By Norman Thomas

People in east Kent are organising for a knock down battle for their NHS, reports Norman Thomas

People in Thanet believe NHS bosses have plans to kill them.

Under new proposals the stroke unit in the district’s local hospital in Margate would be closed and stroke patients would have to travel 40 odd miles to get treatment.  They’d be treated in a more high-tech way when they arrived — but many would die en route.

This may help to explain why there was standing room only at the Defend Our NHS conference in Broadstairs. This was called by Save Our NHS In Kent — a cross-party left-wing campaign group currently energising activists across the county.

Speakers included Green Party spokesman Larry Sanders, brother to former presidential candidate Bernie. Sanders said that cuts in the health service had nothing to do with money. He said:  “We have the people, we have the skills — what we don’t have is the political will. And the political will is what’s building in rooms like this across the country.”

Medical activist Dr Bob Gill explained what campaigners  are up against. America’s biggest health insurance company UnitedHealth had infliltrated the NHS at every level, he said, including the top, where its previous boss Simon Stevens now holds sway.

The core of Stevens’ plan for the NHS, said Gill, is simple:  “Shut high risk, unprofitable care and consolidate simple profitable care.”

Gill said: “You will have to travel further to access this care and you will die en route. This policy will kill people.”

Rosie Duffield, Canterbury’s recently elected first ever Labour MP, spoke of the strain the breakdown of services is putting on NHS staff.  She said: “Not only are they putting sticking plasters on a completely broken NHS, they’re using bits of blu-tack, recycled sellotape — they are doing everything they can to hold that service together, because they love it and they care about it.”

Meanwhile, Labour county councillor Karen Constantine gave striking testimony to the under-resourced state of the local NHS — Margate hospital, she said, recently even ran out of oxygen to offer flu victims.

Labour Party member Dr Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt, said the conference left two impressions on her. “One is that NHS privatisation is becoming a very tangible reality,” she said. “But also there is large group of people here who are committed to resisting it.”

And the resistance is gathering force. The Save Our NHS In Kent Group recently held a major protest outside Margate hospital and are now planning a high profile march from the hospital to the local shopping centre.

This article originally appeared in Labour Briefing magazine