Category Archives: Socialist Health Association

The investigation into the issues raised in the scrutineers’ report is ongoing.  All aspects are being looked at including sight impairment and employee and governance issues.

Jos Bell, the Chair of London Branch raised the issue of disabled members not always being able to attend Central Council or needing support to do so.  The Officers have agreed a “buddy” system where CC members who are disabled and who attend will be the people who will vote, but if they are unable to be present, then a deputy, usually their “buddy” can vote on their branches’ behalf. This is in line with our support for people with disabilities.

I continue to liaise with the various branches, including recently the Scottish branch, and on the 21st April attended the West Midlands AGM as a visitor and speaker.  I should like to thank them for their warm welcome.

Scottish Branch.  I visited Dave Watson in Glasgow, and the officers believe that we could learn a lot from the devolved countries.  Dave has been working directly with the Scottish government, and I found him inspirational.  They have done a great deal of work and the officers feel it would be good to hold a cross nations conference on renationalisation drawing on experience from Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

I have been working with HCT and the NPC, led by Brian Fisher on Care.  Care is exceptionally complex, but its success is crucial the success of the NHS.  Our longer-term plans are still not decided, but we hope to have an update on cooperative working and perhaps a conference or two soon.  Brian and Dame June Clark, are presenting on Care to the NPC Pensioners’ Parliament.

Finally, I attended a day course at the London International development Centre on Healthcare and Critical Realism. It is a full day course, run on a Saturday, and is completely free.  The people running it are leaders in their field.  One of the people attending was Alan Taman, press for HCT, Steve carne was also on the attendee list.  It was useful for networking and inspirational.  There will be at least one other opportunity, so if you would like to know more please email me or phone.  I found it sharpened and focused my thinking, and it reinforces the way we tend to think and work on NHS and care matters.

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My apologies for not providing a written report at the AGM in March. 2017-18 has been a busy and fruitful year for the SHA. Following my ‘baptism of fire‘ – day 1 as Chair involved welcoming shadow SoS Jon Ashworth to the 2017 AGM – I was very pleased to welcome Jean Hardiman Smith, Tom Fitzgerald, Alison Scouller and Tony Beddow as honorary officers and vice chairs. It has been a pleasure to work with them and I am equally pleased with the addition of two further vice chairs, Diane Jones and Andy Thompson this year.

Membership

The membership of SHA – which had, as the bar chart shows, been static for many years – has increased exponentially during the last 15 months:

Membership numbers

My view is that this ‘epidermic of popularity‘ mirrors the ‘Corbyn effect‘ whereby the rediscovery of socialist values by the Labour Party has transformed its fortunes and made it the largest political party in Europe. I welcome also the increased number of SHA branches (see Director’s Report) and of branch delegates to Central Council.

Renationalising the NHS

Undoubtedly, another factor in our rapid increase in membership is our contemporary motion to Labour’s 2017 conference, which I had the privilege of compositing and subsequently proposing to conference last September. The motion, which was essentially about full renationalisation of the NHS in England, had been submitted by 25 CLPs in addition to SHA, with a further 15 submitting similar motions. It was carried unanimously by conference.

Since September SHA, along with many CLPs and health campaigning organisations, has advocated vigorously for full implementation of what is now Labour Party policy. Many Labour local authorities continue to cooperate with NHS England’s Five Year Forward View and Integrated Care Systems. Hence it was very welcome when the Guardian revealed last week Jon Ashworth’s commitment to consult in coming months on how an incoming Labour government should restructure a reinstated NHS based on Bevan’s original principles of universal, comprehensive, publicly provided care free at the point of use. I have offered our services to Jon and look forward to SHA working with him on this.

Organisation and development

My plans for strategic development were cut short by the 2017 general election and the need to focus on influencing the manifesto, creating a presence in marginal seats and short term outputs. These remain priorities, but the honorary officers and vice chairs have now discussed and agreed strategic development priorities and lead roles for 2018-19, as follows:

  • Operational management‘ – primarily within Jean’s role
  • Policy – Tony to lead
  • Website and associated issues – Andy to lead
  • Media / communications – Alex to lead
  • Membership / recruitment – Jean to lead
  • Liaison with labour movement, patient groups etc – Diane to lead
  • Maternity / health of women – Alison to lead
  • Liaison with parliaments / legislatures – to be agreed
  • Support to Chair – Alison

Once confirmed by Central Council, this division of labour will where relevant supplant existing roles and responsibilities and will be implemented by the officers and vice chairs as appropriate. I should make it clear that these are development priorities and are of course in addition to the fundamental roles of the Chair, Secretary and Treasurer.

Register of interests

It has been drawn to my attention that public sector bodies maintain registers of interests which are updated and declared at each meeting. This obviously helps ensure that all members are aware of their own and fellow members’ conflicts of interest, be they political, occupational or financial. I would welcome members’ views on whether Central Council should maintain a register of interests.

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I’ve spent the last two months working on our contact lists so we can comply with the General Data Protection Regulations. I contacted most of the 36,000 people on our database.  That reduced the number to around 31,000.  Some people wanted to leave our database, many emails bounced, but 1300 wanted to stay on our list.  This gives us an opportunity to build a relationship with those people.  It isn’t very clear how the new rules apply to an organisation like the SHA.  They are concerned with marketting and the protection of personal information.   The vast majority of the contacts on our database who have not responded are not private individuals.  They are politicians, academics, local and national organisations, who advertise their contact details to the public.

We now have eight functioning branches.  The branch in Oxfordshire appears to be on the brink of viability and I’m hoping that we will manage to get at least one branch going in Yorkshire this year.

