It is official: 'foundation hospital' consultations are a sham. Dr. John Coakley, medical director of Homerton University Hospital, has admitted that the hospital is "not obliged to take any notice" of public opinion when deciding to go ahead with its application for 'foundation hospital' status.
This will come as no surprise to many local residents, as all the 'consultation' material has been little more than propaganda for the dubious benefits of foundation status.
Other than the big-name central London hospitals - such as Moorfields and Guy's and St.Thomas' - the Homerton is the only hospital in north and east London which is seeking foundation status. It is lured by government promises of commercial freedom, gaining the right to borrow money and to reinvest 'profits'.
But socialists and trade unionists oppose the plan, recognising that to provide decent healthcare, hospitals do not need to be more like businesses, but more like proper public services - well-funded, organised to meet people's needs, not accountants' demands.
We also object to the 'freedom' that foundation hospitals will have to set workers' pay and conditions locally. Hospital workers of all grades need the collective strength of national pay negotiations to make sure that NHS bosses can not play 'divide and rule', leaving some workers languishing with ever-lower pay rates. Breaking up national pay negotiations would be a serious setback for health workers' long-standing fight against poverty pay.
Hackney South's Labour MP Brian Sedgemore has joined the ranks of opponents of foundation status. He wrote to the Homerton that "No-one has ever produced any evidence that making hospitals compete with each other raises standards. Demanding a competitive approach from hospitals seems bound to reduce the co-operation and mutual help they offer one another under the present system."
The recent Labour Party conference voted to reject the Government's policy of creating foundation hospitals. But Blair has pressed ahead, despite the conference vote and despite a large rebellion in Parliament.
While the Labour Government is attacking the health service, the labour movement is largely united against foundation hospitals, and has the power to force the Government to back down. Nationally, the trade unions - led by UNISON, by far the biggest NHS union - should organise a serious campaign, both industrially and politically.
Locally, around hospitals like the Homerton, the unions should call together local campaigners to fight against these disastrous plans.
It is clear that we can not rely on the fake 'consultation' to stop this attack. 'Consultation' is no substitute for democracy. If there were a truly democratic decision, then Hackney people would reject foundation status for the Homerton.
I will finish on a personal note. My second son was born at the Homerton, and his life was saved by the staff and the Special Care Baby Unit. I hate to think that in the future, babies' lives will depend on whether SCBU staff or equipment are reckoned to be a commercially-appropriate investment.
You can read more about the case against foundation hospitals here.