Tag Archives: Save the NHS
Doctors are facing the same pension cuts as other public sector workers – pay more and work longer to get less. This attack serves two purposes – it allows them to cut pay, without having to say they are cutting pay and it softens the NHS (and other public services) up for privatisation. The money saved will not go into the pension pots, despite the language the government uses about how pensions are unsustainable and we have to work longer, but will go to paying off the deficit caused by the bankers.
Hospitals will still have skeleton staff to deal with emergencies – in fact there will be more doctors on duty today then there were over the Jubilee weekend or on a normal nightshift. Doctors and other NHS workers do not go on strike lightly, nor would they do so if they thought they were endangering patient’s health. This is the first doctors strike for 37 years.
Being a doctor is a difficult job, because medical research advances so quickly, with new techniques and medicines being developed all the time, and thousands of medical trials conducted every year. This is a particular issue for GPs who need to keep a shallow but general knowledge of all areas of medicine. As we get older, we find it harder to incorporate new ideas and practices into our lives, and get used to the ways we have done things. Making doctors work later to get their pensions could have serious knock on effects on patient care.
Meanwhile, at the University of Birmingham, support staff are on a two-day strike, over a derisory pay offer, which has seen just 77 of over 2,000 staff offered a £250 / 1.9% pay rise, whilst removing shift allowances for evening and weekend work which leaves many people facing a pay cut. Even those who will get a rise will see their wages fall in real terms as inflation which has fallen below 3% for the first time in a few years.
This comes in the context of the university increasing its surplus from £22.3m to £27m per year, and is in a healthy financial position, despite cuts to teaching budgets from central government funds which are being used as cover for reducing the living standards of some of the lowest paid staff at the university, whilst the Vice-Chancellor, David Eastwood enjoys huge pay rises and a salary of over £400,000.
You can support the University strikers by signing this petition.
Both these groups are taking action today against the government austerity program which threatens to send many more people below the breadline, with real wages being reduced further, the continuing threat of workfare and the abuse of apprenticeships to undercut minimum wage legislation.
We extend our solidarity to those workers on strike today, and encourage all other workers who are facing cuts to pay or conditions to push their union to take strike action.
First reported by Eoin Clarke, the story has been picked up by the Guardian, and Right to Work have called a demonstration at Sandwell Hospital on Thursday, from 5pm.
6 people, forced under threat of having their benefits stopped, have taken part in a trial scheme, which has seen them undertake a number of duties including cleaning and running errands but also extending to patient care in non-clinical areas, helping with meals and drinks.
Ravi Subramanian, the head of Unison, West Midlands, said:
Far from Tory claims to protect the NHS, Birmingham and Sandwell hospital trust is being forced to find savings of £125m over the next five years.
Thousands of staff are facing the prospect of losing their jobs and wards are closing. Now the hospital is making moves to deliver healthcare on the cheap, by using people on work experience to help with patient care. Patients and staff will rightly be very worried about the standard of patient care as this scheme is rolled out.
When we signed up to the Boycott Workfare campaign, we did so on the basis that we believed that workfare would be used to cover for cuts, with people on benefits being forced to do unpaid work in order to keep the money they need for food, fuel and rent. People who refuse to take part in workfare schemes face benefit sanctions of up to 6 months, although pressure on the government from campaigners and legal challenges has seen sanctions removed from some of the schemes.
With unemployment remaining at high levels, no sign of economic recovery and a continued commitment to austerity from the ConDem coalition, we can expect to see more of this, unless we make such a huge outcry now that it is not politically viable for public sector organisations to continue to take part in workfare schemes.
Today the Telegraph has reported that the £5bn work programme is failing, as employers are reluctant to expand their workforce in the face of economic uncertainty. The Telegraph reports that only 20% of people sent on the Work Programme find work, and there is no data as to whether these jobs are temporary or permanent. One thing is clear, that the work programme does not improve people’s chances of getting a job, and is an expensive waste of taxpayer’s money.
The issue with the NHS is not just about the exploitation of unemployed and disabled people, or about the fact that this is taking the place of paid positions, it is also about threats patient care and cuts to the NHS. We implore everyone who can to come along on Thursday and say No to Workfare and No to NHS Cuts.
