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    This week North West council leaders and MPs wrote to the Chancellor asking him to set out plans for what comes next once this lockdown is over. We have been through so much change and uncertainty we deserve to know what lies ahead so we can plan.

    Today, Sunak announced that the furlough scheme will continue at 80% until March. We succeeded in pushing him to give workers what they deserve, not the 13% less that he thought the North was worth.

    This is what we can achieve when we work together and hold the government to account.

    Posted by Jean Hardiman Smith on behalf of Team North West

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    What Impact Will the Second National Covid-19 Lockdown Have On Reducing Covid-19 Deaths?

    This of course must be one of the key questions. Seemingly no-one wants to predict a future lockdown-induced death rate figure. It’s probable that the Covid-19 death rate will not fall in November 2020 as those about to die will already be infected, unwell and in hospital. Some have estimated that the lockdown might cut down the Covid-19 infection rate by up to 75%. But with hospitals filling up with Covid-19, patients needing care for cancer, strokes and heart attacks might have their treatment delayed or cancelled resulting in an increase in non-Covid-19 deaths.

    The exact nature of the lockdown is being disputed by some. Schools do seem to be a breeding ground for spreading infection. In Ealing of the 98 state-funded schools 70 of them have Covid-19 cases. Is keeping the schools open such a clever thing to do? Most pubs and restaurants have invested money, time and continuing efforts in making their facilities compliant with Covid-19 restriction. There is scant evidence that they are prime areas for Covid-19 spreading. Closing them all down for at least a month could finally finish off those businesses that don’t own their properties, and will damage the ‘social’ health of their customers.

    There are, of course, increasingly alternative voices who are saying that the lockdown will not save lives but just delay Covid-19 deaths. This lockdown could go on for months, and might be followed by a series of lockdowns – until a successful vaccine is universally available. This would destroy the economy and create huge financial, employment, social, housing, mental health and physical health problems. NHS services would be decimated.

    The lockdown might be buying us time – but at what cost?

    MENTAL HEALTH

    £400 Million Announced to Revamp Mental Health Facilities

    This initiative is aimed at replacing ‘dormitories’ with en-suite rooms. 21 NHS mental health Trusts have apparently been identified to receive the first tranche of grant funding. Sadly the two NHS North West London mental health Trusts are not on this list.

    Also, of the 40 ‘new’ NHS hospitals recently announced by Prime Minister Johnson only two of them will be mental health facilities.

    £250 Million committed to Introducing Mental Health Support in Schools by 2023

    The targets are to cover 25% of England (1.5 million children) by 2023 and for CAMHS to see 345,000 young people by 2023/24. (CAMHS stands for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services).

    2016 to Date the English NHS Mental Health Workforce has Increased by 13,860

    So said Claire Murdoch at the 20 October 2020 Health and Social Care Select Committee meeting. She ought to know as she is the NHS England (NSHE) Mental Health Director. If you find that figure hard to believe, what is more believable is the number of the extra mental health staff she thinks are needed by 2023. It’s 20,000. This would cast £2.3 billion – if the staff could actually be found.

    NHSE Announces £15 Million Mental Health Support for Covid-19 Nurses and Support Staff

    Claire Murdoch again rather coyly adds that in order to supply the service ‘we will be working with another provider’. Presumably what she means is a private company.

    Mental Health ‘999’ Police Call Outs Up by 41% in Five Years in England

    After years of the Police saying how inappropriate it is for them to deal with the mentally ill, answers to a Freedom of Information request have revealed 301,1444 reported incidents in 2019. In 2015 the figure was 213,513. The biggest increases were in Wiltshire and Lancashire.

    The Royal College of Psychiatrists disclosed in October 2020 that 40% of those waiting for mental health support ended up seeking help from emergency and crisis services.

    NHS Test and Trace

    If it wasn’t so tragic it might be amusing. Just how much longer can Baroness Harding hang on as NHS Test and Trace boss? On 27 October 2020 ‘The Independent’ reported that the Sitel software is clearly not that robust. On Sunday 25 October there was a system fault which resulted in Covid-19 cases not being scheduled for clinical assessment and contact tracing. The fault was still in play on the following day.

    In order for a test and trace operation to be successful 80% of identified close contacts need to be contacted and told to self-isolate. Performance figures released on 22 October 2020 show NHS Test and Trace is attaining 59.6%. The Government claims 300,000 Covid-19 tests are taking place daily and that daily figure will soon reach 500,000. Even if we all believe these figures, what’s the point if 80%+ timely contact tracing and self-isolation isn’t happening?

    Only 15.1% of those tested received test results within 24 hours. In June 2020 Prime Minister Johnson said he wanted 100% test results within 24 hours. 7.1 % of those tested were found to be Covid-19 positive – the highest figure yet.

