I met with some very interesting campaigners last night in the West Country, inspiring me with their tales of victory in overturning the moves to privatise eight Stroud community hospitals and health services (including 3,000 nurses and other health workers). I was at their celebratory social last night and picked the brains of one of the campaigners, which should help me with my work. The lawyer was there who made their case possible. See http://www.stroudagainstcuts.co.uk/ for more information.

It is a tale of not accepting the horrors this government is trying to inflict on the likes of my family, friends and community, pensioners, children, hard-working, unemployed, disabled and young people who rely on the NHS for free health and social care services whenever they need them, not just now but until the day we all die.

In less than five years this government’s health reforms will no doubt see charges introduced for a GP appointment, maybe even charges to stay in hospital overnight. Yet I can not recall anyone mentioning this to me on doorstep campaigning for the Labour Party or in social or family circles. People are either unaware of what lies ahead or maybe feel they can not change things that are already in motion, I really do not know.

Postcode rationing of medication is also on the horizon by the unaccountable CCGs (Clinical Commissioning Groups) private consortia, which meet in private and do not produce public minutes of their proceedings, deciding the fate of our local health service provision.

One of the government’s own ministers said of these CCGs: “To have independent, non-elected quangos responsible for £100bn of public money is simply incredible,” Norman Lamb, minister in the Department for Health.

People need to wake up to what is happening in their country, the lies this government has peddled since day one, in fact from before the Coalition was even formed. The Tories promised ‘no top down reorganisation of the NHS’ before the last general election, then pushed ahead with the biggest reforms of the National Health Service this country has witnessed in 63 years.

None of these root and branch reforms appeared in the Coalition Agreement of 2010. Yet, the LibDems traipsed through the parliamentary lobbies, supporting their political masters this year and the reforms are now law.

I tried my best to shine a light on all of this, over two and a half years of campaigning, which felt like shouting in a locked room with the sound on mute. My efforts to be part of the Save our NHS campaign of this year included a street stall and petition, but I felt pretty much like a lone voice in my area.

Added to this, the national media virtually ignored the issue, despite utter uproar from the Labour Party in the Lords and Commons over the bill and amongst grass roots campaigners across the UK. All the more astonishing considering the serious and damaging ramifications of the Health and Social Care Act (2012).

Of course, after the bill was passed into law, we then found out the huge numbers of Tory and Lib Dem MPs and Peers with personal vested interests in private health companies.

It makes me utterly sick and disgusted. Not just at the system and pernicious Tory Lib Dem Coalition but worried about a seemingly apathetic public, who seem to be resigned to letting the government do whatever they like, without any mandate whatsoever. Again, I ask: why?

The Tories campaigned in the last election for efficiency savings, not the savage cuts we are currently witnessing to public services, jobs, even health and safety laws and cutting at the very fabric of our communities. We are about to see cuts and job losses on an even more monumental scale. 88% of the government’s cuts are yet to come in, £32.5million poundsworth of services to be cut in Bristol in 2013. While charities, gifted with picking-up the work of public sector workers through the Tory hatred of public sector workers and the state providing for the people, the much maligned Big Society has proved to be an utter farce. Meanwhile, charities are facing closure because of the savaging of grant funding.

Community-based charity HAWKS in south Bristol where I work needs £45K in core funding (since Bristol City Council LibDems cut 60% from the Youth Links grants) by the end of January just to keep the doors open in 2013. Any wealthy benefactors out there, please get in touch ASAP. Please get in touch – amandaramsay@hotmail.co.uk or via Twitter @AmandaRamsay

Many of the government’s moves are possible to reject, with the right team of legal and political minds and community campaigners, along with public support. The Stroud campaign had all three.

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12 Comments

  1. Martin Rathfelder says:

    Is it fair to call Clinical Commissioning Groups “private consortia”? Are they any more private or less accountable than PCTs were? It’s not true that they will meet in private. Once they take over they will have to meet in public. And some certainly seem to be more interested in involving the public than most PCTs were.

