Wednesday April 24 may be the day that the NHS dies — or that it lives on. On April 1, largely unnoticed by the people of England, the most popular institution in the land, the NHS (the National Health Service), was privatised by the Tory-led government, in regulations relating to Article 75 of the Health and Social Care Act, which force competition on almost all NHS business.
If they are not reversed, the regulations will lead to private companies swiftly and effectively dismantling the NHS, cherry-picking services they can easily make profits out of, and cowing the newly appointed Clinical Commissioning Groups (the GPs responsible for 80 percent of the NHS budget), who will be afraid of ruinously expensive legal challenges if they dare to take on the private sector.
This is a disaster of colossal proportions, and yet it has barely been reported by the mainstream media, although medical websites and blogs, and campaigners — myself included — have been covering it since the regulations first surfaced in February.
On Wednesday April 24, the House of Lords has a historic opportunity to derail the regulations. Please email members of the House of Lords today or tomorrow to urge them to vote against the regulations. The Save Lewisham Hospital campaign has put together a detailed list of Lords here, including details of how to contact them by email. If an email is not listed, click on the peer’s name to go to their website, where emails are listed, as well as phone numbers — which is another good way of getting in touch with them, with less than 48 hours to go.
All are important to write to, but Lib Dems and Crossbenchers (unaligned peers) can have the biggest effect on the outcome of the debate or a vote. Remember that Labour members need to know your views too; and we hear of Conservatives who genuinely believe in the NHS and will act honourably, especially if they know they have support from the public. It is really worth writing to several peers if you can — to make maximum impact.
On Wednesday there will also be a lobby of Parliament, which I encourage everyone who cares about the NHS to attend. The lobby of the House of Lords will begin at 12 noon on Wednesday April 24 on College Green opposite the Houses of Parliament (aka St. Stephen’s Green or Abingdon Street Gardens). The nearest tube is Westminster.
The Lords vote is the big news of the week, but there is also an event of importance taking place in the London Borough of Lewisham — where a battle to save the hospital that serves the 270,000 residents of Lewisham (the same population as Brighton, Hull or Newcastle) has been ongoing since October, and where campaigners have secured huge turnouts for protests, and continue to demand that maternity and A&E services remain in the borough of Lewisham, and are not shut down, so that 90 percent of the mothers in Lewisham will have to give birth elsewhere, and there will be just one A&E Department — in Woolwich — for the 750,000 people in the three boroughs of Lewisham, Greenwich and Bexley (see my archive of articles and photos here and here.
On Thursday April 25, beginning at 7pm, there will be a public meeting in the Great Hall at Goldsmith’s College in New Cross, featuring speakers including Professor Colin Leys, an expert on the NHS and the co-author of The Plot Against the NHS, Dr. John Lister (of Health Emergency), Dr. Louise Irvine, the chair of the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign, Rachel Maskell of Unite, and Pat Smith of the Labour Party, whose rallying speech for the NHS at the Labour conference in October is here.
Other events are forthcoming — the Hunt for Hunt, a trip to health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s Surrey constituency on Saturday June 15, the Lewisham People’s Commission of Enquiry into the government’s plans to downgrade Lewisham Hospital, on Saturday June 29 at the Broadway Theatre in Catford. Chaired by Michael Mansfield QC, it will “examine crucial evidence about the planned downgrades from a range of groups, including clinicians, GPs, patients and other agencies such as the Council and local businesses.”
There is also a London-wide demonstration in support of the NHS taking place on Saturday May 18, beginning at 12 noon in Jubilee Gardens (by the London Eye), followed by a march to the Department of Health and Parliament (sign up on the Facebook page here).
These are important dates for your diary, but for now it is imperative that those who care for the NHS lobby the Lords to resist the Section 75 regulations, and that those in Lewisham show support for the ongoing campaign to prevent Lewisham Hospital from being disembowelled by turning up to Goldsmith’s on Thursday for the public meeting.
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed — and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr (my photos) and YouTube. Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in April 2012, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the “Close Guantánamo campaign”, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
On Facebook, Stephen Donovan wrote:
Write to the Lords…
It definitely sounds funny, I agree, Stephen, but all too often the Lords are the place where the government gets challenged. Under this arrogant bunch of butchers, however, the challenges have rarely stuck, although there’s a real possibility this week that the Lords can do it. The particular key is the Lib Dem peers and the cross-benchers.