    Seemingly one of the Government’s approaches to problem solving is to throw much more money at the problem. Briefly an advertisement lingered in the public domain searching for a new boss to ’deliver Trace operations’. The recruitment agency Quast’s advertisement stated its client (DHSC)  was offering £2,000/day (£520,000/year?)

    ‘The Guardian’ on 28 October 2020 revealed that 18 year olds with no clinical experience or knowledge are now working as ‘skilled contact tracers’ for Serco. They were recently ‘upskilled’ to perform this role. They are all being paid minimum wage of £6.45/hour. Whistle blowers have reported unskilled teenagers in tears and having panic attacks as they struggle to perform tasks such as like public health risk assessments.

    Professor Allyson Pollock has yet again exposed one of the key failings of the NHS Test and Trace undertaking. This was the Government’s decision to take testing out of public health services and Local Authorities. This overlooked the importance of clinical input, clinical oversight, clinical integration and statutory disease notification.

    NHS North West London (NWL) Finally Persuades West London CCG to Join the Single Regional CCG 

    ‘Health Service Journal’ has reported that although GPs in Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster voted against the merger of local CCGS in September 2020, in October 2020 they changed their minds. The NWL CCG will be the largest in England with 2.5 million patients and a 2020/21 budget of £4.2 billion. By April 2021 there will be just 5 CCGs in London. In 2019 there were 32 CCGs.

    Discover What the Covid-19 Infection Rate is in Your Neighbourhood

    Just type in your post code at:

    https://coronavirus-staging.data.go.uk

    To give you an idea of the range of rates throughout England, Blackburn with Darwen is one of the highest at 752.5/100,000 people and the lowest includes Somerset Wilton at 44.9/100,000.

    Eric Leach

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    The Local Government Association, on behalf the broad leadership of the social care sector including the Association of Directors of Social Services, has published a set of 7 principles to guide the future of adult social care post Covid. But they show the sector’s leadership continuing to be high on rhetoric, but empty on substance. They are bankrupt of ideas to make the rhetoric a reality.

    The 7 principles talk, for the umpteenth time, of social care needing to be based on ‘what works for people, not what works for systems or structures’. They seek to emulate the person centredness that makes the NHS so valued by the public. People trust that when they present symptoms to an NHS clinician the diagnosis and treatment will be based solely on the clinician’s knowledge of what is wrong and what is possible. It would not even occur to the person that the determination of their diagnosis and decisions about the treatment options will be referred upward to a manager, least of all to a manager whose primary task is to manage the budget.

    But, for reasons set out in my recent blog, this is exactly what happens in social care. At the individual level, while need precedes resources in health care, resource precedes need in social care. It’s an arrangement that serves very well the political expedients of keeping spend precisely to budget while denying the existence of any funding gap. The sector’s leadership, sadly and only too willingly, obliges.

    So sector leaders are left yet again repeating mantras with a long record of failure. The history is lamentable.

    Following the failure of the Community Care strategy of the 1990’s to make social care ‘needs led’, the personalisation strategy was launched in 2008 with personal budgets the centre piece. ‘Up-front’ allocations of money would empower service users to purchase their own support package, the ultimate in person centredness. Bu it quickly became apparent that up-front allocations would not happen. Completely impracticable and ignored by the Care Act ‘up-front’ allocations became ‘indicative’ only and thus tokenistic. In 2012, Think Local Act Personal, the organisation charged by Government with leading implementation of the strategy, issued a series on exhortations to practitioners and councils under the banner Making It Real.

    The irony in the implicit message that personal budgets had completely failed to ‘make it real’ was lost on the sector’s leaders. Inevitably, Making It Real had no impact. TLAP duly issued a second iteration of Making It Real in 2018. It too has had no impact. And so to the present and the 7 principles amount to yet a third exhortation to ‘make it real’.

    Exhortations to practitioners and councils to deliver ‘what works for people’ are hopeless in the face of underlying, powerful systemic forces that ensure the system’s priority is to work to sustain itself.

    What of the future for social care – integration with the NHS?

    It’s hard to imagine anyone taking the analysis and remedies of sector leaders seriously. This is not just because of the self harm in exposing the bankruptcy in their own ideas. Covid’s exposure of the impoverishment of social care invites questions of the leadership Councils have provided over the decades. Is it really just about government under-funding? How soon, if not already, before Councils are seen as a busted flush?

