Posts Tagged ‘nhs’

30 days to save the NHS

May 11, 2017

I was watching Pointless the other day, when a question about the NHS came up – 12 out of 100 people did not know what NHS stood for, and the founders of the NHS (Aneurin Bevin and Clement Attlee’s landslide 1945 Labour government) which ushered in the welfare state only managed a score in the 20s. On Twitter, the BBC quipped, “there were originally seven questions in this round, but they have had their funding cut”.

A recent Labour Party PPB highlighted its role in creating the NHS and how it can be transformed once again – http://www.thedrum.com/news/2017/01/19/labour-hits-back-tories-nhs-lines-first-party-political-broadcast-2017

Aneurin Bevan’s national vision for free healthcare was inspired by a working-class community in Wales. It is important that we educate ourselves about the origins of the NHS, as it is facing oblivion under the Tories.  24 A&E services are facing the axe and another nine are being down-graded. The NHS is facing £22bn of cuts over the next four years. A major reason for this mess are PFI deals and privatisation, brought in by John Major’s Tory government, expanded on by Blair and Brown and continued under Cameron and May. Essential services are run by companies such as Capita, Virgin Healthcare, and Serco. Perhaps not so surprising when you consider that 71 Lib Dem / Tory MPs, who voted for the sell-off of the NHS, with the 2014 Health and Social Care Act, have links to private healthcare companies.

But there is an alternative. If elected, Corbyn’s Labour government will reverse decades of underfunding and privatisation to public services, by bringing the NHS back into public ownership. This is a policy which the Socialist Party has long fought for. Labour pledges to abolish hospital parking charges and to kick out the privateers from our healthcare system. This is so important, because for any private company, its priority is to its shareholders and the bottom line, rather than the provision of a public service.

However, this will only happen if enough of us vote for an alternative to cuts and privatisation in the upcoming general election. You can register to vote here. There has never been more at stake. For the first time, I will be voting Labour, having been put off previously by its failed, feeble, centre-right Blairism. But the Labour party is changing radically for the better. Hopefully millions of other people will be convinced to do the same on June 8th.

Advertisements

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.

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!

In support of junior doctors

February 23, 2016

As junior doctors gear up for more industrial action against Hunt’s imposition of a new contract, which threatens unsocial hours payments, this is the summary of a speech by Rob and Francis, two members of the BMA who spoke at a meeting of Leicester Trades Council recently.

If the media were to be believed, junior doctors should be grateful. They are reportedly getting a 13% pay rise, the reforms will bring about safer weekend working practices, and the NHS is becoming a 24/7 service, despite its staff being given no extra money. If this was true, there would not be a Minister for Health running the NHS, but a Minister for Magic!

In reality, doctors see attacks on their terms and conditions as the beginning of an attack across the whole of the NHS. This is being done in order to make the NHS more attractive to private companies, such as Richard Branson’s Virgin Health, who have recently landed a huge contract to provide care in the South West. This is being done in order to attack the principle of the NHS – that it is a nationwide, comprehensive healthcare service, provided for all and free at the point of need. The Health and Social Care Act has already taken away government responsibility for our health service – any “willing provider” can take over chunks of our healthcare system.

So it is not just that junior doctors and student nurses, whose bursaries are being removed, are angry for themselves. They are also concerned about patient care and the principle of a free health service, paid for through central taxation. However, on a personal level, they also have plenty of grievances against the government.

They are angry that they will have to work more night-shifts and weekends, that their working week will lengthen and their breaks decrease. This will have a direct impact on patient care, the morale of the profession and the health and stress of working in a hospital. It sets a precedent for the rest of the NHS and amounts to a substantial pay cut. Doctors who do voluntary or paid work in their spare time – manning an air ambulance, working as a medic on the sports field, or working as  a locum – will have to check if their employer needs them first.

This action is not just about a group of (justifiably) disgruntled employees – this is about the future of the NHS. So get down to a picket line at a hospital near you and talk to the doctors who are taking action. One day, your life might depend on them.

