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2016 and all that

By shalondon, Jan 15 2016 11:12PM

Dear Everyone

Wishing you a happy and productive 2016!

After the sheer joy of my friends in the Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Choir reaching Number 1 ( thanks to the publicity efforts of our member Neil Nerva's daughter Harriet and the lovely Joe Blunden from Lewisham Hospital's comms team ) London has suffered the sudden joint loss of super-talents David Bowie and Alan Rickman in a sad and surreal synchronicity - even down to them havng the courage to hide their medical conditions from the wider world, despite the challenges that must have brought. Those friends who have shared touching anecdotes of working and social encounters with them have demonstrated just how important thoughtful personal connections are in life. Here is a most touching tale about our late Labour friend from Peter Hyde MP.

In the political and health field we have certainly found ourselves in the midst of an instant flurry of activity.

On the down side you will of course have seen that within just 8 days of the new year that UK has already breached its full annual quota of NO2 - the worst offending places ( recorded ) being in London @CleanAirLondon

The monitoring equipment in Oxford St, which was in all probability the first to fail the target mysteriously broke down the day before the recording was due. On past track record where particulates have been attacked by water/glue to stick them to the pavement away from the monitoring device, this is unlikely to be a coincidence. Putney High St then came in as a close second.

it is for every good health reason that Sadiq Khan highlights the need to address London's air quality as a matter of urgency.

Sadiq Khan Campaign

Many of us were out bright and early on return-to-work Monday morning distributing leaflets about the Boris fares hike - and more of this is in store!

On the first Thursday of the New Year I joined more than 100 other Londoners at the new Sadiq Khan operations base in Westminster, fast followed by the first Sadiq SuperSaturday which was hosted by Hammersmith CLP. The positive response from voters we spoke to was an exciting start to what I know will be a 2016 ccampaign fizzing with energy and dynamism.

The Sadiq Khan Campaign phone bank - with added biscuits and banter - takes place each week on Mondays and Thursday 6.00 - 8.00pm.

If you would like to volunteer to help in phone banks or at the many doorstep sessions which are

planned - here's the place to do it

the London Region Consultation Event just prior to Christmas, which was well attended and very productive. SHA London submitted a paper outlining the key current and future challenges to the London health economy and a range of suggestions to counter them,


Now that the hectic autumn and shuffles are behind us, I am once again able to plan a calendar of events around Shadow Health diaries. The first two are :

Tuesday, 26th January 6.45 - 8.45. House of Commons

Maintaining public health in the face of a falling budget

Shadow Minister for Public Health, Andrew Gwynne

Hammersmith & Fulham Air Quality Project

Labour Campaign to End Homelessness

Murad Qureshi AM

All welcome - as usual we will also be inviting our friends from relevant affiliate group

February meeting - 9th February 7.00 - 9.00 House of Commons

Shadow Minister for Care, Barbara Keeley

Fiona Twycross AM

Hammersmith & Fulham Council care service rep.

Care specialists tbc

At Central Council in Bristol it was decided that the national SHA will campaign on the care crisis - so this meeting will now fit into that project.

Labour Campaign for Mental Health @Labour_MH

We are planning to continue our working partnership with the LCMH which will link up with the work of Luciana Berger - you will I'm sure have noted the debate she held which highlighted the crisis in the service - and particularly CAMHS. Norman Lamb had attempted to do something the previous week, but the fact that he is one of the architects of the previous governments' assualt on these services is not exactly a positive calling card.

Junior Doctors #juniorcontract

Of course the most high profile issue at present is the Junior Doctors Contract - and the revelations by the Independent's Charlie Cooper that Hunt had pressurised Sir Bruce Keogh into introducing doubts about commitments to a rapid response to terror in the event of strike action - which for me holds shades of their similar manipulation over the Lewisham Hospital issue where '100 lives saved' figures where misappropriated.

You may also have seen the clip on our News page which shows a Dept Health spinner telling a Sky reporter that he may not ask where Jeremy Hunt has been hiding. A quite extraordinary occurrence.

Since the large demo on October 17th which I know many of us attended, the issue has hit the national consciousness like no other - and for very good reason.

Now we sadly find ourselves in the midst of the first industrial action by junior docs in 40 years, purely in the face of Hunt's outrageous tactics and brinksmanship.

Despite what Hunt and the media are saying, senior staff will ensure safety through providing additional cover.

It was good to see several of our members at the BMA for discussion about the issues with the BMA's Johann Malawana and many of us were out on the frontline at various hospitals across the capital. Johann Malawana @JohannMalawana and Roshana Medhian @RoshanaMN ( a really gt organiser!) are the ones to follow for the most up to date information.