    Signs are pointing to integration with the NHS as the political solution. But with social care in its present state, that would be a disaster for both services and the older and disabled people who rely on them. The NHS is at its best delivering clinical care to deliver best possible health. When it moves beyond that into care, its record is even more lamentable than that of local authorities. The bureaucratic opaqueness and gross inequity of Continuing Health Care bears witness to that. A weak and unreformed social care service risks being reduced to little more than a servant to health objectives. This would sound the death knell of the ambition of social care to be the driver of our older and disabled citizens being supported to lead the fulfilling and dignified lives they are capable of.

     

    Colin Slasberg – former Assistant Director of Social Care and Independent Consultant in Social Care.

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    The threat to cut health visitor and community nurse jobs in County Durham, while Covid-19 is still widespread, has been branded as ‘incomprehensible’ by Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, today (Friday 24 July).

    Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust (HDFT), which is taking over the County Durham 0-25 family health service contract from 1 September, wants to axe about 37 whole time equivalents (WTEs), while the coronavirus is still widespread across the country.

    Although the HDFT also says it wants to employ 21 WTE new posts, there will be a net loss of 16 WTEs out of a workforce of about 230 WTEs.

    Unite lead officer for health in the north east Chris Daly said: “It is almost incomprehensible that when ‘public health’ is foremost in people’s minds because of coronavirus, Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust is swinging the jobs axe.

    “The vast majority of those being earmarked to lose their jobs are health visitors and school nurses – the very professionals at the public health frontline helping families with babies and young children, and children returning to school.

    “Disgracefully, the trust is consulting when staff, have been working flat-out throughout the Covid-19 crisis supporting very stressed families and young people. This flawed exercise is happening before the first wave of the pandemic is over and with the expectation that a second wave will hit this autumn and winter.

    “It is also very wrong that schools and GPs have not been told about the proposed cuts in school nurses. School staff returning in September will be phoning school nurses to come and help with children that they have not seen since March and who may be exhibiting worrying behaviours and dealing with distressing emotions.

    “We believe that already stretched GPs will be expected to pick up the shortfall in keeping babies, children and young people safe. However, there is a real risk that those most at risk may fall through the current safety net that HDFT seems intent on weakening.

    “This is not the time to reduce the health and school nurse provision for children and young people. However, it will be some time before the adverse impact of these cuts are brought into sharp relief.

    “The Durham country council should work with the trust to increase the funding for these essential frontline services. The long-term health of families is never enhanced by reducing the number of healthcare professionals.”

    Unite, which embraces the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association (CPHVA), will be making strong representations on behalf of its members before the consultation process ends on 31 July.

    Comments Off on Durham health visitor and school nurse job losses ‘incomprehensible’ with Covid-19 still prevalent, says Unite

     

    The late 1980s and the early 1990s was a time when the HIV and AIDS pandemic was in the news and high on the political agenda.

    Professor Virginia Berridge, Director of the Centre for History in Public Health and author of AIDS in the UK, gives us this accurate and succinct historical context:

    An expert advisory group on AIDS (EAGA) had been set up in 1985 in the Department of Health with input from clinicians and scientists involved. The Chief Medical Officer, the main public health government official, Sir Donald Acheson, led the group. Despite the level of expertise, the committee faced many problems. They included the attitude of sections of the press, which called for a punitive response to HIV/AIDS. An initial lack of political interest and the danger that, if political interest were awakened, the Conservative government led by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher might take a punitive stance. Issues such as segregation and quarantine were freely talked about.

    In 1986, a sense of national emergency materialised, and developed high-level political interest on the subject. A Cabinet committee on AIDS was set up, a major health education campaign was initiated, funds were released for research, and the main health education body, the Health Education Council, was reformed as the Health Education Authority. Despite this progress, there were still powerful calls for a punitive approach, such as when the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, James Anderton, spoke of people ‘swirling in a human cesspit of their own making’. However, the general tenor of the government response was pragmatic – focussing on safe sex rather than no sex, and safer drug use rather than no drug use. This liberal response was influential at the international level too and was promoted through AIDS specific organisations set up as part of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations (UN).

    Source https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Epidemiology_of_HIV/AIDS

    In South East London, the local HIV groups were formed in response to the direct experiences of people who faced barriers accessing health and social care. These specialist organisations included the Positive Place in Deptford – which started in an office in Sydenham where Cllr Alan Hall was a volunteer.

    Sydenham is a very interesting area. Geographically it is on a hill which has a ridge with its apex at Crystal Palace. Crystal Palace is the place where five local authorities meet – the boundaries of London Boroughs of Bromley, Croydon, Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark.

    Locally, social services are provided by Councils and health services were overseen by regional health authorities at this time. The provision of HIV services were very variable and much of the work and support was provided by specialist sexual health clinics at the major London teaching hospitals. Hospital social work could provide some support but the end of life care and care at home fell to the patients’ home local authority.