 

TUSC Parliamentary Candidate Pledges Support for the NHS and for a £10-an-hour Living Wage

March 16, 2015

Press Release:

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) today announced its second local parliamentary candidate for the General Election. Andrew Walton, who has lived in Highfields for the last 20 years, will be standing in the Leicester South constituency. He will be working closely with the present city councillors who are part of Leicester independent Councillors Against Cuts, which is affiliated to TUSC.

Andrew Walton picture

Photo credit – Mike Barker, Leicester Socialist Party

Having worked in the NHS for the past decade, I have direct experience of the attacks faced by the health service and its workers from both Tory / Lib Dem and Labour governments. “Unfortunately, the Labour Party’s role in promoting Private Finance Initiatives and Foundation Trusts handed large parts of the NHS over to privateers. Since then, the Lib Dem/Tory coalition has continued this trend”.

“TUSC on the other hand campaigns for a high-quality, free NHS under democratic public ownership and control. We see no future for greedy corporations and tax avoiders, like Boots, who make massive profits from health provision at our expense.”

Another key area which I will fight on as part of his electoral campaign, will be fighting for a living wage for all. TUSC supports the Trades Union Congress’ demand to increase the minimum wage to £10 an hour, and for this to be linked to inflation or increases in wages, whichever is higher.

vote tusc

A recent article in the Leicester Mercury, highlighted the plight of over 2,500 textile workers in the city, who are paid less than half the minimum wage, just £3 an hour. “In the 21st century, in the world’s sixth wealthiest economy, there is no excuse for poverty pay,” he explained.

I will also pledge to campaign to relieve the day-to-day pressure on overworked front-line hospital staff. “This will improve service provision and minimise stress-related illness. This is one reason why TUSC stands in solidarity with workers taking action to defend jobs, conditions, pensions, and public services.”

If you are not on the electoral register, you won’t get any say in the coming elections. Please register to vote, and use your vote to support TUSC in Leicester South and Leicester Independent Councillors Against Cuts in the local elections.

Nothing like a cup of tea

October 27, 2014

marathon14

 

The best cup of tea I have ever had was served at 19 miles, as I was running in the Potteries Marathon (now sadly no more). This was not a cuppa from a plastic cup, but poured from a teapot into a pottery mug. The prize at the end was a plate, testament to the once-thriving pottery industry in the towns around Stoke On Trent.

Bosses at Leicester’s hospitals have decided that staff in public places are no longer entitled to have a refreshing cuppa. Doing a 12 hour shift on a hospital ward is much like running a marathon, except that nurses have to concentrate, calculate dosages, make potentially life-or-death decisions. I would much rather be treated by a professional who was alert and awake than someone nodding off at the end of a long day. Hypocritically, the same bosses acknowledge the importance of being well-hydrated and require staff to be alert.

Socialists would put an end to petty bureaucracy in the NHS, by increasing democracy and putting workers themselves in control. I did my bit to raise the profile of our party, by running the Leicester Marathon this Sunday, selling 40 copies of the paper and raising over £40 in fighting fund as I went round the course. There was not a cup of tea in sight as I went round the course, just energy drinks and water, but some caffeine would have been very welcome indeed.

TTIP? No thanks.

September 2, 2014

TTIP may sound like a new brand of tea, but in fact it is an acronym for the snappily titled Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

The idea is that to foster “free trade”, we need to get rid of costly things for bosses. Like nasty health and safety regulations, or pesky state-run institutions, all of which hamper companies’ ability to make profits. The solution? Get rid of any gains workers have fought for over decades in Europe and bring everything down to the level of the United States. The Land of The Free is currently languishing last in a new ranking system of countries’ healthcare – http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/06/us-healthcare-most-expensive-and-worst-performing/372828/ The bad news for the UK, is that the NHS is included in the TTIP deal, leading to further wholescale privatisation of our healthcare system.

Troublesome laws regulating use of land for extreme energy? Get rid of them at one stroke with TTIP! The agreement trumps European-wide legislation, allowing companies to claim billions in damages if their “right” to make profits is damaged. What about our right to clean, healthy drinking water or our right to protect our environment?

TTIP is profoundly undemocratic. Nobody voted for it, and we have no say in the negotations. This deal is being hammered out behind closed doors in Brussels. It was launched by EU President Barroso and Barack Obama. Paul Murphy (ex-Socialist Party MEP) has pointed out that TTIP is a “race to the bottom”, a corporate bill of rights, putting the rights of companies before the rights of ordinary people – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=apP3WujWJOw

None of the main parties oppose TTIP.

So what can we do?

The need for general, co-ordinated strike action by the trade unions has never been greater.

The need for everybody to join a union and become active in changing right-wing unions into democratic, fighting organisations has never been greater.

The need to join a political party which is fighting to put an end to capitalism’s rush for profit at the expense of ordinary people has never been greater – http://www.socialistworld.net

From cradle to grave?

July 6, 2014

This is a recent article I wrote for the socialist newspaper on the state of the NHS in Leicester and the need to fight against cuts and privatisation.

The Chief Executive of University Hospitals Leicester is being paid over £200,000 a year to slash jobs and services. He is planning to cut maternity services at Leicester General Hospital, so that care for “low-risk pregnancies only” may be delivered at the hospital – he says that a full maternity service is not viable in the future. As well as this, intensive care will be reduced from the three hospital sites in Leicester to just two. This is to avoid a projected £400m funding gap by 2019.

These cuts will inevitably cost lives – critically ill patients and women with complications in childbirth will have to travel from one side of the city to another. A pregnancy can start off normally, but complications can be fatal. The loss of beds will have a further impact on the hospital’s ability to treat patients, especially in the winter. Locally, hospital services are already hugely stretched and the waiting time for A&E treatment is more than four hours. At a recent public meeting on the state of the NHS organised by Keep Our NHS Public, a nurse spoke of patients having to be sectioned, not because they needed psychological treatment, but simply to ensure that they would get a bed.

The Trust gives excuses for the cuts, talking about a move towards “care at home”. When it was set up, the NHS was intended to provide a “comprehensive” health care service, “from cradle to grave”. This responsibility was torn up under the Tories’ infamous Health and Care Act. But would Labour do anything any different? They introduced “Foundation Trusts”, making hospitals compete with each other for funding,rather than co-operating to deliver the best possible care and opening up the NHS to the private market. Labour also expanded the use of PFI, or “Profit From Illness” as Dave Nellist has called it. This has allowed private companies to take over the running of facilities and services. The profits of companies such as Capita, Serco and Interserve are the real reason for the cash crisis in our hospitals.

The Socialist Party would end our reliance on PFI, and kick out fat cats from our NHS, without any compensation. If capitalism is not willing to pay for decent healthcare, then it is not the NHS we cannot afford, it is this rotten economic system itself, which puts profits before people.

The Socialist Party stands for the complete renationalisation of NHS services and democratic control by workers and patients in the NHS. The NHS has had its funds frozen by the government, breaking promises made in 2010 that front-line staff would not be affected, and there would be no major top-down reorganisation of our hospitals – just before the government pushed through a major privatisation of services, seeing billions of pounds of funding going to the private sector. That money could instead be invested to meet the needs of the people of Leicester, but it is only going to happen if rapacious companies are kicked out of our public services for good. This would get rid of costly middle-men and reduce bureaucracy in our NHS.

Trade unions on July 10th, representing 1.5 million workers, are taking part in the biggest strike action since the pensions dispute of November 2011, in defence of members’ terms and conditions. We must pressurise the leadership of unions to keep up the pressure this time and refuse to climb down. Health workers have faced the same squeeze on our wages, with years of below-inflation pay rises, outsourcing and underfunding and therefore their unions also need to take part in joint strike action. It is difficult in a caring profession to abandon your job, but the reality is that the NHS will be destroyed unless we fight to keep it.

Support TUSC and join the Socialist Party to campaign to save our NHS services.

In place of fear

May 3, 2014

 

Antibiotics – magic bullet to cure infection,

Stop bacteria in their tracks and give you protection.

But there’s a snag, a flaw, a hitch – which Darwin foresaw,

As bugs divide and conquer, they will have the last hurrah.