Thursday 24th May at 5pm
Sandwell Hospital, West Bromwich, B71 4HJ. Assemble at the corner of Little Lane and All Saints Road, outside the A&E dept.
Save our NHS West Midlands and the Birmingham Mail both reported on the event, which took place under the cover of the entrance to the ICC at centenary square as we sheltered from the rain (having missed the hail storm thankfully).
At one point police asked demonstrators to move out from underneath the cover, a request that was roundly refused on the basis that we didn’t want to get caught out by the weather! You can watch some videos of the protest by Birmingham Citizen TV.
Of course, Lansley didn’t pay us a visit on his way in to the conference. Still hurting from the heckling he received at the RCN conference on Monday, and perhaps mindful of this incident, Lansley decided not to take the opportunity to try to defend the fragmentation and privatisation of the Health Service his NHS bill is bringing, nor to explain why he is seeking 20% efficiency savings in the most efficient health service in the world, how staffing cuts have led to the use of workfare labour in Birmingham hospitals, or why he supports regional pay, which 99.2% of Nurses voted to oppose.
However, when Lansley spoke inside, he was heckled over his decision not to release the risk register
He and the rest of the coalition will find it increasingly difficult to avoid the backlash to their disliked and harmful reforms as patient care suffers like it has at this Birmingham Dialysis unit.
Perhaps it is because this will not be an isolated incident that Lansley has vetoed releasing the risk register, a decision the Information Commissioner says “is unjustified and departs from policy” and may have far reaching implications for freedom of information in the UK.
Lansley is responsible for the Health and Social Care Bill, which is currently passing into law, having been voted through by the Tories and Lib Dems, despite the legislation not being in either manifesto, and David Cameron having said that there would be no top down reform of the NHS.
Already the vultures are circling, with Virgin Health and Serco picking up contracts to run NHS services. The cap on private patients in NHS hospital has been raised to 49% and the responsibility for the provision of healthcare services has been removed from the Secretary of State for Health (they now only have to “promote” healthcare services – creating the legal space for the complete privatisation of our healthcare, and the reduction of the NHS to a brand or insurance provider).
Lansley has vetoed the release of the risk register, which examines potential problems with the legislation. This is despite court orders to release it as the information is in the public interest so we can better understand the effect that the changes will have on our healthcare.
Has this been blocked because it reveals that patient care will suffer, as it has for dialysis patients in Birmingham following the outsourcing of the service, or because it reveals the huge risk of healthcare companies going bust, like Southern Cross did in social care – leaving the taxpayer to pick up the bill.
Are they refusing to release it because it shows that the cost of health care will spiral as we hand money over to shareholders in the form of profits, and as administrative costs rise. In the USA, they pay more than twice as much per person for healthcare as we do.
The NHS is the most efficient healthcare system in the world, with among the best patient outcomes. It is not perfect, and can be improved. We need to examine how we can pay for rising healthcare costs associated with an aging population and with ever increasing medical knowledge that finds new treatments. But every single NHS workers organisation – all the doctors and nurses that deliver healthcare – are against the bill, repeatedly calling for it to be withdrawn in its entirety.
These reforms are not the right way to go – moving towards a privatised healthcare system modeled on the expensive and ineffective US model of private insurance with minimal state provided cover.
Join us on Tuesday to continue the fight for the NHS. The bill has not yet passed into law, though the changes it creates are already being implemented. We can make this issue the coalition’s Poll Tax, and reverse the changes that have been made before consulting with NHS workers about how to change the NHS for the better, and not in order to line the pockets of private companies and consultancies like McKinsey.
The first is a call to recruit 5,000 more midwives. This is particularly relevant in Birmingham, where the womens’ hospital recently turned away pregnant women due to staff shortages.
The second is a petition to drop the NHS reform bill, in the light of recent refusals by the government to release risk register reports because they would have had implications for the success of the policy getting through parliament.
Given that the full implications of the NHS reform bill were not available to MPs or Lords, the bill should be dropped.
The BMA have stated their further opposition to the reform bill after draft guidelines on commissioning were released, which they say will remove power from GPs, and hand it to private organisations.
You can keep up with NHS news and campaigns locally with Save Our NHS West Midlands
The government is just weeks away from destroying the NHS forever. This is an emergency. On Sunday October 9th at 1pm, join UK Uncut on Westminster Bridge and help block the bill.
A free coach is available from Birmingham – email BrumUncut@Gmail.com, call Kerry on 07835 602 575 or attend this facebook event, and Kerry or Tom will be in contact this week to confirm and give final details.
Additional: a free coach will also be going from Telford. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to book a space on that.
On one side of Westminster Bridge is Parliament. On 7th September, MPs in the Commons voted for the end of the NHS as we know it. Yet the coalition’s Health and Social Care bill was not in the Lib Dem manifesto. It was not in the Tory manifesto. None of us voted for this.
On the opposite side of the bridge is St Thomas’ Hospital, one of Britain’s oldest medical institutions. If the bill passes, hospitals like St Thomas’ will be sold to private corporations, the staff put on private payrolls and beds given over to private patients. Despite the government’s lies, this bill represents the wholesale privatization of the NHS and, with it, the destruction of the dream of comprehensive healthcare provided equally to all.
On October 11th, the bill moves to the Lords, and a huge Liberal Democrat rebellion is brewing. We have one last chance to save our NHS.
On Sunday 9th October, just days before the bill moves to the Lords, join UK Uncut in a spectacular act of mass civil disobedience to block the bill. By blocking Westminster Bridge we symbolically block the bill from getting from Parliament to our hospitals. Yes, it will be disruptive. Yes, it will stop the traffic. But this is an emergency and we have to shout as loud as we can.
Get to the middle of Westminster Bridge shortly before 1pm. When Big Ben strikes one, pick one of the tactics below and help block the bridge:
- Bring some fake blood and play dead
- Bring hospital radio to the bridge with some music and comedy
- Bring a nurse for a resuscitation skill-share
- Dress up in scrubs and perform an operation
- Enjoy a picnic overlooking Parliament
- Share stories about the the NHS
- Invite a friend from across the pond to describe the reality of a privatised healthcare system
- Invite older generations to describe a time before universal healthcare
- (if you’ve got other good ideas, email them to email@example.com)
Invite everyone you know to the Facebook event, and make sure you click ‘attending’. UK Uncut will be in close contact with St. Thomas’ before and during the protest to ensure access for emergency vehicles.
It is really important that as many people as possible attend this protest, we cannot let the NHS get destroyed without a big demonstration. In Birmingham, we held a demo at QE hospital, and Save Our NHS West Midlands were busy lobbying local MPs in August in the run up to the commons vote, but the only national demo was a rather underwhelming candle lit vigil called by the TUC.
This is the last opportunity to stop or change the health care bill, and we have to take it.
A free coach is available from Birmingham – email BrumUncut@Gmail.com, call Kerry on 07835 602 575 or attend this facebook event, and Kerry or Tom will be in contact this week to confirm and give final details.
Join the free coach from Birmingham, and take part in this action.
Please be prepared for a kettle. Hopefully the police will allow people to leave at 4pm, which is the time that UK Uncut have said the protest will finish, however everyone who goes should be ready to be stuck on the bridge well into the evening. As such, please make sure that you take warm and waterproof clothing, food and water, and be aware that toilet facilities may not be available. If there is a Kettle, Birmingham Uncut (who are running the coach) will be in contact with the driver to ensure that the coach will wait. Th return time is provisionally set for 6pm, but will leave as soon as everyone is back.
It is really important that we are not intimidated by this prospect and that we do not allow the police to prevent us from standing up and saying loudly and clearly that we did not vote for these reforms, that we do not want them, that we stand with the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Nursing, UNISON, UNITE and over 400 public health experts who today wrote an open letter calling for the bill to be withdrawn, as well as pretty much every other professional medical association, in calling for the bill to be scrapped in its entirety.
You should also write to Peers. Save Our NHS West Mids are gathering a list of local peers, but for now you can use the TUC Adopt A Peer website to get details of someone to write to – they also have a model letter for you to use, although it is always best to write your own if you can.
Campaign group 38 Degrees has paid for legal advice on the Health and Social Care bill, which goes to the house of commons for its third and final reading on September 6th & 7th.
