Tag Archives: Jeremy Corbyn

Bye Bye, Heidi

NHSpace reflects on the sudden departure of the Labour shadow health secretary.

To be honest, we were hoping this day would come. Meetings involving Heidi Alexander have all ended in disappointment. The shadow health secretary persisted in supporting Simon Stevens and his privatising Five Year Forward View. She was a damp squib when it came to the doctors’ strikes, and she did nothing to support the NHS Reinstatement Bill.

As one NHA executive member puts it:

“I have been in 2 meetings with HA. She refused to go on [junior doctor] picket lines. She refused to even wear a BMA badge. Her stance on health policy supported the ongoing privatisation in the form of Stevens 5YFV. Quote ‘I believe Stevens has the best interests of the NHS at heart’. A former UnitedHealth president here to complete the transition to an American style insurance system has her confidence. That says it all.”

Now that the Blairites liked Heidi Alexander are leaving Corbyn’s cabinet, there’s hope that JC will install someone who truly supports the NHS as his shadow health sec. Someone who will come out strongly in favour of a renationalised NHS, and recognise that things don’t have to be the way that Hunt and Stevens want them to be.

The STP hospital closure plans are already being rolled out, and it won’t be long before A&Es and DGHs start being forced to close in order to pay off local NHS ‘debts’. Labour need to start shouting from the rooftops about these sorts of healthcare issues. With the right MPs in charge, maybe they will.

Open Letter from Dr Clive Peedell to Jeremy Hunt regarding the legality of the latest top-down NHS reorganisation

To the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt, MP, Secretary of State for Health

Dear Mr Hunt

I am writing to you on a subject of great urgency regarding the changes to the NHS proposed on 19th May 2016, by Simon Stevens, CEO of NHS England.

Mr Stevens has suggested that the health service could create a form of ‘combined authorities’. He talks of spanning hospitals and commissioners and consolidating CCGs.

These proposals appear to run contrary to the provisions of the Health & Social Care Act (2012) and contrary to the stated objective of the Act of a locally driven commissioning service provided by GPs, who have an intimate knowledge of their local community needs.

Whether or not the CCGs have fulfilled this function satisfactorily, they are, nonetheless, a legal creation. I am, therefore, asking for clarification of the legal status of the changes being made under the Sustainability and Transformation Plans.

Mr Stevens has also referred to removing veto powers. Does that mean, in effect, that no-one will be able to object to changes as they will be imposed? Could you clarify which powers are being removed, under what statute were those powers granted, and what legislation been passed to allow their removal?

This announcement was paired with the publication of the funding allocations expected for 2020-2021. Mr Stevens said that these numbers would give a better focus than the funding ‘gap’ numbers people try to come up with. His predicted figures are shockingly low.

I do not write as a legal expert, but as a doctor with great concern for the impact of these extensive changes on my patients. I ask that you clarify with urgency the law that is being used for these changes which are happening on a large scale with great speed.

My specific concerns are about transparency, responsibility and accountability. There does not appear to be adequate time to prepare proper risk or equality impact assessments.

I look forward to hearing your response on these serious matters.

Yours sincerely

Dr Clive Peedell
cc Rt Hon David Cameron MP, the Prime Minister
cc Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition
cc Hon Heidi Alexander, Shadow Secretary of State for Health

Let’s All Bash Corbyn

Penny Ormerod gives us her take on the never-ending media assault on Corbyn’s character.

Hell hath no fury like an Establishment scorned. Jeremy Corbyn was elected to lead the Labour Party last Saturday, having inspired thousands of new members to join his party – the clear choice of full members as well as registered and affiliated supporters. The fury rising to hysteria of Tories and New Labour alike (LibDems, perhaps chastened by their own recent mauling at the polls, largely recognised no-one was in the least interested in anything they had to say on the matter) was increasingly evident as the leadership election got closer and voters (even those not weeded out as too Leftie) stubbornly refused to be enthused by the motley crew of neoliberals on offer as alternative leaders of Her Madge’s Loyal (forget that loyal at your peril!) Opposition.