The membership of the association has continued to grow, though rather more slowly. Now at 1082 paid up members.  Analyzed by geography the current figures are:

Region Members Consented
Greater Manchester 292 294
Greater London 226 336
West Midlands 94 101
Yorkshire 67 142
Liverpool City Region 53 96
Tyne-Tees 52 57
Home Counties 49 70
South Wales 39 34
Scotland 36 66
Avon 35 80
Oxfordshire 28 23
East Anglia 28 64
East Midlands 22 63
Cheshire 20 28
Brighton 15 51
Devon & Cornwall 15 39
Staffordshire & Shropshire 15 29
Lancashire 13 37
Solent 5 21
North Wales 4 18
unknown 3 0
Kent 3 27
Rest of the World 3 7
Ireland 2 3
Dorset 0 17
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Speaker

The meeting opened with an address by Debbie Abrahams MP.  She gave us a brief but comprehensive summary of the difficulties we all see everywhere, every day, and tied them firmly to the Austerity policies introduced and implemented ruthlessly by the Coalition and Tory governments since 2010.  Widening inequality is THE biggest issue of our times, she said, greater here than elsewhere in Europe and in the OECD.  Income disparities are worse for the poor, with children and women losing out disproportionately, with impact on reducing growth too.  None of these matters were recognised in the Chancellor’s Spring statement, though they had all been foreseen by Theresa May when she was Home Secretary.  England has become the country of poor pay, job insecurity and the ‘self employed’, (most earning less than a living wage).  Debt was flat-lining as a whole, but has increased in the poorest of the population.  Education should be about preparing children for life, not just as workers and social security should provide for those out of work, children, the elderly and those who have become sick and disabled; with £34 billiion cuts already and more to come, the policy was an absolute failure.

The largest wealth determinants are land and property, and as fewer people own these, and their holdings have increased, they have led to further increased generational and power inequalities – the business of who makes the decisions and how.  Add to these factors, lower investment and a shift in funds from poorer to wealthier areas, we now have differences reminiscent of Victorian times.  Relating funding to the age profile, England is now below the EU average, public spending is down and life expectation down too (Marmot June and Dec 2017), whilst the state pension age has risen.  In England, 300,000 more pensioners are in poverty than in 2010, 4 million children in poverty are in working households, with CPAG estimating 900,000 are under 5 years.  3.7 million disabled people have had social service cuts since the Health and Social Security Act (2012), with twice as many now living in poverty.  Although 4 million disabled people want to work, only 25,000 have found paid employment.  Disabled access to a full public life, employment and other opportunities continues to be poor or absent contradicting the manifesto mantra, ‘Nothing about me, without me’.  This is a catalogue of failure at the most basic levels.  She ended by suggesting we need a new social contract, a Beveridge for our times.

Debbie was thanked for her contribution.

*

Action points in BOLD

Agenda with apologies

Minutes of the 2017 Annual General Meeting

Accepted by Vivien Giladi and seconded by Mike Roberts

Elections

Alex Scott-Samuel as Chair and Jean Hardiman Smith as Secretary had been re-elected unopposed

Tom Fitzgerald was re-elected as Treasurer

Two auditors were appointed, Councillor Mark Ladbrooke, nominated by Tom Fitzgerald and seconded by Helen Cranage, and James Gill, self nominated and seconded by Mike Roberts.

A new position of Minutes Secretary was suggested by Jean Hardiman Smith and Judith Varley was proposed  by Vivien Giladi, seconded by Helen Cranage

Twenty new Central Council  members had been elected. Several branch AGMs had been held shortly before the Central Council AGM.  This had led to confusion as some branch Central Council delegates were also present on the national Central Council list of candidates for election.

Vivien Walsh was thanked for her work as election scrutineer and for her timely report.  The second scrutineer’s report was not yet available.  The election results were accepted and the officers needed to see the second scrutineer’s report.  Mike Roberts suggested outstanding issues should be examined by the officers to give a rapid response, with confidentiality for any additional areas of concern.

Jean Hardiman Smith apologised that her report was still as notes currently.

Constitutional amendments

It had been proposed and agreed at an earlier CC meeting that branch AGMs should have at least 4 weeks notice given, and ordinary branch meetings 2 weeks. John Lipetz proposed a further amendment – that in addition to this, branch AGMs should be held well before the national AGM. Further debate led to agreement that branch elections should be concluded no less than 3 and no more than 12 weeks prior to the national Central Council ballot being circulated so that branch delegates already on Central Council did not contest national places.  A clarifying statement was added to the effect that anyone succeeding in a branch election to Central Council will not be eligible to stand in the national election in that cycle.

Martin Rathfelder had proposed that SHA should in future have 2 rather than 4 vice chairs and they should have honorary officer status.  Andy Thompson was in favour of keeping 4.  Caroline Bedale suggested up to 4 vice chairs be retained in order to support special areas of work and to prepare reports for the AGM. The amendment was withdrawn.

Venues

It was agreed that Martin should have 3 weeks advance notice of any proposed change of dates/venues for either Central Council or AGM

Women’s Group

With more women amongst Central Council delegates, a Women’s Group with a core of 3 CC members should be inaugurated, and it would need to meet to be effective.  Alison Scouller covered maternity issues and she commented that in practice it was difficult to arrange meetings since everyone was so busy.

Grievance procedure

Mark Ladbrooke said SHA needed a grievance policy, perhaps based on that of the Labour Party.  Grievance issues should not be raised at the AGM. (NB SHA does have a a grievance procedure)

Annual Report

Martin commented that membership was increasing substantially (now provisionally 964) and new branches were being created – all welcome developments, although the distribution of branches was concentrated in safe Labour areas.  Could all members think about recruiting members in neighbouring Tory areas?