    By 1991 the Government had put in place a ringfenced Government Grant called the AIDS Support Grant (ASG) – this was to recognise the additional resources needed to provide services for people with AIDS.

    AIMS OF THE GRANT SCHEME

    To enable Social Services Departments to draw up strategic plans, based on local population
    needs assessments, for commissioning social care for people with HIV/AIDS; and to enable Social Services Departments to finance the provision of social care for people with HIV/AIDS, and where appropriate, their partners, carers and families.
    The grant is to assist local authorities with the costs of providing HIV related personal social services.

    At the Positive Place – then in Sydenham – we became aware that people with HIV were having problem accessing social services in Bromley. There were general comments and complaints in the other neighbouring boroughs however, in Bromley people were routinely refused a social service.

    After extensive enquiries and local research, a meeting with Bromley Social Services Committee Councillors was arranged and a briefing document produced. Richard Cowie, the Clinical Nurse Specialist for South East London Health Authority, David Thomas a Trustee of the Postive Place which had established as a centre for people with HIV in SE London based in Deptford – joined Alan Hall who had become a member of the Bromley Community Health Council and set up Bromley Positive Support Group in Beckenham.

    The first section is instructive it is called: NO AIDS HERE

    “The first response to deny HIV services is that there is ‘no demand’ for them. In effect, this means no AIDS in Bromley. In 1992 this was the reason used by the London Borough of Bromley for not applying for AIDS Support Grant. Every District Health Authority must submit returns regarding the number of HIV infections and AIDS related deaths yearly and much more detailed information under the provision of the AIDS (Control) Act 1987.”

    “The figures are collated in a technical manner and require considerable caution interpretating them. However the latest report for Bromley (1993/4) shows that there are ’48 people living with HIV infection and 2 babies of indeterminate status’.

    “It is accepted that this is an underestimate. This includes people who attend Bromley Hospitals or services. It does not include all the people attending specialist centres of excellence, eg Middlesex Hospital, King’s College Hospital, St Thomas’ Hospital, Chelsea & Westminster….of which we know there are several cases. We estimate that there are at least 60 cases – this does not include their families, partners or carers. The no AIDS in Bromley is a myth. Indeed, the Department of Health classifies Bromley as a “moderate” prevelance area.”

    “Frequently, AIDS in Bromley has been dismissed as a small number of cases, insignificant. This is a favourite argument of Cllr Cooke. Clearly, 60 people with HIV plus their families is not a small number. Contrast this with the number of people receiving intensive personal care – this is in the order of 70 people.”

    The conclusion of the document states: “All of the myths, I am sure you will find have their root in prejudice and bigotry.”

    Whilst the Positive Place was in Sydenham the local MP, Jim Dowd agreed to ask a Parliamentary Question. This question revealed that Bromley Council had failed to apply for its indicative allocation of AIDS Support Grant in 1992-3.

    Hansard records the written parliamentary question on 14th January 1993:

    AIDS
    Mr. Dowd : To ask the Secretary of State for Health (Virginia Bottomley)

    (1) on what date the London borough of Bromley applied for AIDS support grant for the current financial year ; and what efforts have been made by her Department to urge Bromley to apply for it ;

    (2) what amount of AIDS support grant was allocated to each local authority in each year since 1990-91 :

    (3) what extra costs she estimates to have been incurred by neighbouring boroughs obliged to deal with HIV/AIDS cases turned away by Bromley social services department ; and what steps she proposes to take to recompense the neighbouring boroughs ;

    (4) by what date London boroughs should apply for the AIDS support grant for 1993-94 ; and what steps she will take to ensure that the London borough of Bromley applies for the grant on time ;

    (5) how many people in each London borough have died from AIDS :

    (6) how many cases of HIV have been reported in the borough of Bromley in each year for which figures are available.

    The Minister for Health, Tom Sackville, MP replied:

    Mr. Sackville : In December 1991 the Department issued a circular (LAC(91)22) inviting all social services departments in England to bid for extra resources for HIV and AIDS services in 1992-93 under the AIDS support grant scheme. Criteria for bids under this scheme are set out in the circular. Copies are available in the Library. The closing date for bids was 7 February 1992. The London borough of Bromley submitted an application in November 1992 although not in the form and detail set out in departmental guidance. By that time AIDS support grant moneys had been fully committed. The Department was, therefore, unable to allow Bromley’s bid to proceed. Although not in receipt of AIDS support grant money in 1992 -93, we understand that the London borough of Bromley plans to spend £15,000 on HIV and AIDS services in the current year. We have no information to suggest that the borough has been compelled to turn away people affected by HIV.

