Rare Good News for the NHS: Government Accepts Lords Amendment Removing Hospital Closure Clause from Care Bill

Last week there was some rare good news about the NHS, which I’m posting belatedly because I was too busy last week, and also because I want to make sure that my approval is on record. I’m also posting it because, let’s face it, those of us who care about social justice have few victories to cheer about.

The victory in question was the government’s acceptance of an amendment to Clause 119 of the Care BIll — generally known as the “hospital closure clause” — which is designed to prevent neighbouring hospitals to those facing grave financial difficulties from having their services cut without local consultation.

The circumstances in which this would have occurred involved hospitals close to those subjected to the appointment of a special administrator because of severe financial problems — under the Unsustainable Providers Regime that was first launched in south east London in October 2012. In that case, the Trust Special Administrator, Matthew Kershaw, proposed savagely cutting services at Lewisham Hospital to help pay off the debts of a neighbouring, but otherwise unrelated trust, the South London Healthcare Trust, which had hospitals in the boroughs of Greenwich, Bexley and Bromley. Read the rest of this entry »

Save the NHS: Sign the Petition to Stop Jeremy Hunt Closing Hospitals at Will + Lewisham Hospital Xmas Single

Please sign the petition to save our hospitals!

Just over 13 months ago, residents of the London Borough of Lewisham launched a campaign against proposals — by senior NHS managers — to severely downgrade services at Lewisham Hospital. To pay for the debts of a neighbouring NHS trust, the South London Healthcare Trust, which had nothing to do with Lewisham (and were, in part, because of ruinously expensive PFI deals for two new hospitals), Matthew Kershaw, an NHS Special Administrator, appointed by the outgoing health secretary Andrew Lansley, proposed closing Lewisham’s A&E Department, which would have had a catastrophic effect on all other acute services. Lewisham’s acclaimed children’s A&E Department would have closed, and nine out of ten mothers in a borough of 270,000 people would have been unable to give birth at Lewisham Hospital, in case there were any complications. The A&E chosen to replace Lewisham — at Queen Elizabeth Hiospital in Woolwich, one of the SLHT’s financially troubled hospitals — is miles away, and would be required to serve not just the population of Greenwich and Lewisham, but Bexley as well, a total of three quarters of a million people.

Through a campaign led by a wonderful team of activists, local residents and medical personnel, and 25,000 people prepared to march through the streets of Lewisham in January this year, the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign — and Lewisham Council — eventually won. Although Jeremy Hunt, the current health secretary, approved Kershaw’s proposals in January, the campaigners and the council launched two judicial reviews, on the basis that the legislation used to deal with the indebted trust, the Unsustainable Providers Regime, didn’t allow the government to draw neighbouring hospitals into plans for dealing with failed NHS trusts.

The Lewisham campaigners secured a powerful victory in the judicial reviews, in July, but Hunt then appealed, losing again in October. This should have been the end of the story, but the ghoulish Hunt is back for a third time, this time with what is being called the “hospital closure clause” — Clause 118 of the current Care Bill, which is being debated by parliament next week. Read the rest of this entry »

Government Climbdown Over Plans for Enforced NHS Privatisation

Please note: Although I took an optimistic tone in this article, the truth is that the revised regulations are still toxic for the NHS, and intended to usher in the wholesale privatisation of NHS services through legal means. Please see this article — and photos from a lobby of Parliament on March 26 — for further details, and please get involved to save the NHS.

Life under the Tories is so miserable, and the assaults on the very fabric of British life so unrelenting, that it’s rare for a ray of sunlight to shine through.

Yesterday, however, NHS campaigners secured victory in a campaign to prevent the stealthy passage of legislation designed to enforce competition on almost all aspects of NHS business, largely as a result of pressure exerted by members of the public. Just two weeks ago, campaigners began setting off alarm bells across the internet — by email, on websites, and via social media — about regulations relating to section 75 of the wretched Health and Social Care Act, which the government hoped would pass stealthily, without debate, and which, in the words of the campaigning group 38 Degrees, “would force local doctors to open up almost all NHS services to private companies,” breaking cast-iron promises made by the government when the bill was passed, without which it would have been derailed.

The quote from 38 Degrees comes from the petition that was launched last Monday, February 25, which currently has nearly 250,000 signatures, and which secured nearly 120,000 signatures in the first 24 hours.

As the Guardian reported yesterday, however, “Ministers have been forced into a humiliating climbdown on plans for more private sector involvement in the NHS just four weeks before they were due to come into effect.” Read the rest of this entry »

URGENT: Save the NHS Now! Legislation Enforcing Privatisation Will Be Passed in a Month Unless We Act

UPDATE 7.30pm, Feb. 25: The campaigning group 38 Degrees has now launched its own official petition calling for a debate on the provisions for implementing enforced competition in almost all NHS services, which the Tories had been hoping would pass in a month’s time without even being noticed. There appear to be no depths to which these butchers of the state will not sink. Please sign this and share it as widely as you can. It already has nearly 20,000 signatures, and the target is 60,000 by the end of today. Note: This petition is in addition to the one launched by Charles West, mentioned below.

