Defend Whittington hospital: taking control of our health services

February 28, 2010

The threat to the Whittington A&E and five other hospitals in north London has outraged tens of thousands of people in all the boroughs affected. It is part of a bigger government plan to enforce cuts in all public services. Across the country, people are taking up the fight, resistance is growing against closures, privatisations and cuts – and in defence of local services that truly serve the community.

Health as a need, not a commodity

As long as people’s health needs remain subject to a profit-making system, the threats to our services won’t stop. Such a system doesn’t satisfy people’s real needs, because these needs are not profitable. Our health should no longer be managed as a commodity, and our services must no longer be shaped by capitalism.

Public services – is state control the best way?

Today’s hospital managers are no more than state-sponsored bosses whose job is to impose cuts under the guidance of the government and at our own expense. Nationalised services work better than strictly profit-run privatised ones because users and workers repeatedly demand their rights and have taken collective action, e.g. protests and industrial action. But ultimately nationalisation is no alternative to capitalism.

Our health service history

Public services like the NHS are part of the ‘social wage’ won by working class and community struggles over the last 80 years. In the 1940s and 1950s there was a huge wave of protest movements demanding expansion of all public services. But before the NHS was established in 1948, local communities and trade-unionists had set up their own health facilities in many areas of the UK, organised around mutual aid and public subscription. Based on self-administration, this approach was more people-oriented and less centralised. Although such methods were effective and popular, the 1948 Labour government preferred to create the NHS on a top-down, state-controlled bureaucratic model.

An alternative way of running things

Although it has successfully provided healthcare to low-paid workers and families, the NHS remains an undemocratic administration dominated by financial concerns. The resources are available, e.g. the £860 billion of public funds recently earmarked to prop up anti-social banks. Governments and companies can no longer be trusted to run our public services.


There’s a better way of organising our society, around the principles of self-management and collective ownership of all services and facilities. This is why we call on workers to organise to take control of their workplaces, and communities to take control of all local decision-making. This is the first step if we want society run for the benefit of all, not the profits of a few.

Workers, service users, residents and activists should all be involved in the campaign that is building up to save the Whittington. This is also an opportunity to strengthen all grassroots organisations – users groups, hospital workers associations, local residents and community groups.


We must oppose all closures and cuts by any means necessary – action on the streets, industrial action, occupations of facilities facing closure…  We must be prepared to go beyond the ‘consultation’ and ‘lobbying’ boundaries set by the government, media, union bosses and others who want to keep us all under control – and we must avoid being used by political parties for their own agenda. It is only by taking the initiative ourselves that we can hope to get to an alternative and viable health system that truly serves us all.

What we can all do now

► Be active in the campaign – support hospital users and workers
► Organise collectively and independently to take control of public services
► Aim for an alternative model to state control and profiteering capitalism
► Extend solidarity to all public sectors under attack
► Develop grassroots community & campaigning groups in all boroughs  


 Links: Defend Whittington Hospital Coalition ¦ Founding of Defend Haringey’s Health Services Coalition

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