April 2014

Call for Action—for a democratically accountable, membership led SHA

The Socialist Health Association’s January Central Council (CC) and March AGM have highlighted serious issues of governance and accountability within the SHA, problems which remain to be addressed. The AGM did not adopt either the Treasurer’s or the Auditor’s report and merely noted the Director’s and Chair’s reports.

The SHA is a democratically accountable membership organisation.

In the light of concerns about previous elections January CC agreed that the 2014 election would be tightly managed including a more formal and more clearly labelled call for nominations to go out. This did not happen.

In response to concerns raised that the CC included individuals with potential conflicts of interest through NHS-related consultancy and business work, the governance group requested that all candidates for election to be formally required to declare all relevant interests. This did not happen.

Requests were made by the governance group to confirm the list of eligible members and make these list accessible to all Branches. This did not happen.

In accordance with the Constitution, any CC members who had consistently failed to attend meetings were to be reminded of their duties and rendered ineligible for election. This did not happen.

Emails have been seen which appear to indicate that the Director disseminated selective information to individuals or branches, which would have influenced the outcome of the election. We seek credible reassurances that this did not happen

During the past year at a time when health policy and the NHS was at the top of the political agenda the SHA national body has not been visible on any of the major issues affecting the NHS in England.

No clear position on how the H & SC Act should be repealed. Likewise no clear view on Lord Owen’s Bill to re-establishing the Secretary for Health’s requirement to provide a full and comprehensive health service is forthcoming. No clear position has been taken on the care data issue, nor on Section 75, nor on Clause 119, nor on PFIs, nor on the dangers of the EU/US treaty, i.e. the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), on the health service.

The SHA is a democratically accountable Labour Party Affiliate.

Do members of CC and Officers accept that the current governance arrangements including the lack of legal structure, lack of clear line management arrangements,  lack of communications oversight, lack of policy formation oversight carry significant risks, not least in terms of reputational damage to individuals, the SHA, and the Labour Party, as per the Governance Groups report and recommendations?

The work of the Governance Group evidence based, comprehensive and rooted in good practice, including other Labour Party affiliates. The views of the entire SHA membership had been sought on this work.

The group met with officers and staff and invited constructive suggestions on several occasions.

The group was told by officers that its work and recommendations were broadly welcomed. However the work was then publicly disparaged by Officers and the paid staff. The process was publicly misrepresented by the Officers who claimed not to have met with the Governance Group. The final Governance report was not published to members as requested. Officers instead submitted a separate tranche of changes to the AGM without reference to the Governance Group.

Most of the Governance Group’s proposals received majority support at the Council but not the required two thirds majority. However, this matter will not go away, Council should determine which Governance Group proposals need re-examining.

The GG recommended an Executive is needed to ensure the SHA follows through on decisions of the CC to tackle urgent matters.

 

The SHA is a membership organisation, tasked with contributing to the development of Labour Party health policy.

  •  How has the SHA enabled its membership as a whole, and its Central Council in particular, to effectively and efficiently feed into the LP policy development process?
  •  Does Council recognise concerns that – even taking into account limited resources – the SHA is not amplifying the expertise and experience of its membership, to identify and influence key areas for policy development?
  •  The system of policy formation is weak. Task and finish groups should be set up and supported to ensure this is done effectively.
  •  How is it ensured that public SHA statements are representative of agreed policy? When an SHA spokesperson disregards agreed SHA positions (or opens politically sensitive debates in an erratic fashion) how under the current arrangements – is that addressed and managed?

Concerns were raised in 2011 about how the SHA was being represented online, in public. We draw the CC’s attention to the Communications Protocol accepted by CC in 2011 as a proposed way forward. The issues persisted and in June 2013 the Editorial Board was installed to address these.

The EB was tasked with developing and ensuring best practice in communications and establishing a clear oversight of statements made by those representing the organisation in public. Its work was undermined by Officers.

An (uncosted) Mediation process was proposed and agreed in January 2014 to address what were presented as urgent issues. However, no effective action appears to have been taken by officers to expedite this and three months later these issues persist.

What oversight of the SHA’s online presence does CC propose and what accountability is there for what is published online under the SHA name? Eg in November 2014 the EB requested that a page was removed because it undermined agreed SHA positions four months later the article in question was reinstated without any consultation with CC.

In public representations and communications how does the SHA Leadership currently ensure that public statements promote and do not damage the reputation of either the LP or the SHA?

The SHA is a voluntary organisation and its greatest asset is its membership.

Like all voluntary organisations its effectiveness relies on the contribution and goodwill of its active members.

How has the SHA Leadership encouraged and supported current members who have volunteered to contribute to the work of the organisation and what measures has it taken to recruit new members?

We draw attention to the fact that currently at least three Central Council members are disabled; Central Council should ensure that all meetings are held in an accessible meeting place with accessible transport links – which has not always been the case.

We also note the inconsistencies in re-imbursement of travel and printing costs by volunteer Council members who incurred costs as part of agreed work.

Given the continued under-representation shown to women, ethnic minorities and disabled people, and the fact that members of these groups have highlighted a non equalities-friendly culture, what has the SHA Leadership (Officers and paid staff) undertaken to improve this sitaution and enable and support women, disabled and ethnic minority members to be actively involved in the SHA?

Call for Action

The SHA at UK level needs to consider all these matters. We need an SHA that is fit for purpose. We ask officers and Central Council, as well as the Director, to address these matters urgently and ensure that CC has sufficient time dedicated to discussing these matters at the July meeting of CC or at a specially called for

EGM and decide on necessary actions.

Harry Clarke

Noemi Fabry

Councillor Mike Roberts

Vice Chairs to March 2014

Prof Tony Beddow CC

Vivien Giladi CC

Judith Varley CC

Dr Thomas Fitzgerald CC & Auditor

Ali Syed MBE CC

Councillor Rachel Harris CC April 2013

Caroline Molloy—CC co-opted 2013-14

John Lipetz CC

Reposted for inclusion in the November Central Council meeting.

Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.

One Comment

  1. Anna Tapsell says:

    As this is only my second year as a member of the SHA I am at a complete loss to understand its structure. I have managed to attend only one meeting of the London branch, which is held up three flights of stairs in the House of Commons and you need to find and persuade an attendant to access the lift. At the last meeting some of us couldn’t get in as the queues into the House were too long. I attended a meeting at the Unite office, where the top table were obviously at odds with each other but the programme was unmemorable. I think it might have been an AGM.
    How do our policies evolve and develop? Are there branches, like the London one all over the country and if so, how are their boundaries determined. Should we be coterminous and formalised within our CLP boundaries or within the NHS ones? Are there affiliated members to each CLP and how do they communicate with each other?
    In other words, where is the accountability both from me to the SHA and from you to me as an SHA member and CLP affiliate?

What do you think?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 499 other subscribers

Follow us on Twitter

%d bloggers like this: