Archive for the ‘cuts’ Category

Save Intensive Care beds at the Leicester General. No more cuts to our NHS.

September 22, 2018

Public Meeting – Saturday 29th September 2018, 2.00pm, Hansom Hall
Leicester Adult Education Centre, Wellington Street

Leicester Socialist Party, as part of Save Our NHS Leicestershire, is protesting against plans to cut intensive care beds at the General Hospital. Across the country, the amount of NHS land being sold off has increased dramatically – 718 sites have been deemed “surplus to requirement”, compared to just 418 two years ago. As services are cut, hospitals are selling off land to private developers to make ends meet.

These one-off payments are not going to be adequate to ensure our NHS is funded properly. The NHS continues to be funded at lower than the rate of inflation, as the Tories have restricted budget rises to just 1% since 2010. The fire-sale of public land creates serious problems for any future expansion of NHS services. As Health Campaigns Together argue, “Retaining public sector land for future use is far better value for money than selling it only to replace it at a higher price later.”

The biggest financial problem facing the NHS is PFI – Profit From Illness, as Dave Nellist has called it – but more commonly known as the Private Finance Initiative, which gave private companies the opportunity to take over the running of NHS hospitals. Cleaning and catering were sold off first, resulting in an increase in “superbugs” as private companies cut corners, regardless of the hygiene risks to patients. NHS privatisation has gathered pace since, with the introduction of the Tories’ Health and Social Care Act, selling off NHS services to “any willing provider”. All NHS services are now up for grabs. Just one company, Richard Branson’s Virgin Care (registered in a tax haven, the British Virgin Islands) has been awarded £2bn of NHS contracts.

In Leicestershire, the so-called STP (Sustainability and Transformation Partnership) is the blueprint for local NHS services over the next five years. It includes Plans for reconfiguration of Leicester City Hospitals from three to two acute sites”.

What does this mean for Leicester General Hospital and why are intensive care beds being targeted as part of the cuts? The loss of intensive care beds will be the first step toward downgrading the General Hospital as an acute hospital, with other services, such as renal and urology services, also removed. Leicestershire NHS Trust are going ahead with these cuts, without even going through the motions of holding a public consultation, such is the pressure they are under to cut services. Hospital managers claim that these plans are necessary because of duplication, and sometimes triplication, of services across Leicester’s three sites, leading to “inefficiencies”. We agree that there is much that can, and should, be done to improve the provision of local services, but the plans currently put forward by the Trust are far from satisfactory and should be subject to full public consultation.

The threat to Leicester General Hospital is part of a wider process of privatisation, underfunding, fragmentation and cuts which has affected every part of the NHS, over the last forty years. We welcome Jeremy Corbyn’s announcement that he would end private involvement in the NHS. Hospitals would no longer be awarded PFI contracts, and existing contracts would be bought out. The Socialist Party would go further – we say the unions urgently need to mobilise their members to protect our NHS, and we would renationalise the NHS, with no compensation for fat cats like Richard Branson, after all they have stolen enough of our public resources already! However, Corbyn’s plans are a vital step towards taking back control of our national health service.

An edited version of this article is in this week’s Socialist newspaper.

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Another royal wedding . . .

May 20, 2018

Windsor council should install a bright, brand-new, blue plaque
To commemorate the homeless bus, sadly given the sack.
That marvellous day they cleared the streets of anyone not draped in Union Jack.
Our noble flag, the blood-stained butcher’s apron,
Citizens of Empire – commodities, not a person
With feelings, loves and honesty, someone to depend on.

So why all the fuss about this royal family?
They are just another couple, the same as you or me.
Footmen, flags, and frippery cannot mask the simple fact:
While were living in austerity, ruling class puts on a tired, old act.
To make us forget about our problems, and cuts to the NHS,
Us commoners, up to our necks in a right royal Eton mess.

But Royals bring tourism to Britain’s white-cliffed shores
And you lefties are such moaning, whinging bores
Bleating on about equality, rubbing salt into old sores.
Forget about public health, forget about community,
Goodbye to socialist ideas that block free opportunity.

We face the power of the one percent under this rotten system
The bosses drive down wages, let’s get rid of this fiefdom.
Time that we all progress, end corrupt lineage;
Time for us to mobilise, end class privilege.
Time to build socialism, and real democracy
Time for you to get involved, to change society.

Hillsborough and Grenfell

August 28, 2017

On June 14th, 1989, Liverpool were set to play Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup semi-final, which took place at the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield. Liverpool were allocated less tickets than Nottingham Forest, despite having more supporters. The police rejected a request from the Football Association to allow more tickets to Liverpool fans.

As a result, 24,000  Liverpool fans were squeezed into the Leppings Lane end of the stadium (before all-seater stadia, fans were corralled onto terraces, and pens were employed to keep rival supporters from clashing with each other). Congestion in getting to the ground meant that many Liverpool fans were delayed in arriving. A further request to postpone the start of the match was denied, and instead 2,000 football fans were herded into an already full “pens”. The people there could not leave the pen, as there was only one exit door, which was locked. Before the match started fans were shouting to the police to open the gate, their demands were ignored. The police’s reaction was to assume that there was crowd trouble.

The match was recorded on television by eight BBC cameras, but the resulting footage was considered “too distressing” to broadcast. The game started but lasted just seven minutes before it was halted. The coroner’s report showed that some fans had already succumbed to injuries even before kick off. The Superintendent in charge of the game, David Duckenfield, who was inexperienced in managing such a major football game, tried to claim that ticketless Liverpool supporters had broken into one of the gates and stormed the pitch – this was a lie. A major incident plan should have been put in place immediately, allowing ambulances to enter the pitch. Police officers and stewards should have been giving first aid, instead of forming a cordon to prevent a pitch invasion, as they initially saw it. In the event, only three ambulances were allowed onto the pitch despite dozens of ambulances being parked outside – the first did not arrive until 3.15pm, a quarter an hour after kick-off.

A nearby gymnasium was used as a makeshift holding area, and alcohol tests were carried out on all the bodies at the request of the police, including children, who made up many of those who tragically lost their lives. The purpose of this was to try to pin the blame on Liverpool fans for the disaster. The accusations of the police were later supported by the right-wing tabloid press – The Sun published a disgraceful headline “The Truth”, claiming that police officers were urinated on, that fans pickpocketed victims and attacked a police officer who was giving the kiss of life. In reality, it was fans who were administering first aid, carrying away the injured on makeshift stretchers made from advertising hoardings. The police were determined to try to shift the blame away from themselves and on to “drunken, ticketless Liverpool supporters”, for which they “had to find evidence that this was the case”. No proper emergency response ever happened. Those who tried to tell the real truth were ignored, slapped down or browbeaten. One doctor who was in the crowd had his reputation attacked and was accused of publicity seeking, in an attempt to discredit him or shut him up.

Senior police officers also falsified the evidence of their colleagues – police were not told to write down witness statements in the normal way, but to put their recollections of the incident down on plain paper, which was then redacted. The Taylor enquiry was set up, but in such a way that one police force was investigating another, and the South Yorkshire Police Force could take its own officers’ statements. Criticisms of the policing operation, such as, “It might have been better to direct fans into flank areas which were not full” and “Why were the sliding doors at the back of the tunnel not closed when those sections of the ground were full?” were censored, but any criticisms of the fans were left in. Despite these attempts at whitewashing, the Taylor Report still found that the main cause of overcrowding was due to the failure of police control. Margaret Thatcher made a handwritten note: “What do we mean by ‘welcoming the broad thrust of the report’? The broad thrust is devastating criticism of the police. Is that for us to welcome?”

Prosecutions were expected to follow, but then the chauffeur of the Chief Constable and the Law Lord claimed that they were determined to blame the police force. Again, this was a lie, but it ensured that no criminal charges were brought by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Subsequently, calls for an independent inquiry were raised by families of the 96 victims of the disaster. The then Prime Minister, Tony Blair scribbled “Why what is the point?” on a paper requesting a review of the evidence.

