cuts across the health service, as well as the rapid sell-off of the most lucrative parts of the NHS to private healthcare companies - some of whom have donated huge sums of money to the Conservative Party.
North West MP and Opposition health spokesperson Andy Burnham MP addressed attendees, alongside our General Secretary, Frances O'Grady, and union leaders across the board, including the FBU, Unison, Unite, the NUT and PCS.
The event aimed also served to raise concerns about the wider effect that government policies are having upon services, workers and communities across the UK. Those gathered in the park - and hopefully the Conservative Party Ministers and members heard what the people they represent really want - the bedroom tax scrapped, a halt to the Royal Mail privatisation plans, the introduction of proper job guarantees for unemployed youngsters and an end to arbitrary austerity and damaging spending cuts.
Beth Farhat - Regional Secretary Northern TUC