The legal findings underline what campaign groups have said since the bill was first revealed, and which haven’t changed over the consultation period, which is that these reforms open up the NHS to wholesale privatisation, begin the removal of universal health care provision and pave the way towards the creation of a US style healthcare system – a system that has been shown in two recent studies to be worse than the NHS (Commonwealth Fund report: US Ranks last out of 7 countries on health system performance and Bournemouth University report in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine that finds the NHS to be amongst the most cost-effective systems in the world).
We do not have long to work to get this bill defeated in its vote next week. Save Our NHS West Midlands and 38 Degrees are calling for people to write to their MPs with these legal findings. You can get an easy email link and model letter from the 38 Degrees website.
We also call for people to write to the Birmingham Mail, Solihull Observer and other local papers to make sure this issue is in the news.
Locally we must focus on the two Liberal Democrat MPs – John Hemming and Lorely Burt in Yardley and Solihull constituencies. John Hemming has already indicated concerns over EU competition law, and any MP can be persauded to vote against a bill if they feel there is strong local opposition to it. The Health bill does not form part of the coalition agreement so there is no reason for them to vote for it because of the coalition agreement.
What follows is simply a repost of the 38 degrees legal findings for you to read:
In July 2011, 38 Degrees members donated to fund independent legal advice on the implications of the government’s proposals to change the NHS in England. 38 Degrees engaged Harrison Grant solicitors and the specialist barristers Stephen Cragg and Rebecca Haynes to give their legal opinions on two aspects of the Health and Social Care Bill: The removal of Secretary of State for Health’s Duty to provide or secure provision of NHS services and the impact of competition and procurement law on the NHS.
This document summarises some key findings. The full legal opinions and executive summaries are available to download in the right-hand column.
1. Removing the Secretary of State’s Duty to Provide
What our lawyers have identified within the Health and Social Care Bill:
The bill will remove the duty of the Secretary of State to provide or secure the provision of health services which has been a common and critical feature of all previous NHS legislation since 1946. This is the means by which Parliament ensures the NHS delivers what the public want and expect. Furthermore, a “hands-off clause” will severely curtail the Secretary of State’s ability to influence the delivery of NHS care to ensure everyone receives the best healthcare possible.
What this could all mean:
No longer a National Health Service
The duty, that Parliament has given the Health Secretary, for ensuring that the NHS provides the service that people need will be lost and the NHS will from here on in simply be little more than a series of quasi-independent commissioning entities and providers, basically free to get on with the job
Loss of Accountability – The Government washes its hands of the NHS
Removing the Secretary of State’s legal duty to provide or secure provision of health services, and introducing a “hands-off clause”, significantly reduces democratic accountability for the NHS. The responsibility for securing the provision of healthcare services will lie with unelected commissioners who will only be accountable to an unelected national quango. The bill will make it impossible for the Secretary of State to direct that certain services are available and difficult for the Secretary of State to step in if these groups deliver poor healthcare to the local community. These changes would shift the main responsibility to unelected officials, representatives of private companies and GPs.
Loss of Accountability – Local representatives and health watchdogs lose their right to appeal
Because the Government is removing the Secretary of State’s duty to ensure the NHS delivers an appropriate service, appeals from locally elected council bodies and health watchdogs will no longer be decided by the Secretary of State but – if any rights of appeal survive – by a national quango.
Because of changes in the bill there is a real risk of an increase in the “postcode lottery” nature of the delivery of some NHS services. The power to choose what health services are closed or improved in a local area will be passed on to local unelected bodies with little scope for the government to intervene. This will mean patients can no longer expect the government to ensure a consistent level of healthcare regardless of where they live.