Is it a coincidence that it was Liverpool the right tried to blame, in the aftermath of the influence of the 47 Liverpool Councillors who resisted Thatcher’s government and wrested millions of pounds out the Iron Lady for the city, who built 5,000 council houses, leisure centres and nurseries?

The need for public housing leads on to a more recent disaster, also entirely preventable, the Grenfell Tower fire. Cladding was put on the ageing tower block to improve the view of the area for the gentrified parts of Kensington and Chelsea. The tower blocks are home to a very impoverished community, in the middle of one of the richest parts of London, where billionaires buy empty properties as an investment.

The fire began with a faulty fridge on the fourth floor. the advice given was for people to remain in their rooms, but the heat spread the fire to the exterior cladding and rapidly the whole building became engulfed in flames. A tenants’ group had previously warned that the cladding was unfit for purpose and dangerous, yet this warning was ignored.

Thatcher’s right to buy policy, introduced in 1980, allowed tenants to buy their own council homes at a discount. Finance to local authorities for building council homes was cut, the responsibility being passed to housing associations and private landlords. The result has been a return to Dickensian housing standards, overcrowding and slum landlordism. Homebuilding has steadily fallen. 171,000 homes were built in 2015, of which just 2,700 were built by local authorities. As demand has outstripped supply, property prices and rents have soared, along with the problem of homelessness. No-one took the place of local government in providing housing.

Cost-cutting on projects has become the norm, as a direct result of her policies – the combustible cladding used saved just £300,000 from the cost of refurbishing the Grenfell tower, and there was little discussion of the implications for the safety of residents. A sprinkler system would have saved lives; a revision of evacuation procedures following the cladding being installed would have saved lives; retaining three nearby fire stations, which were closed by Boris Johnson, the former Mayor of London (out of 10 across the city, with the loss of 600 firefighters’ jobs) would also have saved lives.

A true, official death toll of Grenfell may not be released until 2018. Millions of pounds of working-class people’s money, collected for the residents have still to be distributed to those in need.

We cannot have another cover-up, as happened in the 28 years it took for those responsible for Grenfell to be brought to justice, with David Duckenfield being charged with manslaughter and five others being charged with perverting the course of justice and lying about the incident. Yet there signs that this may already be happening. Firefighters who attended the incident were banned from speaking to the media about the true death toll. We must demand an independent inquiry, led by trade unions and residents, which would look into the causes of the disaster and expose the crimes that were committed in the interests of making cuts and protecting profits.

(Speech given to Leicester Socialist Party branch meeting Saturday 26th August 2017).

On Mark Serwotka, socialism and why we need ECMO

November 20, 2016

I read a very moving article in the Guardian on the plight of the leader of the PCS union Mark Serwotka. One of the most militant trade union leaders in the UK, he started his working life as a benefits clerk in the civil service.

Whilst taking his black labrador for a walk, the dog rolled in mud. He washed it down, only to suffer what he thought was an allergic reaction. It turned out to be a life-threatening virus. Two weeks later, it caused his heart to start beating at 220bpm, and an MRI scan found scarring on his internal organs.

After life-saving surgery at Papworth Hospital, Serwotka has been given a VAD (Ventricular Assist Device), which uses similar technology  to the ECMO (Extra-Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation) machine, which keeps new-born babies who suffer from congenital heart problems alive. He had to keep himself plugged in to the briefcase-sized unit at all times, which did the work of his heart in pumping blood around his body. This technology was pioneered at the Glenfield Hospital in Leicester, which accounts for 50% of the country’s ECMO capacity.

Last Saturday, I attended a packed rally at Socialism 2016, where PCS Deputy General Secretary and Socialist Party member Chris Baugh spoke in Mark Serwotka’s place. Chris paid tribute to Mark’s struggle, but also alluded to the struggle we have under capitalism to combat climate change, the need to fight for socialism, as well as Tory government attacks on the PCS union. This included the right to facility time for representatives, and the removal of automatically deducted union subs from payslips. All this because the PCS had dared to stand up against pension cuts, staff losses and austerity, and been one of the most effective trade unions in the country. The union had succeeded in recruiting 152,000 union members, which the government had effectively disenfranchised  and removed from the union. Their intention, starting with the PCS union, is to destroy the trade union movement as a fighting force to stand up for workers’ rights.

The reason Mark Serwotka could not attend in person, was that he had developed a blood clot. He now has to be given a constant supply of blood thinning medication, through an intravenous drip, meaning he has been confined to Papworth Hospital, while awaiting a heart transplant.

Like Mark and the PCS union, the Glenfield Children’s Heart unit which pioneered the technology which is keeping him alive, also faces a fight for its survival. Leicester Socialist Party, Green Party, Momentum, Keep Our NHS Public, the UNITE union, and parents of children who had been treated at the Glenfield Hospital, organised a 1,500 strong demonstration through the streets of Leicester, chanting “Save Our Glenfield, Save Our Kids”.

There is an online petition to Parliament, which I urge you to sign. It calls for a public review into the threatened closure of the Children’s Heart Centre at Glenfield Hospital, along with the Royal Brompton in London and Greater Manchester Children’s Heart Unit.

Let us keep the heart of trade unionism beating, let us keep children’s hearts beating and let us build a socialist society to protect a publicly-funded NHS and vital public services, without which Mark Serwotka would not be alive today.

We need to keep our E C M O

August 29, 2016

Tories, closing our heart units down;
I said, Tories, they’re making us frown.
I said, Tories, vested interests abound.
We need to get very angry!

Children, born with holes in their hearts,
Fragile babies, who need the best start.
You can go there, and I’m sure you will find
Surgeons with skills to repair you.

We need to keep our E C M O
We need to keep our E C M O
Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygen,
It can help save your life.

We need to keep our E C M O
We need to keep our E C M O
It can help you to breathe, pump your blood all around,
It can help save your life.

Families, stay with their loved ones,
I said, families, we were all young once.
I said, families, with support and love,
We need to be there for one another.

No man, does it all by himself.
Don’t let Tories, put our hearts on the shelf,
We can go there, to the Glenfield Hospital.
I’m sure they can help you today.

We need to keep our E C M O
We need to keep our E C M O
It can help you to breathe, pump your blood all around,
It can help save your life.

We need to keep our E C M O
We need to keep our E C M O
It can help you to breathe, pump your blood all around,
It can help save your life.

Tories – when they make you feel blue
I said, Tories, pick yourself off the ground,
They don’t care, that children are kept alive
Their hypocrisy is so jive…

That’s why, we need our NHS Trusts,
We say, no more privatisation and cuts.
We have technology, called the E C M O
That can start you back on your way.

E C M O, we need to keep our E C M O
It can help you to breathe, pump your blood all around,
It can help save your life.

E C M O, we need to keep our E C M O
It can help you to breathe, pump your blood all around,
It can help save your life.

E C M O, we need to keep our E C M O
Tories, they come in both blue and red.
I said, Tories, they don’t care if we’re dead.

E C M O, we need to keep our E C M O
Young child, young child, you didn’t have a good start,
Young child, young child, with a hole in your heart.

There’s a petition, you can find it online,
A petition, it won’t take you much time:
To MPs, although they are mostly scum,
But it might, just, get something done.

Sign the official Parliamentary petition here for a review into the closure of Children’s Heart Units, at the Glenfield Hospital in Leicester, in Manchester and at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London.

 

 

 

Save Our Heart Units

August 29, 2016

http://petitionmap.unboxedconsulting.com/?petition=160455

Screenshot from 2016-08-29 12:07:21This is the map of a petition, which is calling for a review into the proposed closure of Glenfield Children’s Heart Centre in Leicester. There is a large number of signatures from Leicester and the surrounding areas, but the unit serves the whole of the East Midlands.

Also, this is not the only unit under threat – similar facilities in Manchester and in London are also being axed, if the government get their way. I would like to see similar blobs of support around these cities too!

This is a nationwide issue, as five other hospitals have been told to stop doing simpler operations on children’s hearts. Children will not stop being born with congenital defects, such as a “hole in the heart” – and we need local services in order to protect people, so anxious families do not have to travel hundreds of miles to the nearest unit. More information can be found here – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-36737265

The NHS was founded to be a universal, comprehensive health service, to meet people’s needs, from “cradle to grave” – not to be cut back, fragmented and broken up, so profitable parts can be handed over to private companies.

Please sign the petition , and get involved in campaigns to save our NHS.

 

Hands off our precious libraries

July 18, 2016

Hands off our precious libraries!
Hands off our treasured books!
Free computers boot up;
Any query we can look up.

Let’s defend our jobs and services
From all you neo-liberal crooks
So hands off our precious libraries
Hands off our treasured books!

Let stressed commuters rush about,
Inside there’s hush, no need to shout.
Community space, for every race,
Sanctuary in the centre of our city.

We must save our precious libraries,
Books enrich our vocabularies;
Fire imaginations off to far-distant realms.
A world of words inspires, overwhelms.

Tories preach austerity, all we ask is parity:
A chance for all to share and have a look.
Keep our libraries open, they’re a place where we can pop in
To savour the pleasure of a good book.

Keep our precious libraries,
Keep our treasured books.
Part of a collective history,
Not a puzzle or a mystery

If you take away our library
Society will much poorer be.
So let’s all strike back and organise
Shelves into Dewey decimals.

It may sound quite contrarian
But we need to keep our local librarian,
A guide to all the crannies and the nooks –
Hands off our precious libraries and books!

 

Sign the online petition to save Coventry’s libraries.

Thanks to Vicky Cowell, staunch defender of Coventry’s libraries and avid bookworm, for kicking this off with the first verse, and for much inspiration. For more information – see this report from the Coventry Telegraph and a recent Coventry Against The Cuts protest.

Libraries and council services are under threat across the country. We need to fight back. Get involved in a local anti-cuts group, or if there isn’t one where you live, set one up yourself!

Defend comprehensive education

May 21, 2016

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We don’t need no academisation,
We don’t need no mind control.
No funding cuts to education.
Hey Morgan, leave our schools alone.

We don’t need no academisation,
We don’t need no tuition fees.
We stand up for free education.
Hey Morgan, leave our schools alone.

We don’t need no standardised testing,
We don’t need no SATs at all.
We want kids to enjoy their childhood.
Hey Morgan, leave our schools alone.

All in all, you’re just another Tory clone.
Nicky Morgan, leave our kids alone.

SUPPORT JUNIOR DOCTORS, SAVE OUR NHS!

April 10, 2016

 

nhs

Our NHS is under attack like never before, and we must act now to save it. As a worker in the NHS and a UNISON member, I chaired a protest organised by Leicestershire Against The Cuts last Saturday. Itbrought together campaigners from groups such as TUSC, the Socialist Party, Momentum, and Keep Our NHS Public, alongside trade unionists including the NUT, Unite Community and junior doctors from the BMA. We had a lively rally and march through Leicester city centre, with many students and young people raising their voices – we need our public health service to still be there for future generations.

People were angry that cuts are being made to local NHS services – the nearby Hinckley and Bosworth Community Hospital is earmarked  for closure and 400 beds are under threat at the Leicester Royal Infirmary, under the so-called “Better Care Together” programme. Health bosses say inpatient services will transfer into community care. However, community health resources are already paper-thin.  In reality, the NHS is being run down and privatised.

Junior doctors are striking to defend their terms and conditions, because they see the government’s attack on their terms and conditions as an attack on the whole of the NHS. A doctor on a picket line at Leicester General Hospital said that junior doctors are seen as an easy target, as their contract is up for renewal. Jeremy Hunt is seeking to impose a new contract, without any meaningful negotiation. Doctors do not want to go on strike, but when patient  care and the future of the NHS is at stake, they have no other choice.

Peter Flack, from the NUT union, mentioned the need for co-ordinated industrial action – teachers are currently being balloted for ongoing strike action, because of education cuts and the enforced academisation of schools. We believe that the big health unions, UNISON and Unite, should also beballoting their members. NHS pay has been frozen in real terms  for the last six years. Unite estimates that NHS staff have had a 13-19% pay cut as a result. Contrast this with the tax avoidance of the super-rich, exposed in the Panama Papers leak. The PCS union estimates that around £130bn a year is lost through  tax evasion – that is more than the entire NHS budget for England and Wales! Who does the most useful work in society, David Cameron or NHS staff?