Tony Beddow had long thought a review of SHA organisation was overdue considering the skills, competences, gaps in expertise etc amongst Central Council delegates, and proposed some professional backup working with Martin.  (???Mark Appleby) suggested we should welcome more disabled members recognising that they might need further support, financial and other to participate.  Tony Jewell commented that his locale, Fenland, was large and diffuse and it was difficult to organise a local group – suggestions as to how this could be done and how many people were needed to create a viable branch etc.. would be welcome.  SHA should try to attract more young (defined as under 27) and BAME members.  In general, more structure was needed to help new members and more local  activities organised, but in general, local groups giving opportunities for members to meet, discuss, connect, pick up ideas for campaigns etc.. were all beneficial.   Martin said national funds were available to pay for meeting rooms for branch meetings.  Organisational issues to be on the next Central Council agenda

Tony Beddow said that affiliation costs to the Welsh Labour Party had risen 4-fold from £60 – this was on the basis that SHA was equivalent to a Union and had at least 1000 members.  This needs to be taken up at national level.  Martin has raised the issue of affiliation costs previously and will take it up with the Democracy Review.

Tony Jewell suggested we could gift aid subscriptions to the David Stark Murray Trust, think in terms of legacies and investigate and revive it – all and Martin to do.

Caroline Bedale wanted information about local branch activities and Martin said he would organise a page for each branch on the website for this purpose.

Affiliations

Affiliation to other organisations were agreed as follows:  The Labour Party, Medact, James Lind Alliance (supports evidence based medicine), Smoke Free Action, KONP, Health Campaigns Together (HCT), Equality Trust, and European Public Health Alliance.  New NHS Alliance was disaffiliated although Brian Fisher, a NNA officer, spoke in its support.   Vivien Giladi stated that HCT was moving towards building solid links with Trade Unions.  Tony O’Sullivan said KONP groups were maximising working together and had a new website. A London demonstration for the 70th birthday of the NHS on 30 June was planned and they were working on the Naylor Report and Virgin Healthcare.

Resolutions:

1  Caroline Walsh, represented at the meeting by Martin, was involved in the Handbook on the Equality Act.  The Act applied to all organisations including the SHA.  It should be easier for people to participate, perhaps electronically.  This was welcomed, we would commend it to the Labour Party and make a financial contribution to effecting it.  Meetings might be streamlined – the Manchester youth group might help with this. 

This Association welcomes the legal handbook “Equality Act 2010 (disability) and the Labour Party” produced by the Disability Equality Act Labour group. The hard work that has gone into this document by disabled members and experts in the field are to be commended. We commend the handbook to the Labour Party and call for it to be accepted, in its entirety, as official Party guidance. We agree to make a donation of £50 towards a print run to enable the group to make the handbook available at Party events including conference.

The resolution was carried.

Future meetings

Our meetings need to move around the country, and care taken to review dates we have already and to avoid clashes with other meetings

Policy discussions

Brian Fisher reported on the work with the Labour shadow health team.  A small group had tackled Primary Care initially, specifically the independent status of GPs, the Out of Hours situation, Social Care and how to integrate it.  They aimed to develop a brief leaflet, 3 pp in soundbite sentences.  The front bench want expertise, not necessarily from the SHA or Labour Party members.  Jacky Davis asked how we know group recruits agree with our views.  Brian stressed that confidentiality was crucial throughout and that policy was not a ‘silo’ situation – housing, education, socio-economic factors all contributed.  The people to speak on other topics had not been decided, but the numbers must be small and security ‘tight’.  Mental health was to be covered next

Central Council meeting

The AGM was followed by a brief Central Council meeting at which four vice chairs were elected. Two women – Alison Scouller and Diane Jones – were nominated and elected unopposed. X men were nominated, and Tony Beddow and Andy Thompson were elected.

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an interview with Michael Meacher

Over the last four years Socialism and Health has made a point of interviewing each health spokesperson of the Labour Party to give them a chance to talk about what they see as the priorities in health policy. Our last interview was with Gwyneth Dunwoody who has been succeeded by Michael Meacher. We visited him at the House of Commons in April. This is a summary of that interview.

What do you see as the priorities in health policy for the next Labour government?

Michael Meacher felt it isn’t enough just to talk about how much we spend. In the West we’re getting diminishing returns in terms of age specific mortality and morbidity rates, for increasing expenditure. In such a system there is no point in looking for efficiency by trimming the edges; instead a new approach has to be found. In the area of health the right combination of social and economic policies is crucial. There should be less emphasis on curative technology and more on prevention, health promotion and health education; that is, on changes in our way of life, as the major causes of illness today are all to do with social conditions.

He used the example of an overfed, under exercised person, who smokes and drinks in excess over a prolonged period and is then taken into hospital after a heart attack. Large amounts of money are spent on intensive treatment and care where­upon he or she returns home only to continue the lifestyle which is likely to generate further trouble. “We have got a health service, we’ve got health policies, but we’ve got anti-health social and economic policies.”

Mr. Meacher believed that we will only succeed in producing a significant qualitative improvement in health, and at reducing the incremental costs of doing that, when there is a fundamental change of lifestyle. “It is trying to get across this alternative perspective of health care that I think is our prime task between now and the next election.”

What do you feel the main effects of the last five years of Tory policies have been on the health service, and how do you see it developing in the future?

Michael Meacher focused on two areas. Firstly, the Tories’ claims about their increased  spending on the NHS didn’t stand up when looked at in detail. For example in terms of NHS pay and price increases rather than RPI figures, the increasing numbers of elderly people and the increasing costs of medical technology. He felt that since 1983 there had undoubtedly been a cutback and that this was sure to continue. Secondly, privatisation is going to take a toll. Not only is it ideologically offensive but it also leads to lower standards and lower pay. This is in a service where many people, particularly women, are already paid at exploitative rates. Even discrete medical units may get privatised over the next few years, such as the kidney unit in Wales.

In general Michael Meacher felt that the Tories are using a systematic and comprehensive approach in relation to their objectives and that none of this is good news for patients or the NHS. As a result, the health service is now set for a major fall in standards over the next few years.

How does that tie up with the defensive anti-cuts position that many people are being pushed into?

Michael Meacher felt that these positions weren’t in opposition but rather complementary. While it is essential to oppose the cuts in the context in which they are occurring now — i.e. as part of a general winding down of the NHS — we musn’t assume that what we had in 1979 or 1948 was okay. What is needed is an alternative scenario in which change and renewal of services and hospital stock occurs as part of the development of a better and more appropriate NHS. He reiterated this point by saying “It is not an adequate health policy to simply say that we’re opposed to the cuts and to privatisation and that when we get back in office we’ll restore it all.”

Having mentioned that an alternative perspective is essential in the development of a better health service, what do you see as the ways and means of encouraging prevention and health promotion?

While acknowledging that the opposition of vested interests within industry was fundamentally a power issue, Michael Meacher felt that there was much to be done in arousing public awareness of the issues involved. Dislocation in the food, tobacco and drugs industries would be inevitable if a health perspective was integrated into policies and the immensely powerful capitalist lobbies would indeed be hard to take on. However, if people were aware of the reasons for such a challenge they would be more likely to back policies for change and the chance of success would be much greater.

He felt that people would alter their way of life if they were more informed of the consequences of their lifestyle and knew what changes to make. Taking food as an example, he suggested that the findings of the James Report, which are ex­extremely important but have only really reached health professionals, should be widely advertised to the public on tubes and buses. Effective use of the media and advertising could be useful in spreading such information and keeping people informed about issues which concerned their health.

Michael Meacher has also set up a food policy group, the membership of which includes Professor James, Jeremy Bray, Bob Hughes (from the agricultural side) and himself and Frank Dobson. The aim is to publish a report, within a year, which will state clearly what a food policy intends to do, the reasons why, and good persuasive arguments to influence other people to support it. Such a policy would look for agreement with agriculture and the Treasury and would then be determined to negotiate for change. A Labour Party policy on food is long overdue; once produced, he felt it would be beneficial to liaise with other socialist groups in Europe in order to influence EEC policies.

In addition to the food policy group. Michael Meacher has himself set up seven other working parties. These include an alternative vision of health care, community care — involving prevention and health promotion, democratisation in the NHS, privatisation, health care for women, dentistry and, through the SHA and Harry Daile, he has recently asked a committee to look into ophthalmic services following the recent moves to privatise the optical services.

The formation of these small working partieis is intended to help overcome some of the problems faced by the previous social policy group of the NEC. With a fluctuating membership of between fifty and seventy people, the group spent much of its time making decisions at one meeting only to reverse them again at the next, depending on who turned up. The overall result was that policies were extremely slow to be developed. The new working parties will not be exclusive; papers and oral evidence from nonmembers will be an integral part of their working. Papers will be circulated in the party for modifi­cation and change but will be developed into policy in a far less amateurish and easy going fashion than has hitherto been used.

Why hasn’t the Labour Party had health as a greater priority recently?

Michael Meacher said there had been a bipartisan concensus about the NHS until Thatcher came into office. From now on he assured us it will have a higher profile in the Labour Party.

While admitting that health should have been given more attention in the past, it does now appear from opinion polls that people not only see the health service as an important issue but also as one on which the Labour Party has overwhel­mingly the best policies. Having stumbled on the jewel in our crown again, the Labour Party is going to support it economically and politically.

What do you feel about the Griffiths Report?

Michael Meacher said he felt sceptical to hostile about the report, but thought it had some good bits in it especially in relation to doctors’ power. The main problem is that it will lead to an increased centralisation of power with a much smaller democratic element. Along with plans for the FPCs in which all their members will be appointed, it is going to be much easier for the government to keep the financial lid on the health service by the simple use of administrative power. On the other hand he felt there is something to be said for re­dressing the balance away from the lack of cost and outcome consciousness that can result from unfettered clinical freedom.

How do you feel about the issue of nurses’ pay?

Apart from any other reasons, Michael Meachers sponsorship by COHSE prompted him into enthusiastic support for a fair wage for nurses! Nurses, along with all women workers in the NHS, were paid appallingly low wages and were clearly used to subsidise the health service. He felt that the Pay Review Body should be used to assess and fix nurses pay at a level which would stop them having to fight each year to increase a sub­standard wage. However, Mr. Meacher was realistic in saying that the key factor was finding sufficient funds to make an appropriate pay award. He felt that much could be gained from reducing the rip-offs by the drug companies and the monopoly suppliers, such as BOC and London Rubber Company. Just as important though, he felt there was no way around putting in more resources. The Labour Party was committed at the last election to 3% extra in real terms, but he would like it to be increased to 5%. If were going to put our money where our mouth is, thats the sort of sum its go to be.

During the interview with Michael Meacher, we were impressed by a number of points. First, his ideas seemed very much in line with current ‘progressive thinking about health and health care. Second, unlike many politicians, he welcomed ideas and discussion and was ready to acknowledge his own lack of expertise in specific areas. Third, his response to that was involvement of a wide range of individuals and groups. We felt he was genuinely concerned with the development of alternative perspectives in health care and was keen to work with all those who shared that concern. It seems that Labour Party health policies might in the future be much more respon­sive to the interests and needs of both the users and providers of health care. Hopefully we may now have the opportunity to start bridging the gap which has all too often separated politicians from those they represent.

