Friday, 27 June 2014

Morecambe Bay campaigners launch new alliance to fight NHS sell-off



Community campaigners from across Morecambe Bay are joining forces to build a new alliance to oppose the sell-off of NHS services at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary, the Westmorland General Hospital and Furness General Hospital , under the heading of ‘No Health Sell off at Morecambe Bay’.

The group will be launching the major campaign on Saturday 28 June in the town centres of Lancaster and Morecambe to gather support from local shoppers and deliver a stark warning over the future of the NHS in the hands of the current government.

They will be in St Nicholas Arcade in Lancaster and in the Arndale Centre in Morecambe between 11am - 1pm.

A contract for pharmacy services worth in the region of £25 million is currently up for grabs which could mean a private company (named provisionally as Alliance Boots) would be brought into to profit from medication provided by the NHS. But campaigners fear this will be just the tip of the iceberg as the contract is not just about medicine dispensing but it is about taking swathes of other services out of the NHS by stealth.

Campaigners also fear that selling-off NHS pharmacy services will put more emphasis on sales and that the contract will be about driving down costs not improving patient care.

Local campaigner Jean Taylor said “Community campaigners will be out in force across Morecambe Bay to build support to oppose our NHS being sold-off to private companies for profit “.

“We fear that selling off NHS pharmacy services in our area will put more emphasis on sales and that the contract will be about driving down costs not improving patient care. We will be spreading the word far and wide that our NHS is not for sale.”

The current plans of the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust, which is currently under Special Measures, were aired at their 'Better Care Together' stakeholder meeting last Saturday in Kendal. They include the downgrading of Westmorland General Hospital - the only Trust hospital still rated as performing adequately - and the outsourcing of hospital pharmacy services to Alliance Boots.

Boots is able to offer a lower bid (for now) because of its offshoring skill in avoiding UK taxes. The Medact charity has recently launched a campaign to get Alliance Boots ('based' in tax-haven Switzerland) to pay its fair share of UK tax on its activities in the UK. According to a recent study commissioned by War On Want, Boots makes over 40% of its UK profits from contracts with the NHS yet has avoided an estimated £1.21bn in tax since 2007 - enough to pay for 85,000 new nurses for one year, or to cover the prescription charges for the whole of England for almost three years.

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