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National Delegate Conference 17-20 June 2008

We must defend the NHS for the benefit of future generations

Mick McGahey
Mick McGahey

by Kate Ramsden

UNISON will fight to keep the NHS free at the point of need and funded by direct taxation, and will oppose any attempt to privatise health services.

Conference celebrated the successes of the health service and NHS staff as it celebrates its 60th birthday.

It pledged to campaign for an NHS, based on the involvement and empowerment of staff and users and for non-market approaches to health service modernisation.

Mick McGahey, Lothian Health, told conference, "The NHS is not bricks and mortar. It is not about who manages it. It's about the staff who work in it, who provide the services to patients and who are dedicated to it.

Condemning the squandering of public money on PFI and other privatisation, he added, "Those who agreed PFI contracts that ring-fenced vast quantities of money to the public sector - £44 million in our case and rising - should be made accountable for these actions. Where else would they get away with it?"

Also supporting the motion, Lilian Macer, Scotland Region and Health Executive Chair said that the defining features of the NHS are just as relevant today as they were in 1948.

"Scotland is a country that has often led the world in public health, social reform and the development of medical science, but we continue to suffer from relatively poor health by Western European standards," she said. She welcomed the Scottish Government's stated opposition to using public money to help the private sector compete with the NHS.

"This is in line with the Scottish Health Committee's aims and objectives to see the delivery of health care on the basis of collaboration and cooperation rather than division and competition." She warned conference however, of the challenges still faced by the NHS with an ageing population many of whom have multiple and complex needs, and a growth in long term conditions.

"Our members have been central to the massive improvements brought about since 1948 in the population's health and the quality of care delivered. Now is a time to celebrate but it is also a time to ensure we maintain UNISON's profile as a rigorous defender of the NHS so that future generations will also benefit from its care."