    1. Which ccgs are more intertested in involving the public than the pcts were, Martin? What exactly are they doing that demonstrates this? Reports I’m getting from across the country see ccgs repeating all the pcts mistakes and adding some of their own (point blank refusals to share info, secrecy clauses, silencing concerns). if you have egs of good practice that could be useful to others struggling with intransigent or evasive and ultimately unaccountable ccgs, please share it?

    2. It’s true CCGs will meet in public when they take over. But they aren’t accountable to the public (unlike PCTs at least in theory) and they clearly know that – i’m being forwarded some unbelieveably outrageous emails from CCG chairs to people just trying to find out what they’re up to! Sadly they are falling into the trap the government is setting, where people will tar all GPs with the same brush of secretive decision making and will be less inclined to defend GPs when they come for them and start scrapping free GP appointments, trying to make us all pay for anything other than some stupid telehealth service (mark my words)….. SHA needs to be investigating all of this a bit more, and defending the ‘reforms’ a bit less, I think! As for the earlier point about markets – yes, that is the whole point, market failure cannot be permitted when people’s health would suffer as a result – or at least, it can only be permitted to the point beyond which it wouldn’t damage the politicians too much. What this means in practice, yet again, is nationalising risk, privatising profit. Huge money will be taken out of system to fund a market despite no evidence of benefit and much of risk. We will be the ones who pay, with cash if we can afford to, with our health if we can’t.

  2. Rob Bishop says:

    Your analysis about Con-Dems NHS intentions is spot on but you’ve only told half the story. It must be remembered that the Labour government of 13 years started the process by progressively introducing the market & competition into the NHS. The principals of NHS, Planning and Cooperation between Hospitals, Services and Workers was swept away in favour of Competition and Markets. Labour opened the door and the Tories kicked it in!
    Although we won a legal victory in halting immediate steps towards privitisation in Gloucestershire the attacks are continuing and a stand alone trust will act like any business, cutting costs wherever possible e.g. South West Pay Cartel. Building links with unions and other anti-cuts groups is now more imperative as this became somewhat secondary in our campaign in favour of the legal approach. There’s no substitute to struggle.

    1. Martin Rathfelder says:

      Was there really much planning and co-operation before people started talking about markets and competition? Did we really have competition and markets? A market implies that unsuccessful providers go out of business. That has never happened in the NHS

  3. Rob Bishop says:

    Hello Martin – there are various NHS Trusts that are on the verge of bankruptcy being saddled with enormous PFI debts and yes hospitals have been taken over by private providers such as Virgin. Under Labour NHSTrusts were established as semi-autonomous business units in their own right and they can go anywhere for services, such as private providers and sell their own services – the market. The Con-Dems are simply extending this policy. The same ‘marketisation’ now applies to GPs. Of course ‘cheap and cheerful’ is the guiding principle so care greatly suffers. On top of this, funding is reduced and savings demanded.

  4. Martin Rathfelder says:

    I’ve only got a few reports from CCGs so far, and I think the picture will be mixed. But the 3 Manchester CCGs, Oldham, and Oxfordshire seem very positive on the public involvement and openness front. It’s plain a Labour Government would want to work with CCGs. They aren’t going to be abolished. So we had better look for examples of good practice as well as bad.

    1. I’m sure there are plenty of warm words but what do these amount to, in practice? For example, is Manchester CCG (or H&WB, for that matter) being open and transparant about rumoured plans to privatise Manchester’s Sexual Health Services?

  5. Rob Bishop says:

    Martin – you raise a good point about the PCT lacking participation but CCGs are not the answer, especially as many of them do not even have representation of the nursing profession on them, which says much. If a government wanted to, CCGs could replaced with democratic boards including elected health workers and community representatives. But as you correctly say, the Tories have a different agenda and Labour will work with this new set up..

    1. Martin Rathfelder says:

      I think Labour will leave CCGs much as they are but require them in some way to be accountable to local councils. They rightly do not want to start a new wave of reorganisation

      1. i wonder on what labour are basing their assessment that local councils are capable of holding clinical commissioners to account? and what they are doing to boost this capacity?

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