Defend London’s NHS Protest on May 18 Coincides with Savage Cuts and Possible Collapse of A&E Departments

Please attend the march at 12 noon on Saturday May 18, 2013, from Jubilee Gardens (on Concert Hall Approach near the South Bank Centre) to Whitehall, where there will be a rally outside Downing Street at 2pm. The marchers will cross Waterloo Bridge and walk up The Strand to Whitehall, and NHS campaigners, politicians and union representatives will address the crowd from an open-topped bus. See the Facebook page here and the website here.

The irony could hardly be starker. Across London, and countrywide, cuts begun under the Labour government and aggressively continued under the Tories are wreaking havoc on the NHS. Nor it is only politicians who are to blame, as the cuts are enthusiastically endorsed by senior NHS officials.

As I have been reporting here since October, when plans to disembowel Lewisham Hospital were first announced, across the capital A&E Departments face closure or downgrading, even though the need for them has never been greater. In addition, the closure or downgrading of A&E will have a horrendous knock-on effect for the millions of people affected — as frontline services also close, and, to give just one example, maternity services are cut savagely, as only births regarded as safe can take place in hospitals without emergency services.

This is what is planned for Lewisham, where the recently refurbished A&E Department is to be closed, leaving just one A&E Department, at the distant and already overstretched Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, to deal with the 750,000 inhabitants of three London boroughs — Lewisham, Greenwich and Bexley — including, of course, babies and children as well as adults. Read the rest of this entry »

This was the Week the NHS Died, and No One Cares

Need Not Greed: Save the NHSKeep Our NHS Public"The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it"Stop the sell-offNHS not for saleSave Lewisham Hospital public meeting
The panel for the Save Lewisham Hospital public meeting

Save the NHS: A Protest Outside Parliament, and a Public Meeting in Lewisham, a set on Flickr.

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 »

Save the NHS: Photos and Report from the Lobby of Parliament on March 26 to Scrap the New Regulations Enforcing NHS Privatisation

Hands off our NHSReject Section 75 regulations: Defend our NHSCaring for the NHSBBC! Where are you???Defend Haringey Health ServicesSave Charing Cross Hospital!
Stop the great NHS sell-off!Save our hospitalsSave Lewisham HospitalSave Lewisham A&ENHS campaigners call for the government to drop NHS privatisation plansStop killing our NHS
Guerrilla advertising to save the NHSCaroline Lucas MP at the Parliamentary lobby to save the NHS on March 26, 2013Brian Fisher GP at the Parliamentary lobby to save the NHS on March 26, 2013Save the NHS

Save the NHS: The Lobby of Parliament on March 26 to Scrap the New Regulations Enforcing NHS Privatisation, a set on Flickr.

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 »

Intimations of Mortality Revisited; or Why I Will Always Fight to Save the NHS

Two years ago — at noon on March 18, 2011 — I gave up smoking after chain-smoking for 29 years. It was one of the best things I ever did in my life, along with giving up drinking (nearly five years ago), and meeting my wife and having a child.

When I gave up smoking, I did so because I was admitted to hospital after two and a half months of severe pain in my right foot, which, in the last fortnight before my hospital admission, had become so excruciatingly painful that I literally couldn’t sleep. I wrote about it at the time, in an article entitled, “Intimations of Mortality” — hence the reference in the title above, as I revisit this crucial period of my life.

I had developed a blood disorder, which had manifested itself as a blood clot, cutting off the blood supply to my right foot — first to my big toe, and then to my middle toe. It took two months for me to be admitted to hospital, but, when that happened, doctors and consultants in St. Thomas’s Hospital saved my toes, and I was discharged after spending about a week and half being pumped full of drugs and gazing across the River Thames at the Houses of Parliament (as the photo above shows). Within three months, my toes had healed, and I contributed to keeping myself alive by giving up smoking, and, I think, by somehow “managing” the indignation I feel about the injustices of the world, an indignation that had led to me discovering, in my late 30s, that my calling was to be an independent journalist and activist — on civil liberties, human rights abuses, and social justice. Read the rest of this entry »

The Destruction of the NHS in North West London

Yesterday’s news was expected, but it still hit hard. Last June, the Joint Committee of North West London Primary Care Trusts proposed the closure of four of the nine A&E Departments at hospitals in north west London, and on Tuesday, despite vigorous campaigns throughout the area against the proposals, the committee confirmed that, as the Evening Standard put it, “Hammersmith and Central Middlesex hospitals will lose their A&Es permanently while Charing Cross and Ealing will be left with a downgraded urgent care centres which will not accept emergency patients.”

This really is an alarming development, as it will leave three of the eight boroughs in north west London — containing about three-quarters of a million people — without a major hospital, out of the 1.9 million people in the whole of north west London. In addition, removing hospitals’ ability to deal with emergencies essentially sounds the death knell for those hospitals, as a huge range of hospital services rely upon emergency admissions and the ability to deal with emergencies. In Lewisham, for example, where similar cuts have been approved, at least 90 percent of the mothers in the entire borough (4,400 a year) will no longer be able to give birth in Lewisham itself, despite it having the same population as Brighton, Hull or Newcastle.

