Tag Archives: nhs

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.

United We Stand

Alex Ashman ponders the need for a united left movement.

There are too few houses, because the government don’t build them any more. There are too few jobs, because government austerity is preventing economic growth. The NHS is suffering, because the government refuse to fund it properly.

But with the current system, it is hard to fight back against the government. The 51% win for Brexit looks slim when you consider the 63% who voted against the Tories last year. There was a huge protest vote, with a swing towards the Greens, SNP and UKIP, and yet the Tories remained.

And then people were given another outlet for their discontent. Some of those voting Leave will have done so in protest of the lack of housing, jobs and healthcare, thinking the EU was to blame for their woes. But once more, the government remains the same, and so nothing will change. Who will people blame next, once they realise that the problems are still there? Nationalism is on the rise, and populist right-wingers will continue to blame migrant workers and benefit frauds for all our woes. Just because Farage has won his precious Brexit doesn’t mean he’ll retire and go home. Quite the opposite, in fact.

If ever there were a pressing need for a united left movement, now is the time. Voters protesting against the government need to be offered an alternative narrative. A narrative that recognises that the real villain lies in Westminster, not Calais. A narrative in which austerity is rejected and public services are properly supported. A narrative in which Britain is great because we support each another, instead of blaming one another. Until the left unites, though, the Tories will continue unchecked. Action is needed, and soon.

#PublicDuty Twitterstorm

Last January, we organised a mass-whistleblowing. NHS campaigners and staff united to send 30,000 tweets exposing the Tories, with the hashtag #PublicDuty trending UK-wide on Twitter that day. The catalyst was this tweet from Dr Clive Peedell:

clivetweet

Now we’re calling for a repeat performance. The Tories have done nothing in the last year but anger and upset thousands of NHS staff, patients, and members of the public. We want to take that energy and focus it, exposing the Tories with a coordinated action on the eve of the next doctors’ strike.

Here’s how you can help:

  1. Sign up to our Thunderclap campaign, which will schedule an automatic tweet for you at the start of the Twitterstorm.
  2. Join us on Twitter at 7pm, Tuesday 8th March and tweet with #PublicDuty. We suggest tweets along the lines of “As a (job) with (number) years NHS experience, it’s my #PublicDuty to inform you that the Tories are dismantling and privatising the NHS“.
  3. Use the Twitter search box to find and retweet other #PublicDuty tweets.

Thank you in advance for your support. Together we can cut through the spin and send a clear message to the public.

An All-Out Strike?

On Thursday 11th February, Jeremy Hunt announced that he would be unilaterally imposing a new contract on front-line doctors. In his infamous imposition letter, Hunt claimed he had the support of a whole raft of NHS CEOs. In fact, most of them had never seen the letter and did not agree with the imposition.

The BMA had proposed an alternative contract that was ‘cost-neutral’ (no more expensive than the existing deal) but kept Saturday as a weekend day with appropriate pay. Hunt couldn’t accept this because of his obsession with a ‘7-day NHS’, which we all know already exists. He therefore vetoed all such deals offered by the BMA, preventing any settlement that might scupper his plans to force doctors to work extra weekends for no extra pay. To add insult to injury, Hunt claimed that no doctor would work consecutive weekends, and then published ‘example rotas’ that had doctors working three weekends straight.

The BMA has now asserted that, by failing to provide “appropriate funding for the required level of workforce needed to deliver safe services and adequate training”, the government has broken the original ‘heads of terms‘ agreed during the initial negotiations in 2013. There will be no more talks based on ‘cost neutrality’ – that horse has now bolted, and the BMA will settle for nothing less than a fully-funded workforce. As Dr Johann Malawana of the BMA puts it, “We also know – and the public understand this – that if the Government wants junior doctors to take the brunt of delivering more services across seven days, they need to put their money where their mouth is.”

So will we be seeing an all-out strike in the coming weeks and months? The BMA have made it clear that they do not take such action lightly, and have done all they can to avoid harming patient care. But with the Conservative government working to impose an unacceptable contract that is based upon flawed ideology rather than evidence-based medicine, full strike action may be the only option left.

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

Greece, the NHS, and Democracy

Deborah Harrington draws parallels between the Greek economy and England’s health service.

Three things stand out in the documents Wikileaks published showing the detailed bailout terms for Greece: the removal of political power, giving them no other option but to the privatise their services; the sequestration of their public assets into a private holding company; and the removal of choice over their economic policy. Together these form the effective removal of their democracy.

It is not only the immediate decision that has that effect, but in the long term, what is left for a Greek government to legislate on, other than the deployment of their armed forces and police to quell the riots?

Has democracy in the UK already gone the same way, but with the cooperation of the government in our case? Our public assets are being sold off at extraordinary speed, and have been transferred into private company portfolios pending sale. The NHS is being privatised in profound ways. The Health Secretary is no longer legally responsible for the NHS. We no longer have a right to healthcare. Austerity and privatisation were forced on Greece; here our government accepted them voluntarily.

Selling England By The Pound

Hospitals we used to own are being demolished whilst the new PFI ones are not in our ownership, but in private consortia. We have to lease them back and are tied into maintenance contracts whose combined cost can be more than 20% of the annual budget, financially destabilising the hospital and damaging patient care.

All this and more – contracting out, complex relations between different fund holders – has enormous cost attached. This is not about ‘NHS management’ but about the proliferation of private healthcare management companies involved at every stage – negotiating contracts for PFI, drawing up tender documents for every kind of service from cleaning to cancer care and advising on the financial ‘viability’ of hospitals, which can now be bankrupted as they are businesses, not public assets. When the Trusts are put into liquidation the administration process is also run by these companies.

We are so deeply enmeshed in this ‘depoliticising’ of our administration that we can’t even see it. Where was the outcry when the ownership of some of our schools and hospitals was found in the offshore tax avoiding accounts of HSBC who had been advised by PwC? Why is PwC still involved in advising at government level and running our public sector at operational level when the Public Accounts Committee said they were responsible for ‘industrial scale tax avoidance schemes’?

Like Pasok in Greece, the Labour Party agrees with the political Right that management of the economy under austerity rules is the only acceptable proposition. They may (possibly) deviate on the means to achieve it, but not the principle. We have a dominant political voice agreeing that There Is No Alternative. Labour and Tories alike have called for the state to be reduced and ‘resilient’ communities built. (A resilient community is one that can survive on an individual and collective level without state support mechanisms.)

NHS Healthcare on a par with NHS Dentistry?

The list goes on… but the NHS won’t. The devolution project will split the national NHS budget into a hundred pieces to be privatised by local councils and city mayors. As with social care the NHS will become a last resort for the poor, whilst the rest will end up as means tested and chargeable, either through co payments or insurance. Imagine the health service being operated on the same lines as dentistry and you’ll get the picture. Local authorities will provide a minimal service for the poor, in health, social care and social security combined. At the dentist the free or low cost treatment is called ‘NHS’ treatment, but it’s as far a cry from the principles of universal, comprehensive and equitable treatment that have characterised the NHS as it can possibly be.

Those people who keep saying ‘it doesn’t matter who provides the service’ had better buck up their ideas and start fighting against this. Otherwise we may well find, as in Greece, that when the NHS is gone, democracy has gone with it.

We need democratic reform – urgently

Deborah Harrington gives us her view on the current two party system.

If there are only two parties which can achieve power in the current system then, even if Labour is successful in 2015, we will inevitably revert to a Tory government at a future date. And this need not even be a Tory majority – by forming a coalition with a smaller party, the Tories are willing to lever themselves into power from a minority position. Whenever they do return, they will wreak havoc on the NHS and the Welfare State. The civil service is smaller now than at any time since 1948 and the Tories have sold off 20% of all our public land and assets in the last 4 years. We are running out of things to save.

If the predictions of another market crash in the next couple of years are true and Labour is in government then, as far as the public and the Tory spin machine are concerned, Labour will be held responsible for two successive crashes. That leads to the real possibility of a Tory government being returned in 2020.

The main thrust of much of Labour’s politics at the moment appears to be ‘we’re not the Tories’. That seems to me to be an absolute argument for political reform. Give us a parliament with more Independents, more Greens, SNP and Plaid, to represent the major environmental concerns and devolution/local agenda issues. Let’s have some political presence to really represent the NHS, and Left Unity and TUSC to stand up for the working classes, the unemployed and the disabled. Let’s have a politics where voters feel they can choose the party they agree with, not just the party that ‘isn’t the Tories’.

I would like to vote for a party that has solid core principles. At the moment the Labour Party has substituted ‘compassion’ for social justice. Not the same thing at all. Until – or unless – it regains its senses I hope all left wing voters will opt for getting together behind whichever candidate genuinely best represents their views, regardless of party (although I assume Tory and UKIP are not in the running for those votes in any circumstance whatsoever!).

I shall be thinking of the future when I cast my vote this year, not just about the short term. I hope you do too.