    For 1992-93 local authority social services departments will again be invited to apply for an AIDS support grant allocation. The closing date for applications will be 8 February 1993. It will, of course, be open to the London borough of Bromley to bid for funds under this scheme.

    Information on the number of HIV and AIDS cases reported in individual boroughs and of deaths is not held centrally.

    The table shows the AIDS support grant allocations which have been awarded since 1990-91 for a full list in England see Hansard.

    Allocations for Individual Authorities in London are shown.

     

    London Borough Grant 1990-1 Grant 1991-2 Grant 1992-3
    Camden 471,000 489,840 730,000
    Hammersmith 1,003,359 1,042,000 1,300,000
    Kensington 627,500 652,600 970,000
    Lambeth 551,000 573,040 930,000
    Westminster 625,000 650,000 940,000
    Brent 290,000 290,000 400,000
    Ealing 250,000 260,000 290,000
    Greenwich 136,280 136,280 190,000
    Hackney 322,500 335,400 460,000
    Haringey 357,500 371,800 500,000
    Hounslow 231,250 240,500 320,000
    Islington 235,000 244,400 360,000
    Lewisham 163,750 170,300 240,000
    Richmond 135,000 140,400 200,000
    Southwark 215,000 215,000 300,000
    Tower Hamlets 309,000 321,300 481,000
    Wandsworth 165,122 120,152 188,000
    Barking 14,000 17,173 32,236
    Barnet NIL 26,000 40,000
    Bexley 25,000 26,000 46,000
    Bromley 8,500 9,520 NIL
    City of London 25,000 26,000 47,000
    Croydon 24,500 30,000 49,000
    Enfield 14,938 16,702 50,000
    Harrow 25,000 26,000 42,000
    Havering Nil Nil Nil
    Hillingdon 23,207 35,000 120,000
    Kingston 25,000 26,000 64,000
    Merton 14,000 17,178 66,000
    Newham 72,500 110,000 250,000
    Sutton 22,260 30,000 57,000
    Waltham Forest 70,000 90,000 135,000

    The Boroughs are listed in prevalence order and grant awarded

    Alan Hall followed up the lack of funding and more importantly, the lack of a strategy in 1993. On 11th October he received the following reply from Baroness Cumberlege, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health in the Lords, this said: “The Department is aware that there has been an absence of a clear HIV/AIDS strategy in Bromley and has been monitoring the situation.”

    If the Government were aware, why didn’t they act?

    Perhaps, we will never know the answer to that. But the refusal of Bromley Council’s social services Committee members to allocate funding and support proposals for a change in direction led to protest.

    The community activists in Outrage knew that Bromley Council were resisting change and they decided to mount a protest. Activists enetered the Council Chamber, chanting and holding placards. Labour and Liberal Democrat Councillors stayed in the Chamber whilst shocked tories walked out. The photograph below was taken by the acclaimed photographer, Gordon Rainsford.

     

     

    Outrage in the Bromley Council Chamber

    The Pink Paper carried a report of the protest with the headline: “Tory Mayor flees AIDS protesters in Bromley”.

    Outrage alleged that the Mayor of Bromley, Cllr Edgington attacked one of its members. This is particularly interesting as this is believed to be a counterclaim, when the Mayor of Bromley made a complaint to the Police that one of the protesters drank from his glass thereby assaulting him.

    The fifteen activists held a “die in” where they laid down in the Council Chamber and held tombstone shaped placards with slogans such as killed by Bromley neglect.

    In the press report, the case of a 28 year old man who was refused a home help and told to ‘try a private nursing home’ a day before he died is raised.

    Daniel Winchester a local resident said that Bromley Council had shown ‘contempt’ to the ill and dying over the last ten years of the pandemic.

    The independent voice of social workers – Community Care – carried an article on HIV and AIDS social service provision in March 1993 saying: “Bromley Social Services is behind with its HIV work. It’s bid for 1992-3 was late, so it did not benefit from the 50% increase and that there was great pressure to meet the standards for grant status.” In response a senior Bromley Council social services manager is quoted as saying: “Our services are pretty thin on the ground in this area.”

    Leaders in the social work profession at the time, believed that there were additional benefits with specialised HIV services as they were ground breaking and that they benefit other areas of social work like confidentiality and increasing good practice more generally.