It was hard to know whether to be amused or irritated as New Labour Chief Honchos, past and present, lined up to issue dire warnings about the apocalypse that would ensue should this mild-mannered, decent, anti-war, anti-austerity 66-year-old man be voted to the top job: political earthquakes, economic collapse, a threat to national and international security.

And then it happened: it seems Jez “he’s totally unelectable” could and did, winning nearly 60% of first-round votes. Was it possible now that his ideas might just begin to be taken a bit more seriously? At any rate by Labour MPs, who surely can’t have overlooked completely their party’s drubbing by former loyal Labour Scottish voters fed up with 18 years of Tory-lite?

“Our brave British media swiftly brought us back to focus on the real news – Corbyn’s refusal to sing the national anthem”

In my dreams! A roar of enraged astonishment at the sheer impertinence of his victory has filled the airwaves, newspapers, television screens and ether, with the BBC rubbishing Corbyn and his daft supporters as enthusiastically as the Murdoch press. Our shameless government held an Arms Fair in London last week. They’ve just signed a lucrative deal with the Saudi Royals – more bombs to slaughter children and factory workers in Sudan, swelling the tide of distraught refugees fleeing either to be quietly drowned or confronted by the razor wire, tasers and tear gas of Fortress Europe. But our brave British media swiftly brought us back to focus on the real news – Corbyn’s refusal to sing the national anthem, and whether his jacket matched his tie.

Trouble is, they can’t quite make up their minds whether to sneer, snigger and deride or to go for the jugular of the unpatriotic, hard Left zealot now leading Labour. Is Corbyn, and those who espouse his progressive political outlook, gullible and stupid or dangerous and evil? The Today prog bows to no-one in its daily derision: Humphrys’ sniggering contempt is vigorously endorsed by his chorus of “experts” – politics guru Norman Smith relishes every opportunity to put the boot in, with regular sniping from business pundit Simon Jack on what is laughingly dismissed as “Corbynomics”. Cosy interviews with reliably anti-Corbynite Charles Clarke and Frank “Whatever possessed you – signing that ballot paper!” Field set the tone from Monday onwards.

“He’s a disaster, he wants to take us back the 1980s!” Seriously? We’re being ruled by overgrown Bullingdon Club bullies, hell bent on privatising everything that moves – but apparently it’s Jeremy, droning on about outdated irrelevancies like climate change, TTIP, zero-hours contracts, fracking, who’s stuck in a time-warp!

But… is it just wishful thinking or has the tone changed – just a tad – since PMQs on Wed? Maddeningly for the Corbyn-haters, Jeremy failed to fall flat on his face. He didn’t sing the Internationale or even verse 1 of the Red Flag. He didn’t mention Marx once.

Instead he raised real concerns from real people, and something rather peculiar happened. In the quietness of the new opposition leader’s integrity, Flashman Dave’s patronising platitudes fell a bit flat. The Tories, under strict orders not to gloat or jeer, gave up and went to sleep. The Blairites looked hard at their feet, then glanced a little wistfully at the front benches they had so recently vacated after nobly ruling themselves out from shadow office posts they hadn’t been offered. And – hang on: some of the younger and more open-minded MPs started to cheer him on.

“He claims he wants a more inclusive and democratic kind of politics. That’s the kind of language the NHA has been aching to hear from a Labour leader since its inception.”

For the past 30 years, Thatcher’s vision of unfettered capitalism and neoliberal (renamed Austerity after the Bankers’ crash of 2007/8) economics has been the only show in town. It’s worked pretty well for a tiny elite, but it’s been little short of catastrophic for the majority, not to mention the environment. Yet never has it been more clear that the senior politicians of all three established parties are united in outraged condemnation and disbelief that there can be any serious alternative to the Omnipotent God of the Free & Unregulated Market (and His representatives on earth, the champagne-swilling, coke-snorting, fraudulent banksters).

I listened a few hours ago to Jack Straw indignantly defending his entitlement to earn £5,000 a day (but welfare caps and benefit sanctions are just fine & dandy, eh Jack!). The Establishment were right to fear Jeremy Corbyn – his election is the first real threat to the cosy consensus that has seen the relentless slashing of public services and ever more grotesque inequality. He claims he wants a more inclusive and democratic kind of politics. That’s the kind of language we’ve been aching to hear from a Labour leader since its inception.

