The first European conference for the defence of the public health service took place on May 7th and 8th, in the International Institute for Research and Education in Amsterdam.The statement adopted by the Conference is here.
Facing an acceleration of hospital privatisations in Poland and the changes to the status of health service employees (replacing public sector contracts by private sector ones, making employees “individual entrepreneurs”), the Free trade union “August 80”  took the initiative to bring together trade-union, political and local activists, involved in the fight to defend public health services in Europe. In addition to the militants of “August 80”, there were delegations of the National union of nurses and midwives of Poland , of SUD Santé-Sociaux of France , of the Coordination of Committees for the Defence of local hospitals and maternity sections  of France, of London Health Emergency  and Keep Our NHS Public  of Britain, of Europa von Unten  and of Revolutionär Sozialistischer Bund  of Germany, of the New Anticapitalist Party  of France, of the Socialist Party  of Sweden and Peoples Before Profit Alliance  of the Republic from Ireland.
The conference took stock of the state of attacks against public health services and privatisations which are speeding up in all countries. Rich exchanges based on activist experience made it possible discuss the methods for a fightback and the political answers necessary. These debates also made it possible to collectivize information on the balance of forces in the various countries. For example, in Poland, after having decentralized and reduced the health budget , the government formed by the neoliberal Civic Platform (PO) and Agrarian Party (PSL) has just made vote a law obliging all hospitals in deficit “to become commercial ” or to privatize themselves by the end of 2011; in Britain (cf John Lister’s article), after three decades of neoliberal policies, the liberal conservative government is still hesitating to impose a generalized privatisation of hospitals, fearing to lose its legitimacy …
These differences of situations and experinces re-appeared in the debate on the means of fighting to safeguard the collective and non-profit character of the health services: the comrades of the Polish free trade union “August 80” proposed, to prevent the privatisation by private health trusts, to form cooperatives of hospital workers and social mutual insurance companies in the localities, which would take over the hospitals themselves on a non-profit basis… The comrades from Britain, Sweden and the Irish Republic for their part mentioned experiences in their countries: the passage to non-profit-making cooperatives or private companies was a step towards privatisation! The discussion made it possible to clarify the different approaches and to reach a general agreement: whatever the dangers in the medium and long term faced by cooperatives in a society dominated by capitalist competition, and whatever can be the negative experiences of official management (bureaucratic and corrupt) of the public health service, what must direct the approach to the defence of the public health service is its social character, adapted to the situation in each country. From this point of view the approach of the comrades of Poland is by no means in contradiction with that of the comrades from Britain, Sweden or Ireland!
The participants in the conference decided to form a European coordination, to establish contacts and the co-operation with other existing networks which have similar goals in order to extend it to a large number of countries and to all the popular organizations - trade unions, parties, associations and movements - which share the same goals. The comrades of the Free trade union “August 80” and OZZPiP committed themselves to organizing a forthcoming European conference in autumn 2011 in Katowice (Poland).