Graham Bickler & Alison Hadley

July / August 1984

 

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NB it has not been possible to audit the accounts in time for the AGM. An audit report will be produced for the Central Council.

Income £33,005.05
Expenditure £30,311.98
unattributed income £0.00
Surplus £2,693.07

 

31.12.2016 31.12.2017
Cash at Bank
14 Day £23,910.26 £27922.28
Instant £0.00 £0.00
Paypal £1,488.27 £181.96
Current £1,137.54 £996.44
Total £26,536.07 £29,100.68
Increase in funds at bank £2,583.56
Credited late £0.00 £0.00
Cashed late £18.95 £0
overpayment £0.00 £0.00
Surplus £0.00 £0.00
Discrepancy £67.63 -£128.46
Balance at bank £26,517.12 £29,081.73
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2017 was a good year for the Association.  We saw a big increase in our membership and our new Chair  managed to organise a resolution about the NHS which was carried unanimously by the Labour Party conference to great acclaim.  We finally managed to make some progress on our policy discussions, both internally and in discussion with the Labour health team. Over the past couple of years it has been difficult to organise events because the volatile political situation, and elections, both external and internal, have diverted people’s attention. But now it seems possible. We organised a very high powered conference on public health which gives us some excellent policy building blocks.  We are now in a much better position to help developing Labour health and care policies. 

Membership

We started the year with 683 members and finished with 792.  141 joined during the year.  52 are in arrears. Some may have joined only to vote in the leadership election.  A lot of new members have joined using PayPal. PayPal notifies us if they cancel their annual payment

 

Members by geography based around branches, or potential branches.

area Current members
Greater London 202
West Midlands 96
Manchester 84
Yorkshire 57
Liverpool 52
Tyne-Tees 44
Home Counties 40
Wales 41
Scotland 35
Avon 35
East Midlands 28
Fenland 26
North Midland 25
Oxfordshire 18
Plymouth 16
Brighton 12
Preston 10
Kent 7
Rest of the World 5
Solent/Dorset 7
Ireland 2

Members classified by type.

Most members could be put in several classes, and for many I don’t know enough about them to put them in a category. But this gives some indication of our varied membership

Number TYPE
115 Labour activists
71  Individuals
57 Public health
53 Mental illness
49 GPs
44 Doctors
43 Cllrs – Labour
30 KONP etc
29 Academics
28 Non-execs
27 Secondary care
27 Nurses
23 MPs & peers – Lab
20 TU – health
19 CLP officers
15 Social care
14 CHC/HW Members etc
13 Management Health
12 Dentists
9 Community Health
8 Councillor Health lead lab
8 PPI staff
7 Socialist Societies
7 Elderly people
6 FT governors
6 Students
6 Professions allied to medicine
6 Pharma
5 Babies families, maternity,
5 Clinical science
5 CCG staff
5 Freelancers
5 Disabled people organsations
5 Carers

 


Year
2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Current members 651 677 654 672 683 792
Website Pages 915 974 1019 1043 1163
Website Posts 530 436 1124 1501 1853
Website Comments (cumulative) 2272 2501 2257 2863 3370
Website Page Views 338,415 375,511 410,000 382,045 408,288 347,000
Unique Visitors 131,303 158,180 181,281 171,000 204,596 171,062
Followers of the blog 360 418
Twitter Followers  1365 2845 4178 4839 5687 6104
Tweets (cumulative) 16,578 12,522 38,100 47,700 55,200
Facebook likes (cumulative) 1488 1757 1975 2067 2129 2349
Tweet impressions

(cumulative)

137,1800 204,700 322,400
Contacts database 40,888 42,310 39,039 36,292 36,242 35,993
Website Google Page Rank 5 4 4 4 4 4
Domain Authority 41 44

Affiliations

Unite didn’t manage to actually pay their affiliation fee in 2017, but this seems to be administrative confusion rather than a political decision and I hope their cheque is in the post.

We discovered during 2017 that socialist societies are allowed to have up to 5 delegates to each CLP, and this has been a useful recruitment incentive.  We haven’t paid much attention to this process before, but we may need to establish a procedure to enable members in a constituency to decide which of them should be delegates if we have more than 5 volunteers.  I think the only practicable approach to this is that any member who volunteers can be our delegate unless there is some reason to object.  This is a decision for branches, and for the officers in places where there is no active branch.

I put a lot of effort into supporting members in places where we didn’t have functioning branches – Staffordshire, Cornwall, Southport, North Wales, Cheshire, Shropshire, Yorkshire and Sussex and I’m pleased to report that we finished the year with more branches than we started.  But I don’t expect to see functioning branches in all those places any time soon.

This year we finally gave up on the paper version of our magazine, Socialism and Health, published fairly regularly and sent to all our members since 1965.  We weren’t alone. The Health Service Journal also abandoned its print edition this year.

Our website still attracts a lot of traffic, and the historical material gets a lot of appreciation.  But our on-line presence is not as active as I would like. I maintain an active Twitter feed, but our Facebook page is not very active.  I experimented with paid adverts on Facebook but that didn’t seem to be very effective, and we need to think harder about our work in this area.

External relationships

We have done our best to support Health Campaigns Together during the year, both with money and publicity. Salford University, quite uninvited, established a scheme to give SHA members reduced fees for their conferences. I’ve also done my best to help the Labour Campaign for Mental Health and Disability Labour. I’ve been co-opted to the executive of the NHS Active Alliance and the Transport and Health study group. And I’ve been encouraging the establishment of Doctors at the Deep End in Manchester. But close working with the other socialist societies is still more of an aspiration than a reality.