Our post-Lansley NHS is close to collapse, its staff exhausted and demoralised. All three parties have betrayed it, relentlessly underfunding, fragmenting and commercialising it. Jeremy Corbyn needs now to reach out beyond his own party and listen to some home truths about how it has been systematically let down and – even more importantly – how to get it back on its feet again, as the electorate have repeatedly and insistently said they want it to be. With the policies of New Labour Top Command almost indistinguishable from that of Cameron, Hunt & Co (leaving aside, as so many voters did too late, their LibDem collaborators), the expertise of the NHS campaigners is right here to be tapped. If Jeremy genuinely wants to formulate health policies that will restore a healthy, solvent NHS focusing on patients rather than profits, we are ready and willing to advise and educate on everything from lifting the stranglehold of PFIs to the huge savings to be made from abolishing the market.

Come on, Jeremy, call Clive and book an appointment with the doctors (nurses, paramedics and patients) today.  You really do need to talk about the NHS with a party that knows how it works. Your own party members want proper health policies, and the country deserves to be offered them in 2020.

And you know, this Real Opposition lark might actually catch on!

Open Letter to Jeremy Corbyn from Clive Peedell

Dear Jeremy Corbyn,

First of all congratulations on winning this election.

What you have achieved shows that there is demonstrable support for anti-austerity politics around the country. That is something we have never doubted in the NHA, despite the opinion of the mass media and government representatives.

Having said that, it would be foolish to think that ideologically driven austerity, which underfunds and undermines our public services, will step aside in the face of public opposition. You have stated publicly that opposition parties must work together. I think that you should start those discussions straight away.

I co-founded the NHA party 3 years ago in reaction to the Health & Social Care Act, which ended the NHS as we know it. It was always clear to me and to my colleagues who founded the party that the Labour Party had played a significant role in the dismantling of the NHS. The legislation they enacted extended the market and established the private sector’s role. They have failed to alert the public to the real extent of the damage being done under the Coalition and the current government. They even allowed David Cameron to claim to be the protector of the NHS, a claim that should have been laughable, not credible.

There has been a groundswell of anger from within the NHS against Jeremy Hunt since he launched his ‘24/7’ NHS plans. He and his Cabinet colleagues appear to be the only people in the country who don’t know we already have a 24/7 NHS. He accused consultants of opting out when they don’t, has refused decent pay rises to nurses, wants to force reduced pay and conditions on staff across the board, has presided over A&E closures that have had fatal consequence, made £200million cuts to the public health budget and has presided for too long over hospitals being run according to financial not clinical judgement.

You acknowledged the problems of the market in the NHS today in your speech and have spoken of the PFI deals shackling the NHS Foundation Trusts. Both these areas are of great concern. That is why I take this opportunity to issue an invitation to you to discuss the way forward for the NHS with myself and my colleagues, passionate defenders of its core values, with the knowledge and direct experience ‎to offer workable solutions.

On Monday, two days after your election, there will be a debate on Jeremy Hunt’s proposals in Westminster Hall. It should be a debate on a vote of no confidence in Jeremy Hunt as required by the petition rules but it has been altered.

As an act of good faith, and in order to show that you will start your leadership as you mean to go on the Labour Party should turn up in force to that debate and insist it be used as a vote of no confidence. That’s what the petition demanded. Many tens of thousands attended your rallies. Many hundreds of thousands more, from all parties and campaign groups, signed petitions and have written articles and emails in opposition to this government’s attacks on the NHS. If those who elected you are recognised as a groundswell of public opinion, so should those demanding that Jeremy Hunt be held accountable and their views should be represented unequivocally by Labour MPS in Westminster Hall on Monday.

Your leadership holds the promise of a new optimism. We hope it will be borne out in the creation of a real new politics offering recognition of political allies in the fight against austerity, against the destruction of our public services and that we can be united against the Tories in the defence of our NHS.

Congratulations once again

Clive Peedell

Labour values, the NHS and me – Marcus Chown

Popular science author Marcus Chown has been a victim of the Labour purge. Here’s his response.

