Health unions met at the TUC on Wednesday of last week to agree a plan of action to fight job losses and privatisation in the NHS, culiminating in a national demonstration in early 2007.
The 12 unions, including Unison and Amicus, are considering a series of local and national actions, rallies at the Labour Party conference and the TUC congress this autumn, and a lobby of parliament in October.
Despite the growing pressure, New Labour’s health secretary Patricia Hewitt is pressing ahead with plans to sell off NHS Logistics, the public body that supplies hospitals.
Unison members at the five NHS Logistics sites are preparing to ballot for strike action. The workers are particularly enraged that the £4 billion contract is being handed to Novation, a US corporation based in Texas.
In 2004 the US justice department launched an investigation into claims that Novation overcharged for federal healthcare programmes in the US.
The Novation case in the US has raised wider concerns about the role of group purchasing organisations (GPOs) - healthcare suppliers that operate as near monopolies and have enormous power to affect prices. Experts estimate that GPOs in the US extract profits of over £2.6 billion from hospitals.
If such a system were introduced in Britain, it would be a further drain on NHS resources. Already NHS trusts face huge deficits as money is siphoned off into the pockets of privateers.
City Hospital Sunderland Foundation Trust became one of the latest to announce sweeping job losses as a result of budget deficits . It plans to cut a tenth of its workforce - 500 people - to claw back a £5 million debt.
Go to South Tyneside domestics’ revolt wins wider support for more on health