Student Nurse funding #BursaryorBust

A good number of our members were on the Saturday march where we converged on St Thomas' before the march on Downing St with Shadow Secretary of State Heidi Alexander ( @heidi_mp ) supporting a large number of nursing students, unions and campaign groups.

London MPs Neil Coyle, Ruth Cadbury and Wes Streeting ( who was invited to speak ) and Assembly Member Fiona Twycross also SHA member ) accompanied in support.

@coyleneil @RuthCadbury @wesstreeting @fionatwycross

In London we have an increasing crisis with an horrendous 10,000 nursing vacancies

Aside from the government's mismanagement of the NHS, this is also due completely unaffordable housing costs which have seen such a huge hike under the 8 years of Boris' Mayoral tenure and which are impacting on the recruitment and retention of all key workers. If the proposed measures on nursing student funding, the junior contract and the compulsory return of migrant medical workers earning under £35k all go ahead, the NHS will clearly become a shell of its former self. I know that our members are highlighting all of these risks.


Sadiq has quite rightly highlighted this as a primary area of concern for London. As he said in the

Housing Bill debate last week, which the government manipulated into 2/3am vote - entrenching

£450k as an 'affordable' starter home is just unacceptable and indeed scandalous.

This was closely followed this week by the tragic vote which rendered the basic right to a decent home illegal - so as it now stands there is now no minimum standard of accommodation to which landlords must comply. This Dickensian model has serious health implications.

You may also like to check out the work Karen Buck ( MP, Westminster North @KarenPBuckMP ) is doing to highlight the structural and health hazards which go with the trend to develop large scale subterranean basements in old terraces.

Labour Campaign to End Homelessness

On New Years Eve, I joined the LCEH team to distribute essential food and warm clothing to rough sleepers in Camden & on the The Strand. Many had been looked after by Crisis at Christmas up until 29th, but we were told by The Met in very positive terms that we were the only team out working on the streets on NYE. Over 200 rough sleepers were engaged with - a difficult testimony to the fact that rough sleeping more than doubled during the last government. @LCEH2030

London Young Labour Conference

Our Vice Chair Dr Aysha Raza addressed Conference this year on a range of womens' issues - including the challenges for BAME representation within politics.

Fabian Womens Network - namely how to enable more women to become part of the political world.

On 19th January the 5 year assessment of the highly regarded Fabian Womens Mentoring Programme, founded by Seema Malhotra, will be launched. The Birkbeck report 'Footsteps in the Sand' gives us many examples of success.

The Fabians New Year Conference will take place this coming Saturday, 16th January.

There is a wide range of speakers, including Jeremy Corbyn @FabianWomen

Climate Change & Flooding

Our hearts go out to those areas of the country which have been hit by hideous levels of flooding. With the changing weather patterns no community can be deemed entirely secure, with very clear health implications. On Wednesday I attended the Select Cttee hearing where the Environment Agency chiefs were interviewed. As Angela Smith MP exclaimed after a v poor standard of responses

'who on earth appointed you to this post?!'. I'm sure our friend and long term member Rachael Maskell, (York Central @RachaelMaskell ) would concur.

We must now be thankful that Sir Philip Dilley has since resigned and can only hope a more suitable replacement will be appointed.

Climate Change and flooding is of course a health issue and we need to do our best to ensure that the government takes on board the urgent need to protect households and also re-consider further building on flood planes. Here is the London flood risk analysis supplied by our friend Murad Qureshi AM, Environment chair

Most worryingly, when seen in tandem with fracking, the public health danger is considerable because of the risk of contamination of the water supply. An article in the Independent today also reveals that insurers are planning to refuse to cover contamination costs to housholders living within 5 miles of any fracking site.

Given the government has signed up to COP21 - we can see that they are hardly committed to the principle.

Barry Gardiner (Brent N @BarryGardiner ) Shadow Minister for Energy & Climate Change heavily criticised their sudden change of stance - indeed a turn on a sixpence between Monday - Thursday of the same week.

For those of you who have been following the very sad case of 7 year old Zane Ghangbola who died in the Chertsey floods, it seems that evidence suggesting an attempted cover up of hydrogen cyanide has now been revealed by Leslie Thomas QC (who also acted for the families of Bobbi & Christi Shepherd who died as a result of CO poisoning in Corfu).

As a result, the coroner has now postponed the full inquest until June.

On the same day, there were 3 very interesting debates in Westminster Hall, all of which involved matters of health and human rights:

The appalling mistreatment of Palestinian children arrested in the night and imprisoned without parents present or legal help was highlighted by Sarah Champion @SarahChampionMP , supported by Andy Slaughter @hammersmithandy and a raft of other MPs from London and nationally on a cross party basis. As a result. she has now secured a full debate in the House of Commons.

