Save Lewisham Hospital: Please Get Involved in “Justice for Lewisham Week,” June 29 to July 5, 2013

Next week (from June 29 to July 5) is “Justice for Lewisham Week” in the London Borough of Lewisham, where the hospital that serves the 270,000 inhabitants has been under threat since last October, when Matthew Kershaw, an NHS Special Administrator appointed to deal with the debts of a neighbouring NHS Trust, the South London Healthcare Trust, through legislation known as the Unsustainable Provider Regime, decided that one way of doing so would be to severely downgrade services at Lewisham (unconnected to the SLHT except by geographical proximity), shutting its A&E Department and axing 90 percent of maternity services along with all acute services.

At the end of January, Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, approved the recommendations, but the people of Lewisham — myself included — refused to give up. Campaigning has continued relentlessly, and two judicial reviews were launched in response — one launched by Lewisham Council, and another by the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign. £20,000 was needed for the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign’s judicial review, which was raised by supporters of the hospital, including Millwall F.C. and other people (including 6,000 supporters of the campaigning group 38 Degrees) who understand that Lewisham is a test case for what the would-be butchers of the NHS can get away with (both in the NHS’s own senior management, and in government).

The judicial reviews will be taking place in the High Court in London from Tuesday July 2 to Thursday July 4, and the campaign is calling for people from the community to attend the hearing each day, and also for a big group of people to be there at the start of the proceedings on the morning of July 2nd. Please email Dagmar to sign up. 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 »

Last Chance to Save the NHS: Will the House of Lords Stop the Government’s Wretched Bill?

How did we end up in this mess? A majority of those who work for the NHS, at every level, and a majority of the public, believe that Andrew Lansley’s wretched NHS reform bill — technically, the Health and Social Care Bill, but more colloquially, and accurately, known as the NHS privatisation bill — should be scrapped, but the legislation appears to be unstoppable.

The latest group to oppose it was the the Royal College of Physicians (RCP), who, just last week, voted to stop the bill. 69% (6,092 respondents) rejected it in its current form, and, breaking that down, as the Guardian described it, “49% (4,386) said they wanted the RCP to ‘seek withdrawal of the bill,’ while slightly fewer — 46% (4,099) — said it should ‘continue to engage critically on further improving the bill.'” Typically, the Tories attacked the RCP findings, because only 35 percent of members had responded, but ministers should not forget that less than a quarter of the British people who were eligible to vote in the General Election in 2010 voted for the Tories, who clearly do not have a mandate for anything they are doing.

Lansley’s NHS bill was temporarily halted last spring for a “listening exercise,” after the first wave of antipathy towards it, and it has since been subjected to so many amendments that it doesn’t even make sense to healthcare professionals, but its central aim — of enforcing increased competition in the NHS — remains intact, and, as is clear from an examination of who stands to gain from it, it is not the patients, but the private companies with whom, of course, many in Parliament are far too intimately involved. Read the rest of this entry »

Four Days Left to Save the NHS: Petitions, Protests and Lobbying the Lords

Time is running out. As I have been explaining throughout this week, it would be great if there was a huge turnout at Saturday’s protest against the Tory-led coalition’s butchering of the NHS. which may be on the statute books by Tuesday without further concerted effort. So please, if you’re in London, or can make it to London on Saturday, come to the Save Our NHS! demonstration outside the Department of Health, from 2.30 to 4.30. 

And there is more. David Owen — Lord Owen — has tabled a crucial, last-minute amendment calling for the passage of the bill to be halted until the government releases its risk register, and there has been time for that important document to be scrutinised carefully. This is a hugely important development, and, as I explained yesterday, Lord Owen has a firm grasp of how passing the bill now, without the risk register being released (despite a tribunal twice ordering the government to release it) would be the third great constitutional outrage committed by the government — following David Cameron’s lie about not allowing a top-down reorganisation of the NHS on his watch, and the stealthy implementation of aspects of Andrew Lansley’s rotten NHS reform bill before it has even been passed by Parliament.

To help peers decide why they should be on the right side of history, Dr. Éoin Clarke, on his blog The Green Benches, has been encouraging supporters of the NHS to contact members of the House of Lords to ask them to support Lord Owen’s amendment. With the help of a widget designed by the activist Brian F. Moylan, it takes just a quarter of an hour to email every peer who might be persuaded to defeat the government on Monday, and I urge you please to send emails to the peers if you have just 15 minutes to spare. Read the rest of this entry »

Killing the NHS: Why Are The Tories Getting Away With It?

In the US, because of that country’s notorious fetishization of self-reliance, it has been appallingly easy for would-be exploiters to portray anything cooperative as being Communist, with the result that the gulf between the rich and the poor is horrendous, healthcare is a privilege and not a right, and it is possible for weird, self-defeating movements like the Tea Party to persuade ordinary people that is somehow a good idea to slavishly empower the same super-rich people who have treated them with disdain for three decades and outsourced all their jobs in search of greater profits for themselves and their shareholders, and then conjured up the greatest theft in history through deregulating the financial sector.

In the UK — the US-lite, in so many ways — it has taken a while for Tea Party-style self-defeating stupidity to take root, but successive governments — and their corporate advisors — have long been fascinated by the profits to be made in following the hyper-capitalism of the US, and, following the deranged property-driven bubble of the Labour years (which almost everyone bought into, and which is still preserved in the inflated house prices in London and the south east), the Tory-led coalition government now appears to be succeeding in its efforts to con British voters into accepting an artificial, ideologically driven “age of austerity.”

In this latest cynical assault on the British people, the Tories and their cowardly or deluded Lib Dem accomplices — while largely shielding the City thieves and corporate tax-avoiders from public scrutiny — have managed to persuade voters to believe that “we’re all in it together” in having to “tighten our belts,” even though those making these pronouncements are wealthy Etonians whose face fat alone ought to indicate that they’re not “in it with us” at all. Read the rest of this entry »

Save the NHS: As Lib Dems Vote to Support Tory Privatisation Plans, The Last Hope is the House of Lords

When the history of Britain’s first modern coalition government is written, it is fair to say that two events in particular will mark the turning point in the fortunes of the Liberal Democrats, when swathes of the population came to regard them as hypocritical and untrustworthy. The first of these was, of course, the vote last December to raise university tuition fees from £3,290 a year to £9,000 a year, and to withdraw all funding from arts, humanities and social sciences, when, as I reported at the time, 27 Lib Dem MPs voted for the rise in tuition fees (including 15 ministers), while 21 voted against, five abstained, and three were out of the country. Crucially, as I also explained, “The vote was won by 323-302, so just 11 more dissenters were needed for the vote to have been lost.”

Given that the Lib Dems had actively campaigned against any kind of rise in tuition fees, and that this was a major manifesto promise, with the party as a whole going so far as to pledge the abolition of fees, and thereby gaining a large number of young voters, this capitulation was a death sentence for the party’s credibility, and one from which it may never recover.

On Andrew Lansley’s wretched Health and Social Care Bill, otherwise known as the NHS Privatisation Bill, to those of us who think that privatisation, where intended, should be exposed for what it is, the Lib Dems were not faced with such a stark manifestation of hypocrisy and capitulation in voting for the bill on its third reading. This was because they had not made a specific manifesto promise to protect the NHS from the Tories, although they did promise to “protect frontline services such as cancer, mental health and maternity despite a squeeze on the NHS budget,” as the BBC explained prior to the General Election last year. 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 and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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