Sally Ruane, of Keep Our NHS Public, pointed out the lack of resources put into public healthcare in the UK compared to other wealthy economies. The government wants to make the NHS a “24/7 service”, but are refusing to pay for this! The result is that if they get their way, doctors, nurses and admin staff will be forcedto work longer hours, for less reward. If you go to hospital,  you do not want to be treated by exhausted staff, who have to make life-or-death decisions.

Mark Gawthorpe, of Unite Community, spoke about the strain on the disabled and unemployed. The government’s cuts to disability benefit, are resulting in mental health problems and, tragically, suicides.  It is all right for tax-avoiding MPs, who can simply “go private”. What about the rest of us? The NHS is there for all, not just for those who can afford it.

It was good to see supporters of Jeremy Corbyn from Momentum on the demonstration – however, Corbyn faces an uphill struggle to reform the Labour Party, given that it was Labour who introduced Foundation Trusts, privatising  the health service, with increased spending on PFI. Unfortunately, Blairites are still in control of the Labour Party machine. Corbyn should look outwards to the 100,000s of people who joined Labour and were enthused by his socialist principles. His words  need to turn into action. Right-wing MPs and councillors need to be deselected and the Labour Party needs to be made more democratic. Labour should be opposing all cuts to services, rather than merely wield the axe for the Tories, which is what Labour-controlled  councils up and down the country are sadly doing.

Dr Jon Dale, a Unite member, concluded the rally by putting forward the Socialist Party’s alternative. We stand for investment into our healthcare service. We would scrap extortionate PFI deals, where health trusts owe private companies £billions. We would kick out the fat cats from our health  service by abolishing the Health and Social Care Act, which has opened NHS services up to tender to “any willing provider”. Richard Branson’s Virgin Health, for example, has taken over Wiltshire Childrens’ Services for £64m. We would nationalise  the pharmaceutical companies, which rip off the NHS by overcharging for medicine. We demand a publicly-owned, properly funded National Health Service, as envisaged by the Welsh socialist Nye Bevan, almost 70 years ago. The Tories want to get rid of the  NHS. If you want to protect our health service, join the socialists!

Defend comprehensive education

March 17, 2016

I was coming back from London, on a demonstration to save sixth-form colleges and reverse the shocking decline in funding for schools. “Save Our Colleges, Invest Don’t Cut” was the NUT’s slogan.

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As we delivered a long list of signatures in a petition to Nicky Morgan, a paper aeroplane came sailing from an upstairs window in the Department of Education – “Youre gay!” it proclaimed, eloquently. “Homophobic language. No use of an apostrophe. Could do better.”

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Photo – Jenny Stewart

As I was travelling up the M1, I overheard an alarming conversation – “they are making all schools become academies”. I didn’t believe this at first, and thought this was just a dark sense of humour. His colleague said with an air of defeatism, “Well it has been going that way for some time”. We need to fight the principle of elitism in education and defend the post-war idea of comprehensive education – Tony Blair famously called schools “bog-standard comprehensives”. Yet the comprehensive model, well-funded and with smaller class sizes, is that used by Finland – the most successful education system in the world.

Comprehensive education is the idea that every child, no matter how poor their upbringing, is deserving of the best education possible, provided for by the state. It should not matter what your parents’ economic or social background is – we should be living, in the twenty-first century, in the fifth richest economy on the planet – in a meritocracy.

The Tories are waging outright war on our schools, because they want to smash the public sector, and keep education for a privileged elite.  Again, the culprit is Tony Blair, who under Labour started the process off – but the Tories have taken his ball – just as they have with Labour’s privatisation of the NHS, and the formation of Foundation Trusts – and ran with it.

There is a petition to save our schools from academisation – please sign it here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/124702

But a petition alone will not be enough to stop this onslaught. The strike by sixth form teachers today needs to be the beginning of a massive fightback, involving united action by all education staff. We need to reverse cuts to education and stop the wholesale privatisation of our education system. We must defend comprehensive education.