Dejanka Bryant wrote:
Oh, thank you, Andy. I forgot to check my e-mails recently or follow the news about our NHS.
You’re welcome, Dejanka. Glad to oblige. This was on my “to do” list, but it caught me by surprise how sudden it was.
Stephen Donovan wrote:
I wish you luck, but I tend to think that the elitists are driving the privatization push rather than serving as a buffer against it, but I’d love to be wrong.
It’s a mixed picture, Stephen. The Lords fought back on the NHS reforms and welfare reform last year, even if, in the end, the government found a way around most of their complaints – the worst example was when they found some ancient precedent for completely ignoring the Lords, which involved the Lords’ strenuous objections to many parts of the welfare reform bill. In contrast, the problem you mention is that many peers have financial interests in private healthcare companies – as do many MPs, of course.
Sonny Burlas wrote:
In another 3 years the ANNUAL tax bill for this monstrosity – in its current guise – will be a TRILLION POUNDS… What is feeding it the illiterate and vulnerable not enough?
Sonny, the NHS costs £95 bn a year, nothing like the £1 tn you mention. I’m sure everyone agrees that savings and restructuring are important, but the kind of privatisation intended by the government is not the way to do it, as private companies have profits to make, and can’t spread costs around like the NHS can. That makes them look at what money they can make before looking at the needs of patients, and that’s horribly destructive for the ethos of the NHS.
Sonny Burlas wrote:
Dear Andy,may I refer you to the crucial text in my comment “in another 3 years ” I won’t presume this kind of slight oversight to be any more than what it is… (ironic we’d be talking nhs,and less than even 1% success rates and a current case of corrupt practice for overpaying GSK for patent/racket protection.Simply google cost of nhs 3 years back and then again…and the stink of corpses dying due to negligence at around 1000 per month… Its not health care,its Wealth Care already.
So what do you propose, Sonny? I’m working with lots of other people to resist the government’s pro-privatisation legislation, to keep A&E Departments and maternity units open, and to try and encourage the people of England to demand an open and national discussion about what we want the NHS to be. I think those are all worthwhile efforts.
Sonny Burlas wrote:
I support you in supporting those functions of a health service,though with publicly published accountability. I also work with groups and individuals to prevent long-term illness with lifestyle improvements and simple, proven stress alleviation.The body then heals itself, as it has done for many millennia.I further propose individual health responsibility taught from an early age
Yes, I agree about the necessity for greater education, Sonny, and alternatives to Big Pharma when they exist.
While I’m not dealing with the NHS here in the States, I am dealing with being able to keep my current health benefit. The privatization continues. Within a roughly 25 mile radius from my house are a growing number of private 24 hr. emergency clinics. Naturally some major grocery store chains are offering the same thing, which at first may sound like a good idea for some low income people. However, if you need medication, the same store will charge a 300% markup on medication a basic drug store might still offer.
Please don’t follow the Stateside corporate health approach.
I’m hoping we don’t, Tom, although I’m prepared for more losses, and for there to have to be a fight to try to reinstate a meaningful NHS as part of what will hopefully, eventually, be a movement for a return to people-centered politics.
At the moment, we seem to have lost a coherent opposition party …
wot do you mean by the illiterate sonny wot are you some kinda inchylektuwal,lol,lol
or is that impywectoowal,lol
Yes, I couldn’t make sense of those comments, Damo, despite being some sort of intlecktyoo myself!
We don’t have a political party of the left, we have a few tiny groupings that probably could not get seats in Parliament under pure PR let alone first past the post.
Yes, Thomas, but we need a political party of the left – if not Labour then one that we can’t yet envisage, but that will become a necessity if we are not meekly to accept a return to some sort of feudal society.
but andy i think we are accepting a return to a feudal society ..peoples inactivity and passiveity of the last 10 years is proveing that as i keep ranting ..when are people gonna stand up…?
Sorry, Damo, missed that comment for a moment there, while doffing my cap to the nearest passing nobleman on his fine steed …
lol,lol i know wot you mean andy i often find myself sitting at the foot of the table hopeing to be thrown some crumbs or at least some scraps by a member of the aristocracy,lol,lol
Ha, yes, Damo! That’s their idea of the welfare state.
Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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