Where is the outrage in the mainstream media?

For the past week I have been receiving messages via email or on Facebook from concerned friends and/or organisations warning me that the government is sneakily pushing through new legislation which will force all Clinical Commissioning Groups — the GP-led practices, which, from April, will be responsible for 80 percent of the NHS budget — to go through a marketplace for all new NHS service contracts.

As the campaigning group 38 Degrees explains in an urgent new petition, regulations relating to section 75 of the wretched Health and Social Care Act (Andrew Lansley’s NHS privatisation bill, which was passed last year) “require virtually all health provision to be carried out in competitive markets, regardless of the wishes of either local people, GPs or local Clinical Commissioning Groups. They contradict assurances that were given by health ministers during the passage of the Act that it did not mean the privatisation of the NHS, and that local people would have the final say in who provided their NHS.”

The silence in most of the mainstream media regarding these plans — in the BBC, for example — has been deafening, although today, the Daily Mirror has become involved, with an article entitled, “Tories’ hidden privatisation plan revealed,” and on Friday, in the Guardian, Polly Toynbee’s contribution was an informative article entitled, “The Lib Dems must not stand for any more lies over the NHS,” in which she noted how NHS dissent over the Health and Social Care Act was only quelled through public assurances from ministers that there would be no enforced privatisation of services, which “seemed convincingly cast-iron.” Read the rest of this entry »

Disgusting! As Tories Lurch to the Right, Criminal Jeremy Hunt Takes Over Health

Please sign the campaigning group 38 Degrees’ open letter to Jeremy Hunt, warning him not to mess with the NHS.

Sometimes it’s almost unspeakably depressing to be living in England, in a dystopian fantasy that no one voted for, with a useless coalition government of the Tories and the Lib Dems that required Frankenstein-like engineering just to come into being.

Yesterday was one of those particularly depressing days, as David Cameron shuffled his cabinet and lurched even further to the right. Of course, there is desperation in the Prime Minister’s manoeuvring, and we should be thankful for that. Cameron has not got rid of George Osborne, of course, as he is the prime architect of the Tories’ economic policy, which involves allowing the rich to hoover up whatever they can, including that which has been secreted offshore, while obliging the rest of us to have to try and prise five pound notes out of Osborne’s hands, who it turns out, has the tenacity of a corpse with advanced rigor mortis. However, when 48 percent of voters recently gave Osborne a vote of no confidence, it was obviously significant. Cameron may be the whey-faced buffoon who can come up with an opinion at any time of the day or night, but Osborne is the whey-faced buffoon in charge of economic policy — Gordon Brown to Cameron’s Tony Blair, if you will.

48 percent of voters recognised the toxicity of Osborne, thereby providing a stunning vote of no confidence in the government, but he remained in place in the reshuffle while other buffoons got shifted around or axed. Andrew Lansley, who trailed the Chancellor with a 37 percent disapproval rating in the Guardian/ICM poll on August 28, was shifted out of health, to be replaced by Jeremy Hunt, who had a 24 percent disapproval rating as culture secretary. Michael Gove (on 36%) keeps his job as the butcher of education, Kenneth Clarke (on 28%) was replaced at justice by the incompetent employment minister Chris Grayling, and William Hague (on 21%) kept his job as foreign secretary. Read the rest of this entry »

The Fight for the NHS Isn’t Over; It’s Only Just Begun

Although the mangled corpse of Andrew Lansley’s wretched NHS reform bill was passed by Parliament a month ago, the fight to save the NHS is far from over.

On the afternoon of April 24, the campaigning group 38 Degrees, which mobilised over half a million people to oppose the government’s plans to hack up the NHS and flog off as much as possible of it to the private sector, organised, at short notice, a public meeting in London to discuss the future of the NHS, and to draw attention to another meeting taking place nearby — a conference organised by Capita and United Healthcare, two of the companies that stand to gain from the carving up of the NHS. Over 22,000 38 Degrees members sponsored the event, each paying £1 to put it on, which is a great example of people power.

The event, entitled, “Citizens and CCGs: Exploring our Future,” was chaired by Guardian journalist Zoe Williams, whose report (which managed to be informative despite striving to find humour where there is none) began by stating, “I always thought this was Andrew Lansley’s true genius — not the dismantling of the NHS itself, not the dark hold he has over David Cameron, but the phrase ‘clinical commissioning group,’ or more ingenious still, ‘consortia.’ If you can jam three words together that all take a bit of unpacking, that’s often enough to make anybody normal walk away.”

That’s true, but those who want to save the NHS do need to grapple with the basics of Lansley’s intentions — to hand over to groups of GPs (CCGs) the budget for “commissioning the medical services they decide their patients need.” With “one member of a CCG, Dr David Wrigley; the leader of the Medical Practitioners’ Union (in Unite), Dr Ron Singer; Dr Louise Irving, newly elected to the BMA council; and Roy Lilley, a founding member of the NHS Trust Federation,” the panel chaired by Williams discussed how to oppose the Act. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

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 (The State of London).
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