Money

Our income has been fairly buoyant this year, partly because of the increase in subscriptions, and partly because of advertising from the website. We have devised a method of publishing advertisements which makes them invisible, but satisfies the advertisers, who are actually only interested in getting a link which Google recognizes from our site to theirs. But our expenditure was considerably higher than expected. This was partly because of the public health conference – the most expensive event we have ever run, despite a contribution of £2000 from the David Stark Murray Trust, and partly because of a substantial increase in members expenses. We have more disabled members and officers than we used to and their costs are considerably greater than those of able bodied people.

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In the Nov/Dec ’80 issue of Socialism & Health‘ we published an interview with Stan Orme, who, at the time, was the shadow health minister. Since then Michael Foot has become the party leader and Gwyneth Dunwoody has taken over Stan Orme’s job. We felt that it would be interesting to see what her views were on broadly the same areas as those we asked Stan Orme about, so we interviewed her in early March.

This is a summary of that interview:

Alison: Which Tory policies are you most concerned with, with regard to health?

G.D.:  It’s their general attitude to health care that worries me, their intent to undermine the N.H.S. from the inside & particularly a 75/25 division of health care between the N.H.S. & private medicine.

Graham: What do you see as the next Labour government’s priorities for both reversing changes introduced by the Tories and in other ways?

G.D.:   The economy is going to be in a bad way & we’ll have to fight for spending on the N.H.S.  The particular priorities should be   a) capital expenditure and b) how to restore the personal social services, as community care is a mess at the moment.  This will be made worse by the proposed reorganisation, and the ‘cinderella’ disciplines will need particular help.

Graham: How would you link that with the Royal Commission & the Black Report?

G.D.: I’m wary of stating detailed priorities partly because the Black Report hasn’t been sufficiently analyzed. Doctors must be given incentives to go into neglected areas and an immediate boost should be given to N.H.S. morale. Current management techniques are thirty years out of date. H’s also important to defend existing NHS structures. The Labour Party must work out what it feels priorities are by the next election and give up sloganizing and substitute it with more concrete policies

Alison: How would a Labour Government tackle the tobacco industry?

G.D.: I think there has to be a total ban on advertising. There’s no evidence that the present government is planning to do this. Tobacco industry profits should be creamed off into the NHS.  Stop business practices that British companies practice in the Third World which would not be allowed here.

Alison: The   Black  Report   advocated  ‘phasing  out’  the British tobacco  industry  within  ten  years,  how do you  see that’?

G.D.: Workers in the tobacco industry must be consulted & redeployed, with public money being used to create Jobs.  If the companies  won’t  diversify, they  should   be  told  that  the  state  won’t  tolerate  their activities.

Alison:  The last Labour Government didn’t  do very much..

G.D.: I think there’s been a shift amongst the public in attitudes towards smoking & smokers – the Labour movement has always been aware of the effects. Predictably, it’s the middle classes who are changing their habits & classes IV & V who aren’t. The press don’t campaign against the industry and the Sunday Times appears to have been ‘nobbled’ by a section of it recently.

 Graham: Do you think a Labour Government could stand up to the tobacco industry? that’s what  the  real  issue  is,  it’s  very  different  producing  educational  material from tackling multinationals.

G.D.: “I  think that all governments  are able  to  withstand attacks where the majority of the people actually understand  what  they ‘re  doing  and why. I believe it now is something in which a Labour Government would have to lead.

Graham: The Black Report uses the tobacco industry as an example of how health may be improved by political action & they later suggest  that  we need  a ‘food policy’ in much the same way as we need a tobacco  policy.   This would  presumably involve education, food  subsidies  and  tackling  the  food industry.

G.D.: This  would  be a long  term  proposition.  While   I   feel  that nutrition should be made political and food policy  become   a priority   for   the  Labour  Party whether enough  work has  been  done  or  enough real political thought has been given to that sort of development I doubt . This sort of stuff is not yet a high priority for the party. Rickets may well soon appear, the school meals service is getting worse. This may make nutrition more political.

Alison: Shouldn’t we  be  making  it  political before we get these problems?

G.D.:Yes,  but  I’m  trying  to  avoid  a  commitment  to such policies   when  there will be enormous problems. We should  have   a  limited  set of proposals that you’ve  got to do & can do, & fights that you can defend. Nutrition is well up on my priorities but at the moment is low down on party priorities. That may change.

Alison: How would you   like  to see occupational  health developing?

G.D.: I’m in favour of it developing as part of the N.H.S. Some Trade Unions want it more closely linked  to the Health & Safety Executive.

Alison :How’s about private health care, in particular occupational aspects?

G.D.:I have  always  persuaded  Trade Unions not  to negotiate private healthcare as part of wages deals. Part   of   the   problem is that   many   people have forgotten what private healthcare was like. They don’t realise all its implications in particular the exclusions for long term support.

Graham:  How do you solve that; as part of the  problem of how you project socialist health policies?

G.D.: That’s part of our responsibility in the House of Commons & part yours. Once people see the real cost of private health  care  they’ll swing  back,  but the N.H.S. may be damaged in the interim. What will safeguard the NHS in the long run is people unders tanding the implications of private treatment.

Alison: What about pay beds within the NHS.?

G.D.: I think they should be phased out very y quickly indeed; even if the insurance companies would like this,  the  NHS has  to  be a  fully comprehensive health service & I  think  that private practice should be right outside it. There will be a growth of some kind of private medicine & it should be licensed. Private units use N.H.S. trained staff without any contribution to their training and I don’ t see why you should have, for example, private hospitals operating alongside NHS. hospitals that haven’t got sufficient nurses.   Maybe private units that use N. H.S. trained staff should have to contribute very substantially to the N.H.S.

Graham: In the Black Report the abolition of child poverty is suggested as a means of combating preventable disease.  This  would   involve   taxation policy, child benefits & possibly an incomes policy. What do you feel about this?

G.D.:       Incomes policies are very problematic.  We do need an extended view of health care,  but  the  implications of the Black Report have not  been  fully debated in the  Labour movement.

Graham:   Why   has health had a lowish priority in the Labour Party for some years?  It had always been a central issue for socialists.

G.D.: We’d got complacent ab o u t health care, t he problems were thought to be specific but overall things were O..K. Under this government it ‘s become clear t½h at the service is  not  good  enough  and  the Black Report came at the right time. Michael  Foot feels very strongly that health is one  of  the  most important  things  that  any socialist can ever be concerned about.

Alison: Inequaliti1es in health  have  been   known  for  some time though.

G.D.: Yes but mainly to experts and not  to ordinary Labour Party members. The Black Report was well written, very well argued & very cogently produced.’

Graham:   What two or three areas of legislation would you like to see the next Labour Government enacting?

G .D .:Difficult  because  in  the  past  we’ve  been  bound  to priorities  without  flexibility but

  • Improving management techniques t o get back some sense of purpose about the NHS among staff.
  • Neglected areas like mental health should be given a boost
  • I want to see   the  whole battle of private health care fought very energetically I really think that’ s one where we’ve got to stop pussyfooting about.
  • Lots   of   other things including day care abortion facilities.

The next government must set out a simple set of steps & defend them in agreement with the workers, the party   &  the trade unions.  That   will   mean hospital services & something constructive in relation  to  the personal social  services .  We’ve got to think about how to channel money, how to monitor things, where our priorities lie and other difficult areas.

Graham:    Can health considerations be brought into other areas of policy making?

G.D.:  Inevitably and it’s happening now, because in local authorities, cuts in their revenue has led to worse social services which has produced increased dependence on the NHS which is itself  under attack. The personal social services need protecting.

Throughout the interview, Mrs. Dunwoody emphasised the need   for the next Labour   government   to have a   list of priorities for    health & health-care  legislation  which could  be both fought for & implemented. While those priorities, & the details of policy,  have  not  yet  been formulated, she intends to see  that  they are during the period  before  the  next  election. We felt that she showed a good grasp of the  problems & was fairly   sanguine  about   th e  differences  between  her   views & likely party policy. We left feeling relatively hopeful.

Graham Bickler

Alison Hadley

 

 

 

 

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Sheffield Quaker Meeting House 13 January 2018

Present: Mike Roberts. Tony Beddow, Peter Mayer, Vivien Walsh, Rene Smit, Lawrence Cotter, Steve Bedser, Brian Fisher, Irene leonard, Gurinder S Josan, Alison Scouller, Alex Scott-Samuel

In attendance:  Martin Rathfelder, John Carlisle, Deborah Cobbett, Dave Shields, Simon Duffy, Jim Steinke

Apologies for absence: Caroline Walsh, Jean Hardiman Smith, Helen Cranage, David Mattocks, Katrina Murray, Jos Bell, Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe, Andy Thompson, James Gill, Mike Grady, Judith Varley, Tom Fitzgerald, Neil Nerva, Vivien Giladi, Brian Gibbons, David Davies, John Lipetz

1.Minutes of the meeting in Chester  were agreed as accurate

2. Matters arising

  1. SHA policy on maternity services: Alison and others are interested in developing our maternity policy. She has a draft in preparation. She was encouraged to keep a wide perspective, including for instance, mental health. Alison will circulate as it develops and link in Brian.
  2. Young Labour/recruitment: We had a delegate, James Gill, to the Young Labour conference. A resolution was passed on Mental Health. More thoughts from the young members to be collected to discuss recruiting. Martin is trying to get a list of secretaries of Labour Students. MedSin could be a useful organisation for recruitment.
  3. NHS 70th anniversary materials: Martin had a meeting with design expert and is expecting some ideas shortly. Plans to reprint  “In Place of Fear” Designer was interested in  Socialist Health socks? Note to Jon Ashworth – what plans for 70th anniversary? A joint letter from Jon and SHA to all LP members? A note for many of us to write on the NPF website about this issue.

3. Director’s report – Martin had produced a written report which will go to the AGM.

Discussion re West Midlands and branch catchment areas generally. Tony says we don’t know which of our members are also members of the Labour Party. SHA already has delegates to all the CLPs in Wales. If we write to all members, we could ask whether they are party members? Martin creates categories of people in the database, selecting for skills. People could be filed under many categories if they have many skills. Martin will investigate the General Data Protection Regulation  rules as they apply to SHA.

At the moment, any SHA member who is a Party member can become a CLP delegate. MR will consult officers if there are more than 5 members wanting to be delegates to a CLP if they are not in a branch. Tony: Should they be mandated? He will write a discussion document for officers.

4. Labour Party matters:

  1. Follow up of Conference resolution
    Alex: composite 8 effectively proposed renationalising the NHS. Some aspects of the policy appear not to have been followed through properly. There are, for instance, no new campaign materials reflecting the new Labour Party policy as result of it. Tony: the NPF has been struck by the Composite and will be discussing it specifically in early Feb. Mike: silence is deafening from LP re Comp8. Tony: renationalizing the NHS will be expensive, eg buying out care homes to nationalise social care. Labour is in power in some areas– advice is needed for those who want and need to make decisions about local planning beyond saying no to ACOs. Local discussions may be best. A meeting will be set up to address this in Sheffield
  2. Socialist Societies
    The Democracy Review may result in better participation for SocSocs. One suggestion is for SocSocs to share administration. Alex had meeting with the Review team and he circulated the list of questions that had been raised:

These are questions which arose during an initial discussion with members of the Democracy Review.

