Ian Burge Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Ian Burge

Bethnal Green Hospital

Government Policy Must Be Changed

(September 1978)

From Militant, No. 423, 15 September 1978, p. 2.
Transcribed by Iain Dalton.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Casualty is closed, theatres are closed, wards are closed. Only 140 of the 270 beds are now in use.

Hundreds of patients on the waiting lists for operation have now been added to lists at other hospitals, probably with years more waiting.

So much for the ‘concern for patients’ we hear so much of from the Ministers, their Health Authorities, and their Managements.

Many of the medical and nursing staff have now been transferred elsewhere in the District. It is the ancillary staff, the porters, domestics, and so on, together with a few clerical staff and one or two nurses, who are left to carry on the fight. Volunteer pickets are assisting stewards by keeping a check on movements in and out of the hospital, and are occupying the empty casualty department.

No doubt we will soon be accused of holding up improvements for the geriatric patients in the borough. Of course we are in favour of expanding services for the elderly – but this is not what management plans to do. Their plan is merely to take them out of one hospital to put in Bethnal Green, losing 128 acute beds in the process.

If more geriatric beds are needed urgently, before new facilities can be built, then room can be found in other ways. For example, there is a 50-bed private wing at the London Hospital – this could be turned over for exclusive NHS use.

Appeals, legal moves, petitions and demonstrations have run their course with no real changes in the situation – except for attitudes that is. More of the stewards and staff now realise that it is unlikely that the hospital will be re-opened until a change of policy has taken place on the part of the Labour government.

They feel their own union leaders could have been instrumental in achieving such a change.

All eyes will now be on the extent of support local trade unions are prepared to give. Up to now it has been largely a question of goodwill, some cash, the odd resolution, and personal commitments from a very few individuals. But this has got to change.

Local unions are to be asked, as a matter of some urgency, to raise the matter of the NHS cuts, with a view to forcing the labour government to reverse its policies and to get back to the business it was elected for – to expand and improve the health services.

A borough-wide stoppage in all the local industries and services would give a terrific boost to the campaign, and would soon be taken up in all the areas affected by cuts.

The special conference called by the shop stewards’ committee for TU delegates, convenors and shop stewards in the borough will show whether the spark is there yet. Throughout the last few week, campaign activists and LPYS members have been leafleting the major workplaces.

Stewards have addressed some local trade union branches, and have received an enthusiastic response. If this response is forthcoming from the shop floor also, there will be no holding back a new movement for change!

Ian Burge Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 10 July 2017