     

    Outrage blow fog horns and whistles to get attention from Bromley Council

    website link:  https://alanhall.org.uk/2020/06/30/bromley-council-and-hiv-the-fight-for-social-services/

     

     

     

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    The long-running Lincolnshire health visitors’ dispute is coming to an end with a pay victory that sees the vast majority of the workforce being upgraded.
    Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, today (Thursday 5 December) hailed the victory, which will see most of the union’s members move onto the grade 10 pay scale, as ‘highly significant’.
    Unite regional officer Steve Syson said: “Thanks to the tremendous solidarity that our members have shown since this dispute started in the summer, we have achieved a highly significant and welcome victory.
    “The health visitors’ determination against what they considered as a gross pay injustice was buttressed by the firm backing from the people of Lincolnshire and from supporters across the UK.”
    The dispute had centred on the council’s insistence on different contracts for grade 9 and grade 10 health visitors, while Unite has consistently argued that as all health visitors have the same qualifications they should be paid the same.
    The health visitors have now suspended their month-long strike action while the authority upgrades the health visitors; however, Unite reserves the right to reinstitute strike action if the council does not abide with the agreement. Besides the grade 10 job roles, the health visitors will receive between £2,000- £6,000 in a one-off transitional payment.
    More than 70 Unite health visitors voted for the month-long, now suspended, strike that started on 18 November. Of those, about 58 will now be fast tracked to the grade 10 posts with 16 further Agenda for Change (AfC) staff awaiting confirmation; about 13 have left or are departing to take up alternative employment within nursing, which leaves a handful of relatively new health visitors on grade 9.
    Unite pledged today that it would explore every avenue to get those still on grade 9 uplifted to grade 10 as soon as possible.
    Unite regional secretary for the East Midlands Paresh Patel added: “I think that a number of factors contributed to this positive outcome, including the fact that the council was, and even now, is continuing to lose highly skilled health visitors at the rate of knots, as our members are offered alternative roles elsewhere in recognition of their experience.
    “There was also the stark realisation by council bosses that our members were prepared to take further strike action on top of what they had already taken in the summer, after a second ballot confirmed they were prepared to continue on with further industrial action.
    “This victory should be seen in the context of a broader campaign for a fully-resourced health visiting service across England – that fight will continue across the country in 2020.”

    Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Web: unitetheunion.org
    Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.

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    This article was first published by Simon Collins at HIV i-Base on 2 September 2019.

    On 2 September 2019, leading HIV charities including HIV i-Base and the UK-Community Advisory Board (UK-CAB), published an open letter to Rt Hon Amber Rudd MP in her capacity as Minister for Women and Equalities, calling for an urgent intervention to include sexual health in the upcoming Government Spending Round. [1]

    In England, the responsibility for sexual health was disastrously shifted from the NHS to local authorities, whose public health budgets have been cut in real terms by £700 million over the last five years.

    These cuts have directly reduced access to sexual health services, where many people are unable to routinely access treatment and testing due to limitations in allocation of daily appointments.

    Many of these cuts disproportionately affect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) and black and minority ethnic (BAME) communities, and young people.

    A similar joint letter calling for increased funding for sexual health was also sent today by LGBT+ groups from the Labour, LibDeb and Conservative parties.

    Last year, a review of services in South London reported that 1 in 8 people with symptoms were being turned away from sexual health clinics. This included 40% who were under 25 years old and 6% who were under 18.

    References

    1. Green I et al. Urgent request to intervene: Funding for sexual health services. 2 September 2019.
      http://www.tht.org.uk
    2. Collins S. Almost 1 in 8 people with symptoms turned away from sexual health clinics in SE London: 40% are under 25 and 6% under 18 years old. HTB 01 May 2018.
      http://i-base.info/htb/33968

    Please see this Press Release from BASHH (British Association of Sexual Health and HIV) and BHIVA (British HIV Association) from October 2018: Government funding cuts leave sexual health and HIV care at ‘breaking point’

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    Today the Mail on Sunday published an article headlined ‘HIV treatment now costs NHS as much as breast cancer – Fears £606m annual bill for sexually transmitted disease is fuelled by flood of foreign health tourists‘.

    The only views to ‘balance’ the diatribe published in the paper and online was a short rebuttal from BHIVA  (British HIV Association) and NAT (National AIDS Trust) as well as a short statement from NHS England on how costs for HIV treatment are actually reducing:

    A spokesman for the BHIVA said: ‘In the UK, new diagnoses of HIV are now falling because of the success of testing and treatment.’

    An NHS England spokesman said the cost of HIV treatment had fallen £28 million from £634 million in 2017/18 to £606 million in 2018/19.

    A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘We’ve seen a decline of almost a third in new HIV diagnoses in the UK in recent years.

    ‘As with all other serious infectious diseases, we do not charge overseas visitors for treatment for HIV as, if left untreated, there is a significant risk to others in this country.’

    Deborah Gold, chief executive of the NAT, said: ‘The concept of health tourism for HIV treatment is an outdated myth.

    ‘It is actually a problem that we have such long average delays, usually years, between migrants’ arrival in the UK and them accessing HIV testing and care.