It is 5 days since I received an e-mail from the Labour Party telling me it had reason to believe I did not support its aims and beliefs and it was excluding me from voting in the leadership election. I have voted Labour in every election since I was 18. I have been a full member of the Labour Party and even campaigned on the doorstep. But I did not agree with Labour’s policy of privatisation of the NHS (Public funding of private health companies, according to the WHO definition, is privatisation). So I joined a party, formed by doctors, nurses and patients, to truly defend the NHS.

David Cameron explicitly promised “no more top-down reorganisation of the NHS”. But, when the Conservatives came to power in 2010, they introduced the Health & Social Care bill, which they had concealed from the electorate during the election and which was bigger than the bill that had created the NHS in 1948. It removed the government’s “duty to provide” healthcare for you and your family, a founding principle of the NHS, replacing it by a mere “duty to promote”. Even the health minister would no longer have responsibility for your health. It would be left to the “market”. In effect, the bill made possible to gradual abolition of the NHS.

My publisher had got me to do Twitter and, at the start of 2012, I noticed a tweet about Dr Clive Peedell, a consultant oncologist, who was trying to highlight the H&SC bill by running 160 miles to Downing Street from the former South Wales constituency of Nye Bevan, the founder of the NHS. I was training with my wife, an NHS nurse, for the London Marathon. So, on a freezing day, we jogged out to Notting Hill. And that is how I met Clive and ran the final kilometres to Downing Street with him and Clare Gerada, chair of the Royal College of GPs (and her Jack Russell, Lucy). Nine months later, Clive founded the National Health Action Party with ex-MP Dr Richard Taylor and other doctors, nurses and patients who were appalled at the way all the main political parties were wedded to the privatisation of the NHS, which all evidence shows is worse for patients.

I can’t remember how I got invited to an executive meeting (I should stress I have never been on the executive committee) but I remember, when it came to “any other business”, saying the party’s Twitter feed was full of acronyms and doctor jargon. Little did I know that, Clive, sitting across the table, was NHA’s Twitter feed! To his credit, over a cup of tea and cake, he said: “Why don’t you help with our Twitter? Here’s our username and password.”

NHA saw the London euro election of 2014 as an opportunity to raise public awareness of what the government was doing to the NHS, which the UK media had failed to cover or critique, ignoring the overwhelming level of opposition. NHA’s candidate was inner London GP Dr Louise Irvine, who had run the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign. When a court supported her and ruled that the government had acted illegally in downgrading Lewisham’s A&E and maternity departments, the government simply changed the law. Every party was allowed 8 candidates, in the London euro election, with all accumulated votes going to Louise. I got asked to stand and surprised myself by saying, yes. The others included an A&E consultant, a nurse, trainee surgeon, and actor and comedian Rufus Hound.

I should point out that NHA is not a party of power. It has resources only to contest a handful of seats. In the 2015 GE election it was careful not to inadvertently help a Conservative into power, recognising that the Conservatives are a bigger danger to the NHS than Labour.

And so I come to the point of this statement. Rules are rules. I understand that. And, yes, I have helped another party, which rules me out from voting in the leadership election. But NHA, the party I have helped, stands for exactly what the Labour Party should be standing for. I joined NHA in desperation because Labour had been heavily involved in privatisation of the NHS, and PFIs, which have plunged hospitals into enormous debt. Admittedly, Labour’s 2015 manifesto called for the repeal of the H&SC Act. But it pledged simply to “stop the drive towards privatisation” and “cap the profits” of existing private providers. The party said nothing about ending the wasteful “internal market”, which is estimated to divert 15 per cent of NHS money away from patients into bureaucracy.

It seems odd to be accused of not sharing Labour values when I have always voted for Labour and support a party whose values should be shared by the Labour Party – the desire for a publicly funded, publicly delivered NHS, which all evidence shows is the best system for patients not to mention the most cost-effective and efficient. NHA would never have formed in the first place if Labour had been true to its values on the NHS.

It does not seem right to accuse me of not sharing Labour values simply because I have criticised its NHS policy. I would like the Labour party to get into power with a leader who is committed to a publicly funded, publicly delivered NHS, which is what is wanted by the overwhelming majority of people in the UK.