New face, same attacks

BRITAIN’S most hated woman, Virginia Bottomley, has been replaced by the ‘leftwing’ Stephen Dorrell as secretary of state for health.

Does this mean that we will now see an end to the attacks on healthcare and an improvement for healthworkers? Not a chance.

Dorrell talks of the consensus over health which embraces all sections of the Conservative Party (he could have included Labour, which also believes that the health service we need is too expensive). A few days into his new job he announced that decisions on hospital closures and mergers in London would not be reversed or reviewed.

Geriatricians claim that hospital beds are ‘blocked’ for an average of 17 “extra, unnecessary days” by elderly patients because of cuts in social service provision for community care. But the government will continue to vandalise both health and social provision, no matter who is fronting the attacks.

Dorrell, unlike Bottomley, has private health insurance, but admits, “I rely on the NHS if I need accident and emergency care ... For expensive, high risk care all of us rely on the NHS”. He jumps the queue in all other circumstances.

Healthworkers themselves cannot expect a more sympathetic hearing from the new minister. The government will not be moved from its pay-cutting ‘offer’ of one percent plus local negotiations, except through workers taking matters into their own hands. The health unions’ belated call for a national demonstration in London on July 29 is a step forward which should be massively supported, but only direct action, organised by the rank and file, will force a government retreat.

Peter Manson