    ‘Universal availability of HIV treatment is a cornerstone of the response in the UK. Any suggestion this is a poor use of NHS money, or that access to treatment should be limited for anyone, is outrageous. In fact, it is evidence of the NHS at its best: saving lives and preventing ill-health.’

    UK-CAB (the UK Community Advisory Board) responded to the article via this tweet with the following statement:

    “The UK is a world leader in reducing the numbers of new HIV diagnoses and one of only six countries to have already met the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets. This achievement would not have been possible without upscaling HIV testing and providing immediate antiretroviral treatment to all people living with HIV in the UK.

    People with HIV on effective antiretroviral treatment cannot pass the virus on to their sexual partners or to their unborn child during birth and pregnancy. The investment in free HIV treatment for everyone with HIV is fundamental to meeting the Government’s commitment to end new transmissions by 2030.

    Stigmatising information like that reported in today’s Mail on Sunday only serves to hinder the UK’s response to the HIV epidemic. Whilst we have made huge strides in reducing new diagnoses by an incredible 28% between 2015 and 2017, the numbers of people diagnosed late is still too high.

    Late diagnosis not only increases the chances of premature death but also heightens the risk of HIV being unknowingly transmitted to sexual partners. We cannot tolerate attitudes which put people off testing and finding out their HIV status.

    People living with HIV should not be pitted against other patient groups or conditions.

    Access to treatment and care for all people living with HIV ensures that individuals can live well and in good health and also stops transmission of the virus to others. Any insinuation that denying HIV treatment to those without ‘settled’ status would be a benefit to the nation’s public health or NHS budgets is nonsense.”

    Please circulate this as widely as possible.

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    The following article was first published in the Camden New Journal on 06 December, 2018

    A private company being promoted
    by government to recruit patients to its doctor service spells ruin for the whole-person integrated care we need from the NHS, argue
    Susanna Mitchell and Roy Trevelion

    The sneaking privatisation of our National Health Service now aggressively threatens our GPs. In Camden and across London, we all need to be aware of the long-term harms this development will cause GPs and primary care NHS services.

    Last year, a global multinational corporation called Babylon Healthcare – owned by a former Goldman Sachs investment banker and Circle Health CEO – established a “digital- first” business called “GP at Hand”.

    Disastrously for the NHS, Babylon Healthcare Services Ltd can be traced back to a holding company in Jersey, the offshore tax haven.

    GP at Hand is contactable through a mobile app which uses standard calculations as a symptom checker. Unfortunately NHS England have not provided our existing practices with this software.

    Instead any patient registering with this commercial enterprise will be deregistered from their normal GPs. And, although the GPs employed by the company can also be accessed by video or phone, this process delivers no continuity of care or whole-patient assessment.

    Continuity of care is a cornerstone of general practices. However, Matt Hancock, the health secretary says, “If we need to change the rules to work with the new technology then change the rules we must.”

    In addition GP at Hand’s own promotion material actively discourages older people from registering. Explicitly these are those who are frail or living with dementia, or in need of end-of-life care. Pregnant women and those it describes as having complex social physical and psychological needs are also discouraged from signing up.

    In other words it is “cherry-picking” young and healthy patients who will be more profitable to its shareholders. Its use of standard practice via information technology, and the easy access it offers, is particularly attractive to the young.

    Of the 31,519 new patients who have signed up with GP at Hand over the past 12 months, 87 per cent are aged between 20 and 39 years, while patients over 65 now make up just 1 per cent of the population registered with the service.

    All this poses serious problems both for patients and general practices. In the first place, our present primary care system consists of GP practices committed to whole-person and integrated care for everyone in their local communities. Healthcare services are organised around geographic areas to enable better co-ordination with hospitals and social services.

    In contrast to this, GP at Hand fractures this fair and impartial community-based model, registering patients who live or work anywhere within 35 to 40 minutes of one of the clinics. In addition, should any of their patients require more complex care, they will no longer have their own GP to turn to.

    Secondly, by picking the most profitable patients, GP at Hand drains money away from ordinary GP surgeries. Normal GPs are funded according to the number of people on their patient list and this funding is combined into a single budget to provide the services they offer. This means that funding from the roughly 80 per cent of patients who remain reasonably well helps to pay for the 20 per cent who are elderly, who are chronically sick, or have multiple illnesses.

    But if the “capitation fee” of the young and healthy is scooped up by a for-profit company like GP at Hand, it will critically undermine the funding available to surgeries. This will leave practices to deal with the sick, the frail and the old on a much reduced budget.

    Shockingly this commercial entity is funded by NHS England. It can be commissioned through our clinical commissioning groups (CCGs).