2. Opening the NHS up to competition law
What our lawyers have identified within the Health and Social Care Bill:
The Bill contains a number of measures which will increase competition within the NHS at the expense of collaboration and integration and/or make it almost inevitable that UK and EU competition law will apply as if it were a utility like gas or telecoms. This includes:
■ giving Monitor the duty to eliminate so-called “anti-competitive” behaviour
■ removing the limit on the amount of income NHS hospitals can earn from private health services
■ handing significant new procurement responsibilities to the new Clinical Commissioning Groups
■ permitting these new groups to outsource commissioning work to private companies
■ writing additional rules on competition into the law and making Monitor enforce them
What this could all mean:
Exposing the NHS to UK and EU Competition Law
Taken together, these changes increase the likelihood of NHS services being found by the courts to fall within the scope of UK and EU competition law. The likelihood of this is further increased by other government NHS policies, for example the extension, announced in July 2011, of the right of Any Qualified Provider to be given a contract to deliver health services.
Costly and complex procurement procedures
The new commissioning groups will be subject to EU procurement rules whenthey commission local health services. This is likely to be costly, given the likely larger numbers of commissioning groups as compared to PCTs now and our Counsel warns that it appears the government have not planned for this significant increase in cost. Furthermore, it is not clear that the commissioning groups have the necessary procurement expertise to deal with the complex procurement process and to avoid legal action from disgruntled private healthcare providers. This could mean that the NHS ends up spending a lot of time and money fighting legal action instead of investing in patient care. Or worse, it could mean they are reluctant to commission any services for fear of being sued.
Fertile ground for private health companies (and their lawyers)
Companies that bid unsuccessfully for NHS contracts will be able to challenge commissioning decisions in the courts. Private health providers have far more expertise and legal capacity than either public bodies or charities, and so are likely to be best placed to exploit these laws. Litigation could be time-consuming and costly for commissioning bodies.
Opening our NHS to private companies – privatisation by stealth
These plans will lead to a system geared heavily in favour of private companies. The legislation does not currently contain measures to stop:
■ private companies being contracted to provide commissioning services to consortia and therefore profiting from spending multi-million-pound health budgets
■ private companies poaching services in a way which undermines the ability of the NHS to deliver essential services like Intensive Care Units, A&E, emergency cover, teaching, training and research.
Around 100 people attended the public meeting, chaired by Sandra Carter from GMB, held by Birmingham Against the Cuts yesterday (26th may).
Jack Dromey – Labour MP for Erdington – was the first speaker, and he spoke about a broad range of cuts happening around the region due to the £212million council budget cuts this year. He talked about cuts to social care, telling us about meeting some people who were going to have their care withdrawn and how “the stories were truly heartbreaking”. He also mentioned the victory in the court which should prevent some of the care being withdrawn for now at least.
Amongst other cuts he mentioned the closure of Advantage West Midlands, saying
It is an act of economic madness to abolish an organisation that for every £1 invested produced £8.14 in wealth
His sternest vitriol was reserved for the bankers, who continue to profit at the expense of ordinary people, and the coalition administrations both nationally and in Birmingham.
He finished calling for people to fight back, particularly against the idea that there is no alternative (that he has dubbed TINA) and the kick them out – of Birmingham in 2012 and national government in 2015.
The next speaker was Doug Morgan from NUT, filling in for Alex Kenny. Doug spoke passionately about the ballot for strike action and the need for a yes vote, citing strikes in Tower Hamlets and Camden which have won small victories recently.
He spoke of the need to continue action against the government and said that
March 26th was not the end of the movement. It was the beginning of the end of this government
He said that the 3oth June being a huge strike, and that it was important to call for a larger movement on the day, and that he is expecting to see 10,000 people on the streets of Birmingham.
The NUT will be balloting on pensions, and Doug debunked some myths about “gold=plated” public sector pensions.. I think he said that the average was around £4,000 / year (Doug, I hope you read this and can let me know if I’ve remembered wrong because for some reason I didn’t write this down!).. and told us that these pensions – which he described as ok, were the only thing holding private sector pensions (“rubbish”) up at all – if public sector workers pensions are reduced there will be less pressure on the private sector to keep theirs where they are, let alone make them better.
He also said that attacks on public servants were attacks on public services and so everyone should support the strikes, and called for unity between the private and public sectors.
David Hughes from Unison was next up, talking about the upcoming ballot for strike action over contract changes at Birmingham City Council.
This council is intending to slash and burn council services in this city
The ballot will be over contract changes that will cut away allowances for evening, night and weekend shift work, meaning that some workers will lose 1/3rd of their pay. Library assistants for instance, will lose £2,700/year.