Drugs are not a panacea for every malady

They kill microbes, of course, but no permanent remedy

Exists. The bacilli that survive, can go on to thrive

Evolve, go forth and multiply. Our drugs only drive

Evolutionary pressure; the stakes are ramped higher

We need to use our brain power to put out this fire.

But Big Pharma has no interest – driven on by greed

Companies focus on the bottom line, not what people need

There is profit in drugs which customers keep on taking

Statins lower cholesterol, and keep the money flowing

A molecule tweaked here and there will give me a patent

Without any of the effort,  none of the investment

To design new medicine, which will soon be obsolete.

In a vicious circle, adverts feed demands of Wall Street

Viagra perks up profits, antidepressants numb pain

Of misery and debt, and so we turn to pills again.

There’s no money to be made in developing new cures,

So infections will run riot and weeping, pus-filled sores

Will once more be the norm. Evolution runs its course.

There is no sticking plaster, let’s address the root cause.

Nationalise the drug cartels, take profit out of the equation

Good health, without brainwashing, or chemical salvation.

Our NHS must be restored, to meet our common need,

It was built to cure disease, not to fuel bosses’ greed.

 

 


You can read some more of my poetry in ‘Little Red Poetry’ (£4 pbk, £2.50 pdf e-book).

All proceeds go to build a new party for ordinary people, against cuts and privatisation. Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Copies are also available from Left Books

No more cuts – save our hospitals

January 27, 2014

My local hospital, University Hospitals Leicester, has had to apply for financial support from the government, after it has forecast going into the red this year by £40m. Tragically, it is planning to cut £45million pounds in a “cost improvement plan” in 2014. This will only mean the loss of more staff, and further exacerbate the problem rather than providing a solution.

Portering and estates staff have already been replaced by Interserve, a private company, which will look to profit by cutting staff costs, which means cutting jobs or not replacing people who leave. As a result this has meant more charges and bureaucracy and a poorer service. So called “backroom” staff are equally important in keeping hospitals clean, safe and infection-free.

Many hospitals across the country are in a similar situation. Crippled by exorbitant PFI (Private Finance Initiative) deals, many of which involve contracts of 30 years to private companies, much of the NHS is struggling financially. This is not surprising, as budgets have been frozen and not adjusted to meet rising costs and demands on the service.

The Con-Dem’s Health and Social Care Act has opened the NHS up to the private or voluntary sectors. The time of managers is diverted, not into improving patient care, but in finding ways to calculate waiting times to keep commissioners, the people who buy our service, happy. NHS staff are constantly faced with the uncertainty that their service may be taken over.

A recent inquiry into the failure of North Staffs NHS Foundation Trust, prompted by an increased death rate due to budget cuts, recommended an increase in qualified medical staff on wards. Yet hospitals are forced to rely on agency staff due to chronic underfunding. In Lewisham, 25,000 people marched last year to save their beleaguered Accident and Emergency service; they correctly blamed the government rather than staff for the NHS’s failings.

Despite pre-election promises that there would be no major re-organisation of healthcare, the Con-Dem government is opposed in principle to the idea of the NHS, and wants to hand over our hospitals to big business. They are trying to force hospitals to become Foundation Trusts, which can be sold off to any willing provider. Private companies can cherry-pick profitable parts of the service, while the state is left to deal with more complex cases. Yet Foundation Trusts were created under New Labour, who were also enthusiastic about PFI deals. They offer no alternative to save the NHS, and will need to be pressurised by mass action into even repealing the Tories’ Health and Social Care Act. When British Rail was privatised, Labour initially said it would be renationalised, but the party went back on their word as soon as they were elected.

The example of Lewisham shows that the public do not believe the government’s lies that cuts need to be made, and are prepared to fight to save services. The trade unions in the NHS should organise co-ordinated industrial action, along with other public sector workers, firefighters and civil servants, in defence of jobs and services.

The Socialist Party puts forward renationalisation of the NHS. We advocate a democratic takeover of our hospitals and a fully-integrated, nationwide service. The bureaucracy of tendering out services needs to go. We would invest in the health service and kick greedy fat cats out of our hospitals. We would nationalise the drug companies which make billions from inflated drug prices. Only by taking control of the running of hospitals ourselves can we have a truly efficient health service.