    It’s expanding fast, and already has over 35,000 patients. Currently the corporation operates out of five clinical locations in London including one in King’s Cross. Plans for rolling it out nationwide are under discussion. It is also advertised widely, with the health secretary Matt Hancock recently announcing that he has registered with the company.

    Future developments in information technology and artificial intelligence that can be useful to our public health systems should be funded directly towards our existing GP surgeries.

    It should not be used as a vehicle for profit-making by private corporations at the expense of our NHS.
    We need to make the dangers of adopting this business model clear to the widest possible public. We must encourage those who care about our publicly-funded NHS to boycott Babylon’s GP at Hand.

    We need to bring public pressure to bear and end this attack on a valued and trusted institution that serves us all.

    The NHS has always been for the benefit of everybody. It must be kept that way.

    • Susanna Mitchell and Roy Trevelion are members of the Holborn & St Pancras Labour Party and of the Socialist Health Association.

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    Unite Press Release

    Immediate release:  Wednesday 7 November 2018

    Vote for Cornwall’s children’s services to remain in-house applauded by Unite 

    Cornwall Council’s decision today (Wednesday 7 November)) to keep children’s services in-house, and not to outsource them, has been hailed as ‘a significant victory’ by Unite the union.

    The council’s cabinet voted to adopt the option – outlined in its One Vision blueprint – to keep children’s services in-house from April 2019.

    However, Unite warned that the possibility of parents paying for health visitors to carry out vital health checks on their babies and children still remains as the ‘means tested charging’ wording is in the One Vision document.

    Unite regional officer Deborah Hopkins said: “We welcome the decision of the council’s cabinet to keep children’s services in-house and not outsource them to a separate company.

    “It is a very significant victory for the people of Cornwall and a big set-back for the insidious privatisation agenda.

    “We welcome the council’s announcement that parents won’t be means tested when they require children’s services, such as a visit from a health visitor.

    “However, that possibility is still within the wording of the One Vision framework and until that is finally jettisoned from the document, Unite will be following developments in the weeks and months ahead very closely.

    “Unite is keen to work collaboratively and constructively with the management of children’s services to ensure the best possible outcomes for families and children in Cornwall, which is one of the poorest counties in England.”    

    The other option that councillors rejected today was for a so-called ‘alternative delivery model’ by a company that is separate from the council with the potential to make profits from parents.

    The introduction of charging is in the document’s section on Drawing on funding opportunities where one proposal is: ‘Introduce means tested charging for a range of family support services’.

    About 235 health visitors and school nurses are transferring into a Cornwall Council integrated children’s service in April 2019, to work with a multi-disciplinary team, alongside services for families and young people.

    A recent survey revealed that nearly 20 neighbourhoods in Cornwall are among the 10 per cent most deprived in England, according to The Index of Multiple Deprivation.

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    Chipping Barnet CLP notes that access to contraception is a fundamental human right underpinning equality, impacting on the health, structure and prosperity of both society and families. The 2012 Health and Social Care Act disadvantaged women, separating much of the funding for contraceptive care from the NHS by moving the responsibility for commissioning into Local Authorities, with NHS providers competing for contracts. As a result, the commissioning of contraception is now separate from the commissioning of other aspects of women’s health, including abortion. From both a woman’s and a clinical perspective, this is illogical. Compounding this, the impact of austerity on Local Authorities has led to a reduction in services, reduced access and to a postcode lottery for contraception in England.

    Chipping Barnet CLP believes that contraceptive services need to be fully funded and accessible in all areas of the UK, with co-operation replacing competition. It welcomes the commitment of the Shadow Health Department to abolish competitive tendering for these essential services, and to work with clinicians to establish centres of excellence alongside regular accessible clinics to which women have free and easy access to confidential care.

    Chipping Barnet CLP calls on the Labour Party to resolve to deliver fully funded contraceptive services in all areas of the UK, setting up a working group whilst still in opposition, composed of experienced clinicians and commissioners, to write a blueprint for delivery which will be implemented within the first year of the Labour Government.

    Published by Jean Hardiman Smith with the permission of Sarah Pillai ( Chipping Barnet CLP )

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    I can’t recommend this film – which focuses mainly on older political activists campaigning for the NHS – too highly.
    (Statement of competing interests: I feature briefly in the film)

    Pensioners United

    Directors: Phil Maxwell, Hazuan Hashim

    Country: UK

    Running Time: 75′

    Year: 2018

    A potent account of a passionate group of pensioners who unite together to fight for a better life for themselves and those who will follow them. Starring Jeremy Corbyn, Harry Leslie Smith, the late Tony Benn, and thousands of inspirational pensioners from across the UK.
    ~ Allyson Pollock

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