POSTSCRIPT March 9: Here’s a short video about the “hospital closure clause” the government cynically inserted into the Care Bill to enable solvent successful hospitals near to hospitals in financial trouble to be closed or downgraded without proper consultation. MPs will be voting on Tuesday (March 11), so please act now. Sign and share the petition here if you haven’t already (it has nearly 180,000 signatures). Also, please write to your MP to urge them to vote against Clause 119, and to vote for an amendment tabled by Paul Burstow MP. And finally, if you’re in London, please come to the following protests: Monday March 10, 6-8pm on College Green opposite Parliament, St Stephen’s Entrance, and Tuesday March 11, 11.30am-12.30 on College Green. As the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign explains, this will be a noisy protest, so bring whistles, saucepans etc.
On February 27, 2014, supporters of the NHS handed in a petition to 10 Downing Street, signed by nearly 150,000 people, calling for health secretary Jeremy Hunt to withdraw Clause 119 of the Care Bill (colloquially known as the ”hospital closure clause”), which, if not withdrawn, will allow the government — and senior NHS managers — to “close viable hospitals without proper consultation.”
The handing in of the petition was followed by a demonstration outside Parliament and a Parliamentary meeting attended by Andy Burnham MP, the shadow health secretary, and all are featured in my photos above.
Clause 119 (formerly Clause 118) was cynically tagged onto the Care Bill by the government in autumn after the high court and then the appeals court ruled that plans to severely downgrade services at Lewisham Hospital, as part of the proposals for dealing with an indebted neighbouring trust, the South London Healthcare Trust, were unlawful. Read the rest of this entry »
On Tuesday, the year-long struggle to save Lewisham Hospital from butchers in the government — and in the senior management of the NHS — ended in victory for campaigners, when the Court of Appeal turned down an appeal by health secretary Jeremy Hunt. The government sought to overturn the High Court’s ruling, in July, that Hunt had acted unlawfully when he approved plans for Lewisham put forward last October by Matthew Kershaw, an NHS Special Administrator.
Appointed under legislation for dealing with NHS trusts in severe financial difficulties (the Unsustainable Providers Regime), Kershaw had proposed closing A&E and other frontline services and selling off over half of Lewisham Hospital’s buildings and land as part of a package of proposals to address the financial problems of a neighbouring NHS trust, the South London Healthcare Trust, which has three hospitals in south east London. The result would have been just one A&E Department for the 750,000 inhabitants of the boroughs of Lewisham, Greenwich and Bexley, and a disgraceful scenario in which 90 percent of the mothers in Lewisham (a borough with a population of 270,000) would have been unable to give birth in their home borough.
Responding to the news, Tony O’Sullivan, the Director of Services for Children and Young People at Lewisham, and a member of the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign, said, “This is a complete victory.” Referring to ministers and the Special Administrator, O’Sullivan added, “We always said they were acting unlawfully and undemocratically in using an emergency process to bypass meaningful consultation and destroy an excellent hospital.” Read the rest of this entry »
On Wednesday April 24, the House of Lords voted by 254 votes to 146 to dismiss a motion, proposed by the Labour peer Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, a shadow health minister, to prevent the passage of regulations relating to Section 75 of the Health and Social Care Act (the Tories’ wretched legislation for NHS reform, passed last year), which was sprung on an unsuspecting public back in February.
The reason I call this the week that the NHS died is because the regulations enforce competition on almost all NHS business, paving the way for private companies to swiftly and effectively dismantle it, 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.
It is not strictly true, of course, that no one cares, but I stand by the necessity of such a provocative headline. In fact, a 38 Degrees petition was signed by over 360,000 people, but millions should have been on the streets since the Tories first announced their intentions to destroy the NHS. That, however, has never happened. On the night of the Section 75 motion last week, despite furious lobbying of peers, and some great speeches in support of the NHS (by Lords Hunt and Owen in particular), the last chance to block the legislation was lost. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
Please come to the demonstration to save Lewisham Hospital this Saturday (January 26), and please also send health secretary Jeremy Hunt a quick email, via 38 Degrees, to ask him to save the hospital.
This Saturday, January 26, a huge protest is taking place in the London Borough of Lewisham, in south east London, in a last show of outrage before Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, makes a decision about whether or not to close Lewisham Hospital’s A&E Department — leaving just one A&E, out in Woolwich, for the 750,000 people in Lewisham, Greenwich and Bexley — as advised by Matthew Kershaw, an NHS Special Administrator appointed by Hunt’s predecessor, Andrew Lansley, to deal with the debts of a neighbouring NHS Trust.
Those concerned by this devastating assault on NHS services for the 250,000 people of Lewisham are requested to meet at Loampit Vale roundabout at 12 noon, for a march past the hospital to Mountsfield Park, where there will be a rally, music and a giant petition! Please, please come along if you can!
We know, from the huge turnout for the march to save Lewisham Hospital on November 24 (see my photos here), that the people of Lewisham can show the government what resistance is, when they are provoked, as they have been by these wretched proposals. Between 10,000 and 15,000 people turned out in the driving rain to oppose the plans to shut the hospital’s A&E Department, to cut other services, including intensive care and maternity services, and to sell off 60 percent of its buildings, leaving just the A&E Department at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich to serve the needs of everyone in Lewisham, Greenwich and Bexley. 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 »
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 »
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 »
Despite high hopes that members of the House of Lords would recognise their place in the history books on the side of the people, rather than on the side of David Cameron, Andrew Lansley, their Lib Dem stooges and the corporations who plan to make a killing out of the privatisation of the NHS, the Lords have voted by 328 votes to 213 to dismiss Lord Owen’s amendment, which, in a very reasonable manner, called for passage of the bill to be withheld pending the publication of the transition risk register, which a Freedom of Information tribunal ordered the government to release — for a second time — ten days ago. Not a single Lib Dem peer voted with Lord Owen, and just 27 out of 90 other crossbench peers supported him (see here for the analysis of votes).
The only good news is that, as the Guardian explained, the shadow health secretary Andy Burnham “has secured an additional Commons debate on the Health Bill for tomorrow afternoon on the issue of the NHS transition risk register.”
Announcing the approval of the emergency debate by the Speaker, John Bercow, Andy Burnham said:
Tomorrow’s debate will show the weight of feeling in the country. People care passionately about the NHS and they have a right to know the full implications of the Government’s proposed reorganisation. This Government is insulting Parliament by expecting it to support these plans whilst withholding information that could change the way MPs vote. Read the rest of this entry »
Last week appeared to be another good week for those opposing the Tory-led coalition government’s disastrous and entirely unwanted NHS reform bill, although no one should be fooled, as the government is still determined to press ahead with its terrible plans, even though wrecking the NHS will almost certainly cost them the next election.
First up was the matter of the e-petition launched by Dr. Kailash Chand OBE, a GP and chair of Tameside and Glossop Primary Care Trust. Simply entitled, “Drop the Health Bill,” the e-petition “[c]alls on the Government to drop its Health and Social Care Bill,” and, at the time of writing, it has been signed by 172,483 people, and is open for signatures until May 16.
This is good news, of course, although in order for it to count for anything, the Labour leader Ed Miliband — and shadow health secretary Andy Burnham — had to force David Cameron to honour a promise he made to the British people, and to Parliament. As Jonathan Reynolds, the Labour MP for Stalybridge and Hyde, and parliamentary private secretary to Ed Miliband, explained in an article four days ago: Read the rest of this entry »
Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
Email Andy Worthington
Please support Andy Worthington, independent journalist: