Yesterday, in the Houses of Parliament, a passionate and packed-out meeting took place in one of the House of Commons committee rooms, attended by well over a hundred campaigners for the NHS, at which MPs, doctors and activists spoke, and there were also intelligent contributions from the audience, as, collectively, we tried to work out how, in the short term, to resist the government’s latest plans to privatise the NHS, and, in the longer term, how to save the NHS and build a successful movement to oppose the whole of the wretched age of austerity imposed on us by the Tory-led coalition government for malignant ideological purposes; in short, in an effort to destroy the state provision of almost all services — with one exception, of course, being their salaries and expenses.
The spur for the meeting, and the rally outside that preceded it, is the government’s plan to push through privatisation of the NHS — despite explicit promises not to do so — through secondary legislation relating to Section 75 of the wretched Health and Social Care Act that was passed last year, in which almost all NHS services will have to be put out to tender by the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), the groups of GPs who will be responsible for 80 percent of the NHS budget from April 1.
Although 350,000 people recently signed a 38 Degrees petition opposing the plans (which I wrote about here), and Lib Dem minister Norman Lamb promised that the key regulations on competition in the NHS would be rewritten, the rewritten regulations have barely changed, and they still oblige the NHS to put almost all NHS services out to tender, allowing private companies to begin to devour the whole of the NHS or face legal challenges that they will probably lose, because enforced competition will have been made into a key component of the provision of NHS services. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
On Monday, as I explained here, Matthew Kershaw, an NHS special administrator appointed in summer by the great butcher of the NHS, Andrew Lansley, delivered his draft report on “securing sustainable NHS services” (summary here) — a title laden with spin, as Kershaw’s job was to find a way to carve up the indebted South London Healthcare Trust.
A “super-trust” covering the London Boroughs of Greenwich, Bexley and Bromley, which was ill-advisedly created in 2009, the SLHT had accrued a deficit, expected to reach £207 million by next March, which led to it being placed in administration in July 2012, when the Tory-led coalition government’s “Regime for Unsustainable NHS Providers” was enacted, specifically — in the first instance — to deal with its problems, although if the government can get away with axing entire NHS trusts and let in private contractors, then that is undoubtedly what they will do, and what they have had in mind all along. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s far too easy, nowadays, for people to sit back and let sweeping and deadly political changes take place because they believe that resistance is futile, but if you live in south east London — and specifically in the London Boroughs of Lewisham, Greenwich and Bexley — that really shouldn’t be an excuse any more.
Under plans to be announced today, the solution to the chronic financial difficulties being experienced by the South London Healthcare Trust, based in Greenwich, Bexley and Bromley, is for Lewisham, which has no connection to the trust, to have its A&E (Accident and Emergency) department closed, and for just one hospital — Queen Elizabeth in Woolwich — to run A&E services for the whole of Lewisham, Greenwich and Bexley (where the A&E department at Queen Mary’s in Sidcup closed two years ago); in other words, instead of three hospitals, each providing A&E care for around 250,000 people, one hospital will now have to cater for 750,000 people in total.
With residents of Brockley, where I live, located four or five miles from the A&E department at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, it is certain that, if the plans go ahead, then, at rush hour, severely ill people will die before they can get from Brockley to Woolwich. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
Dr. Gabriel Scally, who resigned in April, also talks of “a very deliberate policy across all of the public sector to roll back the achievements that have been made in this country since the second world war,” and “a systematic downgrading, if not destruction, of civil society in England” by the Tory-led coalition government, as well as speaking about “the circling birds of prey of the private sector seeking to make big profits out of healthcare.”
For those hoping to keep the government’s malignant NHS reforms under the spotlight, the Guardian‘s interview this week with Dr. Gabriel Scally is important. Dr. Scally held a senior position in the Department of Health, as the regional director of public health for the south-west of England, but he resigned in April “as a direct result of his alarm at the coalition government’s health policies,” and “because he wanted the freedom to oppose them,” as he told Denis Campbell in his first interview since resigning.
“The time had come for me to step outside the formal system and do things in a different way,” he said. “My job is helping people live healthier lives in healthier communities, and there are better ways of doing it than participating in the changes that are taking place in the public sector in England.”
He also said, “Since 1993, I’ve been restructured and reorganised eight times, I think, and that’s enough really. Throughout these restructurings I’ve seen a loss of talent, of momentum and of coherence, in both the NHS structures and public health structures.” He added, crucially, “This one [Andrew Lansley’s fiercely opposed Health and Social Care Act] was the final straw.” Read the rest of this entry »
Is there no end to the arrogance of this wretched government? In February, while pushing their vile bill to destroy the welfare state, the Tory-led coalition resorted to dismissing important amendments demanded by the House of Lords by invoking “financial privilege,” an arcane set-up whereby, as Conservative Home explained in a highly critical post, The House of Commons has “‘sole rights’ in respect of financial legislation that applies indivisibly to public expenditure and to the raising of revenue to meet that expenditure.”
Now, in a disgraceful manoeuvre designed to prevent the public from knowing the full extent of the damage to the NHS as a result of the Health and Social Care bill that was passed in March, the government has decided to use its veto — a tactic “used only three times before in the previous decade,” as the Guardian explained — to block an important ruling by the Information Commissioner, who, last November, ordered the government to release its risk register regarding the dangers of its planned NHS reforms. The government appealed the decision, but was ordered to release the risk register for a second time by the first-tier tribunal for Information Rights just a week and a half before the bill was passed.
Furthermore, as I explained a month ago, when the tribunal’s judgment (PDF) was finally made public, it was so damning that it might have derailed the bill had it been made available earlier. As Dr. Éoin Clarke explained on his blog The Green Benches, “I have never read a more damning judgment by a UK court on a government’s flouting of democracy … [T]he court unanimously decided that the NHS Bill was contrary to the Tory manifesto, unexpected, rushed, far reaching, pre-judged and without proper consultation. In effect, the judgment implies that the Tories cynically hid their plans to carve up the NHS prior to the 2010 election. You and I knew that of course, but to read it in black & white from a court judgment is truly unprecedented. This document … is a devastating indictment of the Tory handling of our democratic process. The judges unanimously ruled the Tory government should release the full contents of the NHS Risk Register.” Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
Today, a leaked copy of the first draft of a risk register (PDF) assessing the damage that could follow the Tory-led coalition government’s reckless plans to reform the NHS (which involve devolving 60% of the NHS’s £100bn budget to new GP-led consortia, and introducing more competition into the NHS), was published by the Guardian.
As the axe fell on the NHS last week, with the passage of Andrew Lansley’s wretched NHS reform bill, last minute calls for delays until the risks could be assessed were ignored by the Tories and the Liberal Democrats, even though a freedom of information tribunal had twice ordered Lansley to release the Transition Risk Register, in which civil servants advised ministers about what could go wrong with their plans. Traditionally, risk registers are for internal use only, as they provide “worst case scenarios” that could lead to scaremongering if made public, but there has been such uproar over the NHS plans, which were so potentially damaging and ill-conceived that the legislation took 14 months, and involved hundreds of amendments, that the release of the risk register was justifiable.
Lansley is still refusing to release the final version of the risk register, which was drawn up on November 10, 2010, for reasons that were made clear on February 2 by the pro-NHS campaigner Dr. Éoin Clarkeon his blog The Green Benches, just after Lansley refused to acknowledge the second ruling regarding the risk register. Dr. Clarke wrote: Read the rest of this entry »
With the failure of the last challenge to Andrew Lansley’s wretched NHS reform bill in the House of Commons, where Labour’s emergency debate was defeated by 328 votes to 246, I have to ask: how is it possible, in a so-called democracy, for a government without a mandate to ignore the complaints of healthcare professionals, at every level, and push ahead with a bill that will do more damage to the NHS than anything in the health service’s 64-year history?
Criticism of Andfew Lansley’s bill, throughout the NHS, has been intense from the moment it was first unveiled last January, as I reported last February, in an article entitled, Battle for Britain: Resisting the Privatization of the NHS and the Loss of 100,000 Jobs, and in March the BMA (the British Medical Association), which represents 140,000 doctors and medical students, voted to “call a halt to the proposed top down reorganisation of the NHS” and to “withdraw the Health and Social Care Bill.”
After a temporary halt to the bill, and a fake “listening exercise,” the government resumed its assault on the NHS, as I explained in two articles in September, Save the NHS: Make No Mistake, the Government Plans to Privatise Our Precious Health Service and Save the NHS: As Lib Dems Vote to Support Tory Privatisation Plans, The Last Hope is the House of Lords, in which I quoted Colin Leys, an author and an honorary professor at Goldsmiths College, who, in an article entitled, “The end of the NHS as we know it,” complained that “many, if not most, of the political elite no longer care whether they are carrying out the wishes of the electorate, and barely pretend that we are any longer a democracy,” and spelled out what the bill means: Read the rest of this entry »
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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