Henderson Unit and Admiral Nurses protest: my full speech

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On Saturday, I joined campaigners in the city centre to protest the closure of the Henderson unit - a 24-bed ward based at the Julian Hospital - and the axing of the Admiral Nurse service - who provide essential care and support to carers of people with dementia.
Here are some of the words I prepared to say at the protest:

The Henderson Unit closing.

The Admiral Nurse service going.

Local mental health services in tatters while people wait in ambulances for hours to get into A+E at our city’s largest hospital.

A friend of mine told me that he ended up at the Walk-In Centre after he tried unsuccessfully to get an appointment with his own GP ten times. The staff at the Centre told him, that’s “normal” in Norwich now.

Our local NHS is being brought to its knees by this Tory government. And one by one, local NHS bigwigs from the chair of the Clinical Commissioning Group to the Chief Executive of the mental health trust have let the cat out of the bag and finally dared to talk about funding.

The Chief Executive of the Ambulance Trust hit the nail on the head when he came to Parliament : ‘We don’t have the money to provide the services we are expected to provide”, he said.

Our Health Service is being starved into submission.

As demand for services soars, this government demands 20% of cuts disguised as so-called ‘efficiency’ savings. Health experts say that by 2020 that NHS will be underfunded annually by over £20bn - around twice the national budget for mental health.

Our NHS is being starved by a Tory government which is at the same time showering its supporters with corporation, capital gains and inheritance tax cuts worth tens of billions of pounds. While using the deficit as a smokescreen for the cuts in the first place. No doubt it’ll be Brexit next.

But the cuts aren’t the only way the Tories are taking apart our NHS.

The basic Tory rule for the NHS is that nothing is ever their fault. They want us to believe everything would be fine if it wasn’t for bad local management or inefficient public sector providers. They’ve even given us the fall guys in the form of hugely well paid Chief Executives and ‘Turnaround Directors.

At the same time, they’ve devolved responsibility for the consequences of their ideological project to a myriad of easily scapegoated organisations like Clinical Commissioning Groups, NHS Trusts and local authorities. That’s what’s behind Sustainable Transformation Plans - it’s the new machine for getting the Tories’ dirty work done as far away from Downing Street as possible.

Their 2012 Health and Social Care Act is a blueprint for breaking our health service into competing bits ripe for their mates in private health to gobble up.

Make no mistake, this government has only just got started on this. We’ve had the first salvo - using community NHS services as bait for private health. The next assault comes when they divvy up clinical services in the next few years.

So in the same way as we’ve got a subsidiary of a multinational medical waste company with a director netting over $4million a year doing patient transport in our city now, expect your local maternity unit to be run by a Virgin Healthcare or a Group 4 as soon as the Tories can fix it so the business gets pushed their way.

And the unutterably sad thing about all of this is that the Tories are winning the propaganda battle on this. A recent poll said that they are the most trusted party on the NHS. This at the very same time as concerns about the health service have reached top spot in the list of things people are most worried about.

That’s why events like this one are so important. The people of of our city need to know the truth about what is being done to their NHS in their name by a government they have the power to get rid of. However many people we have here today, we need twice as many next time and more again the time after that. Together we can do this.

Together we can save our NHS from the Tories.

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