Following the announcement about the north west London hospitals, Andy Slaughter, the MP for Hammersmith and the secretary of Save Our Hospitals Hammersmith and Fulham, said, “This is the biggest hospital closure programme in the history of the NHS. It will put lives at risk across West London and will give a second class health service to 2 million people.” He also stated, “There will be no A&E in the London boroughs of Hammersmith, Ealing or Brent, which together have a population the size of Leeds.” Read the rest of this entry »

Defend London’s NHS: MPs, Doctors and Activists Describe An Unprecedented Threat to the NHS

Defend London's NHS: the press launch in ParliamentDr. Louise Irvine speaks at the launch of "Defend London's NHS"Andy Slaughter MP speaks at the launch of "Defend London's NHS"Save Our Hospitals, HammersmithSave Charing Cross HospitalKensington & Chelsea TUC
Strawberry Thieves ChoirSave Our Hospitals: the march in HammersmithRoses are red, Violets are blue, We need our A&Es kept open by you

Defend London’s NHS: A Week of Action, a set on Flickr.

Last week, from February 9 to 16, campaigners across London — in Lewisham, in Hammersmith, in Ealing, in Archway and in Kingston — who are fighting to save essential frontline services from the government (which is committed to the destruction of the NHS), and from senior NHS management (who have forgotten what the NHS is for), came together as ”Defend London’s NHS,” an unprecedented coalition of MPs, unions, campaigners, patients, doctors and other health workers.

In the inaugural week of action, there were events on Saturday February 9 outside Ealing Hospital and Central Middlesex Hospital (between Brent and Ealing), which are two of the four A&E Departments (out of nine in total) that face the axe in north west London, along with the two hospitals in Hammersmith — Charing Cross and Hammersmith itself, and there were also protests and events throughout the week, culminating in a rally in Lewisham on Friday (see my photos here), and rallies in Hammersmith and Kingston on Saturday.

The Parliamentary launch of “Defend London’s NHS”

However, the week of action’s central event took place on Monday February 11, when “Defend London’s NHS” was launched in the House of Commons. At this event, the speakers, who included the doctors Louise Irvine, the chair of the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign, and Onkar Sahota, the chair of the Ealing Save Our Hospitals campaign, and two MPs, Andy Slaughter and Heidi Alexander, were united in their recognition that the NHS currently faces an unparalleled threat, greater than at any other time in its 65-year history. Read the rest of this entry »

Save London’s NHS: Week of Action Begins – Join Us in Parliament on February 11

As a week of action begins to raise awareness of the threat to NHS services across London, with A&E Departments and other services at risk from Ealing to Lewisham, the new Save London’s NHS campaigning group has issued a press release providing further information to add to the information I made available in an article last week, Defend London’s NHS: Join the Week of Action from February 9 to 16. With a press conference in the House of Commons officially launching the week of action tomorrow (February 11), I’m posting the press release below:

Patients and doctors unite in defence of London’s A&Es: Week of Action at hospitals across capital

This is to alert you to the launch of a new London-wide coalition of doctors, patients and health workers opposed to the downgrading of A&Es and other vital hospital services in the capital.

Angered by the ‘divide-and-rule’ policies of NHS bureaucrats and politicians that set one hospital against another, Defend London’s NHS is calling for a London residents to come together and defend all their services. Read the rest of this entry »

Defend London’s NHS: Join the Week of Action from February 9 to 16

Update February 7: The “Born in Lewisham” event mentioned below will be taking place at a later date. Instead, Save Lewisham Hospital have another event organised for the week of action: a rally at the war memorial opposite Lewisham Hospital on Friday February 15 at 1pm, to which everyone is invited.

From February 9 to 16, a coalition of Londoners from all points of the compass are uniting for a Week of Action in defence of London’s NHS services — and in particular, a number of endangered A&E Departments. Defend London’s NHS describes itself as “a non-partisan, residents-led campaign group bringing together Londoners from Islington to Greenwich, from Ealing to Hackney and beyond.”

As the umbrella organisation’s press release explained, “An unprecedented coalition of London residents, medical staff, trade unions and health campaigners has come together to raise the alarm regarding the biggest threats to A & E’s, maternity units and in-hospital care for a generation. The week-long actions will include protests, pickets, rallies, demonstrations, candle lit vigils, musical events and more.”

The organisers also noted, “Londoners have lobbied MPs to ensure that cross-party members of the House of Commons as well as the House of Lords participate in the Week of Action.”

On February 11, 2013, there will be a press conference, called by Defend London’s NHS and Andy Slaughter, the Labour MP for Hammersmith, at the Jubilee Room, House of Commons, from 10am to 11.45am, at which the full details of the threats to  London’s NHS services — and the very existence of a number of hospitals — will be discussed. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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