There are also changes which will allow the council to place someone at any job within their paygrade, no matter what the location or times of work.
He said the cuts would be devastating and quoted a union member who told Unison
Me losing this money will mean me losing my home
Unison are balloting for strike on the 30th June
There was then a slight break in speakers as Pete Duffy, treasurer for Birmingham Against the Cuts made an appeal for donations to help us pay for the meeting, and for the production of leaflets in the run up to June 30th. You can find out how to donate on our website here
Vici Whittall was next up. She works for PCS at the admin office for the West Midlands regional prison service and she spoke about the privatisation of the prison. Birmingham and Featherstone prisons are going to be outsourced to G4S — a private firm.
Pensions under threat, no pay rise for two years and now we’re being privatised
She also said that more prisons are to be market-tested – a process where the prison bids against private sector companies to provide the service.
They will also be balloting for strike action on 30th June – over pensions as part of PCS, rather than over the privatisation of the prison service I think.
On 30th June we will be demonstrating alongside striking workers – see our facebook event
The final speaker was Dr John Lister from Health Emergency, who spoke passionately about the fight to save the NHS, mentioning the 700 bed job losses that we demonstrated about on Monday as well as other cuts around the country.
we were told … they were going to ringfence and protect the NHS. Nothing could be further from the truth
£20bn “efficiency savings” means cuts of 4% every year for 4 years – something that Dr Lister said had never been done anywhere in the world. He also told us that the chair of Monitor (a new organisation setup to promote competition within the NHS) has said he thinks it will need to be £30bn.
He also told us of cuts to community mental health care in Hackney and Tower Hamlets, where 50% of staff – 100 posts – are going to go. Of those 100 posts, 8 are admin or managerial – 92 are frontline job cuts. He described this as a
Brutal, vicious cut that will wreck the lives of vulnerable people
He spoke of how cuts to backroom staff took away the people the frontline staff need support from to be able to do their jobs.
Amongst other cuts he mentioned that Primary Care Trusts want to cut hospital usage by 15% (with A+E usage wanting to drop by 40%!).
Alongside the cuts is Lansleys health bill. and Dr Lister sums up his feelings to that by saying
I don’t want to see Lansley’s bill substantially changed, I want to see it substantially in the bin, along with Lansley
A new campaign has been launched by people put in touch by 38 degrees for our area – Save our NHS West Midlands. I think many people will be taking action on the NHS – we had a demo on monday, and tomorrow, UK Uncut have a national day of action, with an event in happening in Birmingham at 11am.
I’m sure there will be lots of activity from plenty of groups over the forthcoming months as we seek to kill the bill and stop the cuts that will wreck our NHS.
There was then an unfortunately short time for people to speak from the floor (I’m not sure exactly why but it seems there was some miscommunication between us and the council house as to what time the meeting was to end). Charlie Friel spoke of the connexions strikes, saying they had reduced redundancies from 70 to 35 and stopped compulsory redundancies.
Bob Williams-Findlay from Disabled People Against the Cuts spoke about the attacks of the condem government:
They are creating a new victorina era, where if you can pay you live, if you can’t you die
Richard Hatcher spoke of the attack on the education system from academies, saying that this was a strategy to privatise the education system.
Finally, Simon Furze spoke of the demonstration on 18th September at the Liberal Democrat party conference in Birmingham, that it will be a regional demonstration built with the support of anti-cuts groups from around the West Midlands.
If you wanted to say something but were unable to, please make a comment on this post and I’ll link it up on facebook
Sorry for the lack of pictures..
JOHN LISTER on fighting Lansley’s Health Bill and the dismemberment of the NHS
ALEX KENNY on fighting the proposals to make workers work longer and pay more for a lower pension
VICI WHITALL & BRIAN CLARKE on fighting the plans to privatise Birmingham prison
CAROLINE JOHNSON on fighting the imposition of the new ‘Martini’ contract which would dramatically worsen pay and conditions
JACK DROMEY MP on the Labour Party’s Alternative
Chair: Sandra Carter GMB Union
plus discussion from the floor
Tomorrow, The Council Chamber, Birmingham Council House, Victoria Square