Save Our National Health Service !
By shalondon, Feb 28 2015 01:05AM
Firstly, my apologies for the gap in posts, when, as seems entirely the norm these days, there has been so much action in the health world. This was primarily caused by my own need for NHS services. As ever, my heartfelt thanks to Nye and all who have sailed his fine NHS Ship after him.
This has been a notable week – Saturday 28th was replete with NHS campaiging events across the country and on Sunday, St David’s Day has been celebrated across Wales – not least in Tredegar, home of Aneurin Bevan, where they will also take the opportunity to celebrate the NHS. The celebration was supported ( from a regretful distance ) by veteran campaigner Harry Leslie Smith – his fine words having moved the Labour Conference floor to tears with his sad memories of the suffering of his young sister in the days before the NHS. Actor Michael Sheen ( not Tony Blair! ) spoke with incredible passion – he has been making a programme about the Chartist Movement and the need for people to exercise their vote – so participation in 999NHSTredegar - People’s Vote for the NHS event is entirely logical to him.
'They are us - they ARE us!! No one is alone and there is such a thing as society!
There is never an excuse for not standing up for what you believe is right! '
Wednesday 25th was Harry’s 92nd birthday – and on that day, George Osborne gleefully took to the airwaves to announce that the City of Manchester, incorporating Trafford, the birthplace of the NHS, had been granted a £6bn budget whereby the Council would have complete control of its own health budget – completely independent of any national involvement. Coincidentally, £6bn is also the same amount that is estimated to have gone to the private sector via various bidding rounds . It is also the amount that it is estimated to cost us in outsourcing each year. Only 6% of the NHS is in the hands of the private sector says the Kings Fund and the BBC. 6% my a*se says Jim Royle.
Earlier this week Andy Burnham’s team uncovered measures which Hunt had tried to sneak through unnoticed just before Recess, which would enable EU competition law to snaffle every corner of our NHS.
Let us think about these two chessboard moves for rather more than a moment.
The fact that it was the Chancellor who made the Manchester announcement is significant. The fact that few had advance warning was also significant. The fact that Osborne was so visibly excited when he made his announcement is extremely significant.
We know that Cameron and Hunt have a constant refrain that ‘only a strong economy deserves a decent NHS’ – when actually, as Burnham said in his 10 Year Plan – we were able to invest in our public services in a post War era when the economy was in far worse shape than it is now. Health is an investment – it should not be seen as something akin to damage limitation, where the risk is palmed off to a naively excited Council, who really should know better than to fall for this Swiss Cheese filled rat-trap.
There is nothing wrong with a degree of devolution - and indeed local decision making forms a core part of the Burnham Plan – but to be taken advisedly and as part of a co-ordinated plan for the nation as a whole, not the spiteful pre-Election bite off more than the NHS can chew amputation approach.
Our NHS was once a whole – with some private patient and semi independent GPs in the original mix - then the internal market was added by Thatcher to bring in contract cleaners and MRSA, it then expanded under Labour in order to get 2 and 3 year waiting lists down to 18 weeks. Milburn and Hewitt then tinkered and tangled with the internal market – largely it seems for their own profit motive - until in 2009, Andy Burnham took up post and quickly spotted a flaw in the market model. He then began to change the law to reverse the trend, but this was sadly interrupted by the Coaltion who have since jointly driven an External Market Coach and 4 Profiteering Horses of the Apocalypse through the whole set up – teaming the Health & Social Care Act with added Section 75 to destabilise the entire edifice.
Now we have Georgie on Speed , without any reference to the national aspect of our NHS, out of the blue announcing the amputation of the nation’s left foot. Some in Manchester are very excited and some are very scared. Where are the safeguards – both for the City – and for the rest of us? What if the Council is not competent in this area? What if the money runs out? It seems there has been little or no staff or public consultation and the whole thing seems to be an unaccountable done deal between ‘Mancs Devo’ and Georgie Boy.
Public health expert Gabriel Scally reminded us on Twitter that ‘ Manchester Regional Hospital Board was in existence from 1947 to 1974. George Osborne brings it back as yet another extra tier in the #NHS’
Then the next day in response to @SocialistHealth & @karinsmyth - And to whom is the new Greater Manchester Strategic Health & Social Care Partnership Board to be accountable?
Privatisation may well have fragmented our health services, but this is the start of a wholescale chop up. Whenever Georgie is excited, we know that his actions are in nobody’s interests except his special buddies – so we can bet our bottom dollar that there will be further benefits to the likes of Malcolm Rifkind in the arrangement.
On the same privateering theme, when I attended Jeremy Hunt’s oh-so-light-touch interview with Roy Lilley ( ‘this is my friend the Secretary of State for Health – he knows as much about health as I do’ ), the no-Duty SoS declared that TTIP and all types of trade agreement to be an entirely good thing for the NHS. Lilley professed not to understand it and gave no quarter to anyone in the audience who might do. Without anyone having the opportunity to explain that Andy Burnham has received assurance from the EU Commissioner that any government so-minded can protect the NHS and public services from all trade agreements, Jeremy went away happy as can be with a large bottle of whiskey tucked under his under-interviewed arm.
Meanwhile the Tories waste hours and hours of time allocated to the Efford Bill - shamelessly espousing the worst of the filibuster in order to block the Labour members from highlighting the harm the Coalition has done to the NHS. We might know that Jacob Rees-Mogg enjoys Cadbury's Cream Eggs, dislikes Brussels Spouts but has a fondness for runner beans - but how many know the detail of the National Health Service ( Amended Duties & Powers Bill ) 2014- 15. Very few, if the Tories have their way. Compounded in no little part by a large section of the campaigning world having an unfortunate focus on the untimely distraction of the top-down heavy Reinstatement Bill - which aside from not being a Bill but a set of proposals, seems determined to ignore the detail of what the real Bill contains and fails to understand the political worth of waiting until after the General Election to present its thoughts for due consideration. Only that way have any of them a chance of being adopted.
So here we have two high risk moves – neither of which is in any way true to the spirit of Nye Bevan’s NHS – being sped through in the dying days of this most dastardly of Parliaments, accompanied by a curve ball distraction which is focused more on perceived shortcomings of Labour than of the desperate threat presented by an ongoing - and potentially far more damaging incarnation of the Coalition.
This is indeed a recipe for chaos.
The first question is – what else have George and Jeremy got up their sleeves?
The second question is – are we going to be able to put a stop to it on May 7th?
As Owen Jones said at Sadiq Khan’s inspirational fundraiser event last night –
‘ we are in a time when young people receive a text at 6am to let them know if they have any work for the day – we are in an age when the most vulnerable people in society are under constant attack through the bedroom tax and vicious cuts to essential services..... Aneurin Bevan’s NHS is being fragmented and broken. At the same time bankers’ bonuses have doubled and tripled. ......We have just a few weeks to put a stop to it.... We need Labour to win!’
So let’s do it!
with more on this topic to come....
Jos Bell Feb 27th