Visits to The Jungle in Calais have been made this week by both Andy in his role as Shadow Minister for Human Rights and subsequently also Keir Starmer ( Holborn St Pancras @Keir_Starmer ). Andy secured a debate and also flagged up the even worse conditions in the Dunkirk camp.

The 3,000+ unaccompanied children are at great risk and based on my prior work as a children and young peoples' specialist I do believe that the whole situation is in breach of the UN Rights of the Child.

For those who cannot make the trip but wish to help in practical terms over and above donations, friends of my son who works in the theatre are holding simple shelter building workshops to replace tents in liaison with Medecins Sans Frontieres. Clearly we hope that these jungles are soon unnecessary, but in the interim a sturdy wooden construction will to an extent help to prevent the rise in disease and poor health in these sites. ..

Finally, Kate Osamor ( Edmonton @KateOsamor ) held a debate about the disgraceful treatment of women and children in Yarl's Wood - male guards are allocated to womens' quarters and maternity services are in a shocking state - as highlighted by the RCM.

Each of these debates highlights the dedicated work which Labour MPs are doing aside of the press focus on internal matters.

TfL Bill

you may have spotted that in his Autumn Statement, the Chancellor entirely withdrew TfL support funding which means he wishes the organisation to behave like a private company. This is of course deeply concerning for a variety of reasons.

The premise of the objections to the aspects of the Revived TfL Bill to engage in aggressive developer offshore agreements which will leave no community or householder safe from securing their property or environment still stand.

Their approach to dismantling the Earls Ct community and their lack of attention to health, safety and risk assessment in the Lewisham Gateway development give us fair warning.

You will also note that both Clive Efford ( Eltham @cliveefford) and Matthew Pennycook ( Greenwich @mtpennycook ) are opposing the current proposals for the Silvertown Tunnel on mainly environmental reasons

I will continue to work in this regard with Andy Slaughter, John McDonnell, the RMT and the other private objectors.

You can follow each phase - including its prior incarnation - here :

London Ambulance Service

I attend the LAS consultation forum.

You will be aware that the service is now under Special Measures following a damning CQC report in November, citing poor response times and a culture of bullying amongst other worrying issues.

The 20% paramedic vacancy rate due to a combination of inaffordable housing and workplace stress & fatigue has resulted in supplementary recruitment drives in Australia and New Zealand, which are attracting applicants, though many need re-training, which is slowing down deployment.

It is to be hoped that the new CEO Fionna Moore will be able to fully address these issues in the face of aggressive govt cuts.


London Fire Brigade Consultation

Whilst we would prefer that the cuts were not on the agenda - do contribute thoughts which may minimise their damage

Just prior to Christmas I was asked to speak at the Stratford Picture House on the Future of the NHS in a debate with a speaker from the Social Market who favoured privatisation and competition. The audience was largely in tune with the view I presented.

These events are organised by Cllr Susan Masters ( @NewhamSue ) who also runs Newham Save our NHS with which we have established links.

The NHS Bill

Previously known as the Reinstatement Bill, the NHS Bill 2015 is to be scheduled for a second reading debate on March 11.

This Bill is sponsored by Caroline Lucas

NHS Commission proposals.

You may have noted that on Wednesday Norman Lamb presented a Bill to bring health and social care together under an independent commission, staing that it would take the NHS away from 'political interference'. As I watched him I could not but help recall the times when he used to stare daggers at me whenever he encountered me from the Front Bench or in Bill Committees - or even in corridors.

To be frank, the thought that Alan Milburn, Stephen Dorrell and some of the sadly now more hard nosed charities should be running our NHS is for me deeply concerning. I'm not entirely sure this would be much of an improvement or have more of a chance of introducing those key measures which urgently need to be addressed - indeed, I fear it could increase the hold of privatisation rather than secure our services for the future.

This Bill is sponsored by Lamb and supported by all the Liberal Democrat MPs, by Caroline Lucas, Jim Shannon, Philip Lee and Ivan Lewis.

Finally we must of course not forget to keep an eye on TTIP developments - there are conflicting views as to whether the NHS will be safeguarded at EU level or whether we will be reliant upon our government to do so - clearly the current incumbents being big fans of opening up to futher competition and privatisation. The debate in the Commons just before recess shone a lens onto the insidious ISDS.

You will also find the details of the statement on the Southern Health deaths requested by Heidi Alexander of Jeremy Hunt just prior on the same morning.

We also now know that just 10 Conservative MPs have voted in an obscure committee to get rid of student maintenance grants - which will result in the least well off having to take out expensive loans and therefore pay more to access post 18 education than their wealthier counterparts. Yet again this government turns the good sense and logic on its head to create a climate of stress & intimidation.

With the dawn of 2016 barely over, one thing is clear we must above all be vigilant and focus our energies on safeguarding what we can from the most aggressive government in memory - and beyond.

Jos Bell

Chair, SHALondon

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