  1. Should membership of SHA and other socialist societies be open to Labour party members only?
  2. Should block voting continue in Labour Party elections?
  3. Should socialist societies be funded by subscriptions or by the Labour Party?
  4. Can socialist societies’ representation on the NEC be justified?
  5. Should there be a Socialist Societies Forum?
  6. Should there be defined eligibility criteria for the recognition of socialist societies?
  7. How should the existence of several societies focusing on a single issue be dealt with (eg JLM, JVL; Fabians, Momentum)?
  8. Can joining socialist societies be seen as buying power?
  9. Should conference policy carry executive authority with Labour councils and councillors?
  10. How should the London-centric nature of the socialist societies executive be dealt with?
  11. How can Labour Party policy be ‘gender proofed’?
  12. How can Labour be engendered?

A long discussion suggested overall that:

  • we need to allow non-party members to be members of SHA, because they have enormous skills. But we need to find a mechanism to keep party issues only to party members. And non-LP members should not oppose LP policies.
  • The party cannot insist that there is only one SocSoc per topic or group.
  • There should be criteria that define what constitutes a SocSoc but there are many practical issues in enforcing any fixed criteria.
  1. Policy development process from here: The SHA is in conversation with the Shadow Team on policy development. The topics are confidential. Brian outlined an approach to getting the best people to discuss with the Shadow Team and this was agreed: we shall request a 100 word document from all members and the policy team will shortlist. If needed, we shall ensure that we add to that list specific skills needed. Despite concern, the need for confidentiality was agreed. A key issue is the financing streams the whole manifesto can draw on and the demands coming from the different spending departments.

6. AGM and elections Notice to go out shortly

  1. AOB
    MR asked us all to sign up to be governors of the Manchester Trust

Dave: contact LP governors and ask to them to become members of SHA
Alison: A Welsh BBC programme is looking for women with experience or information on back-street abortions.
Brian: There will be a Demo 3rd Feb responding to the Winter NHS crisis.

  1. Next meeting:  Annual General Meeting

 

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2017 was a good year for the Association.  We saw a big increase in our membership and our new Chair  managed to organise a resolution about the NHS which was carried unanimously by the Labour Party conference to great acclaim.  We finally managed to make some progress on our policy discussions, both internally and in discussion with the Labour health team. Over the past couple of years it has been difficult to organise events because the volatile political situation, and elections, both external and internal, have diverted people’s attention. But now it seems possible. We organised a very high powered conference on public health which gives us some excellent policy building blocks.  We are now in a much better position to help developing Labour health and care policies. 

We have managed to re-establish working branches of the Association in Liverpool, Cheshire, and, hopefully, Manchester. We need to do more to get to know our new members and involve them in our activities.  We have been doing our best to support Labour parties in the places where it matters – marginal constituencies.  That isn’t easy, because our members, unsurprisingly, are mostly in places where Labour is in a majority.  But we have been doing what we can in Southport, North Wales, Cornwall and the marginal seats in London.  And we need to do more to get our new members involved.

This year we finally gave up on the paper version of our magazine, Socialism and Health published fairly regularly and sent to all our members since 1965.  We weren’t alone.  The Health Service Journal also abandoned its print edition this year.

It’s not clear yet what the outcome of the Labour Party’s democracy review will be, but it has already had the beneficial effect of bringing the Socialist Societies closer together.  We hope to work more closely with them next year.  Too often we find people in the Labour Party with a keen professional interest in health who didn’t know we existed, and the other societies have similar problems.

This year we are looking forward to the NHS 70th birthday celebrations in July.

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You can review the presentations from our recent conference on public health:

We asked each speaker to propose no more than five priorities. Some of them, happily, coincided and I’ve only chosen one where their seemed to be a substantial overlap.  Prof Nazroo didn’t feel able to produce five simple proposals and Tim Lang is not yet ready to release his priorities to public scrutiny.   But we still have a lot more than five.  So you are invited to decide which are  your top five priorities.  I’m afraid I have mangled some of these ideas to get them short enough.  So these words are mostly mine, rather than those of our distinguished contributors. I apologise but that is what happens when you try and produce evidence based policies and get involved in the messy business of politics.  The subtleties get lost.

Public health priorities

  • Develop universal, comprehensive, high-quality early Childhood care and Education. (10%, 8 Votes)
  • Invest in our public health workforce (10%, 8 Votes)
  • Ensure resources for health are distributed to reduce inequalities in life chances between places. (10%, 8 Votes)
  • Move from Financial Reporting to Financial, social and environmental reporting (9%, 7 Votes)
  • Invest in local public health services (8%, 6 Votes)
  • A new public health bill to give more state power against threats to health (8%, 6 Votes)
  • Implement existing laws that protect conditions that create and protect health and fairness (6%, 5 Votes)
  • Increase the public health benefits of the social security system. (6%, 5 Votes)
  • Measure value and benefit, not just cost of sustainable interventions (5%, 4 Votes)
  • Radical overhaul of gambling regulation (4%, 3 Votes)
  • Minimum unit pricing for alcohol (4%, 3 Votes)
  • Levys on the unhealthy commodity industries (4%, 3 Votes)
  • Build an energy economy based on renewables. (4%, 3 Votes)
  • Review of the marketing of unhealthy commodities and services to children, young people and the vulnerable (4%, 3 Votes)
  • New trade agreements to protect and promote the publics health (3%, 2 Votes)
  • Devolve power – increasing the influence that the public has over how resources are used. (3%, 2 Votes)
  • Redefine community health and prosperity beyond materialism (3%, 2 Votes)
  • Invest in public transport (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Take cycling seriously. Invest in infrastructure (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Default 20mph speed limit nationally for residential streets (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Stop blaming do something about our environment so that it’s easier for us to live healthier and longer. (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Better road crossing facilities – more crossings, more time (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 17

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