Posts Tagged ‘privatisation’

Defend comprehensive education

May 21, 2016


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.


April 10, 2016



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!

Operating Theatre

January 12, 2013

Our NHS is sixty-four, frail and cold.
Suffering chills, its funds frozen.
The ‘remedy’? Take a scalpel,
Cut, fragment and divide.
Into Foundation Trusts,
Let the market decide.
Parcelled into manageable chunks
Packaged to suit the money men
Whose bedside manner
Leaves much to be desired.
Privatised, butchered, sold out.
The rich can always go to BUPA.
They don’t need to rely on
Underfunded services and overworked staff.
They have no fear of the knife.
Stop them cutting into
The still-beating heart of our health service.
Stop them privatising
The wards and the nurses and the care homes.
The cancer of capitalism
Spreads out of our control.
We must apply people pressure.
Stop the cuts. Save our hospitals. Strike back.

On payment by results and why it is wrong

August 20, 2011

I work in the NHS. Before becoming a medical secretary, I used to be a teacher. The hospital have asked us to “cluster” all our patients by the end of October. On googling ‘clustering’, I came up with the dreaded term “payment by results”, which will strike fear into the hearts of any teachers out there.

The problem with ‘payment by results’ is that, as the NUT put it in its fight against SATS (Standard Attainment Tests), teachers will be too busy ‘weighing the pig to feed it’, i.e. too busy measuring, assessing, marking, rather than getting on with doing your job which is supposed to be educating. The temptation also is to teach to the test, which is a process I shudder to remember from teaching Year 9 kids Romeo and Juliet.

One part of the play which was to be studied in the exam was Act 1 scene 5, where Romeo uses an elaborate extended metaphor to persuade Juliet to kiss him:

ROMEO: Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?
JULIET: Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.
ROMEO : O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do;
They pray — grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.
JULIET: Saints do not move, though grant for prayers’ sake.
ROMEO: Then move not, while my prayer’s effect I take.
[Kisses her.]
Thus from my lips, by yours, my sin is purged.
JULIET: Then have my lips the sin that they have took.
ROMEO: Sin from thy lips? O trespass sweetly urged!
Give me my sin again.
[They kiss]

I particularly like Juliet’s reply after this embrace, “You kiss by th’ book”.

However, I was instructed that the teaching of the play was not to extend beyond teaching in minute detail every aspect of the selected extracts to be tested – other than a showing of the Baz Luhrman film.

Why can’t we teach the general principles of literary devices – extended metaphor, simile, dramatic tension, etc., allow the children to experiment with these forms, and then this can be applied to ANY text? Otherwise literature just becomes a stultifying, dry memory exercise. Any enjoyment of the piece, any appreciation of how literary effects are used is completely lost -enjoyment is gone. Isn’t that supposed to be the entire point of listening to a poem, reading a book or watching a play?

I might sound like an old fuddy-duddy here, but what is wrong with giving people a completely unseen passage of text and then allowing them to come up with their own interpretation? This would value creativity, imagination and test the intellect, rather than spoon-feeding children pat answers. This is a criminal waste of talent and potential.

Now SATS at key stage 3 have thankfully gone, we now need to get rid of KS2 stats as well. While we are at it – we need to get rid of league tables, make schools select a broad intake of pupils, get rid of the market in education completely and have a truly comprehensive education system.

A similar process is going on in the NHS. In order to be more ‘market-driven’ and ‘patient-centred’, we have been told that by October all our patients need to be “clustered” – classified into how much resources need to be used in order to treat them.

This is not for any clinical reason, but purely to allow the Trust to get the coveted Foundation Trust status – at the moment savage cuts are being made across the country to hospital’s budgets in order to balance the books, staff are being made to input meaningless data, rather than type up clinical letters, or actually treat patients. The result is more bureaucracy and less treatment. In other words, like the SATs, we are too busy weighing the pig to feed it. We will also have to record every patient contact of over 15 minutes, even a phone call. This is ridiculous, wasteful and completely pointless, not to mention a major step in privatising the NHS.

Just as ridiculous are the 21 pages of criteria corresponding to each cluster that doctors have to compare their patients against. Yet, it is a simple matter to automate this – I wrote a simple program in basic in an hour or so using a set of IF . . . THEN commands.

IF c=1 AND v(6)2 AND v(8)>2 AND v(13)>2 THEN cl=6
IF c=1 AND v(7)>1 AND v(7)1 AND v(8)1 THEN cl=7
IF c=1 AND v(7)>2 AND v(8)>2 AND v(15)>2 THEN cl=8
IF c=2 AND v(6)>1 AND cl=9 AND f$=”Y” THEN cl=10
IF c=2 AND v(6)2 THEN cl=13
IF c=2 AND v(6)>2 AND v(12)>1 AND v(14)>1 THEN cl=14
IF c=2 AND v(6)>1 AND v(7)>2 THEN cl=15
IF c=2 AND v(6)>1 AND d$=”Y” THEN cl=16
IF c=2 AND v(6)>0 AND v(14)>2 AND v(12)>2 THEN cl=17
IF c=3 AND v(4)>0 AND v(4)<3 AND v(10)1 AND v(4)3 AND v(18)>2 THEN cl=20
IF c=3 AND v(4)>1 AND v(18)>2 AND v(12)>2 AND v(10)>2 AND v(5)>2 THEN cl=21
IF cl=0 THEN PRINT “Variance – cluster 0”
IF cl>0 AND cl<3 THEN PRINT “Cluster 1 or 2”
PRINT “Cluster “;cl

The clustering forms we are supposed to use, imposed from the top, are complete nonsense – you input the data in numbers, which is checked against a visual representation of each cluster, which needs to be printed in colour, due to colour coding, which necessitates expensive inkjets or travelling two miles to a different hospital with a colour photocopier. All this can be achieved in a few simple lines of code.

I would get rid of the NHS “internal market”, introduced by Thatcher in the 1980s. I would get rid of clustering and payment by results. I would get nationalise the pharmaceutical companies and kick out big business from the NHS completely. Profit should not be made from people’s illness. The great socialist Aneurin Bevan resigned immediately when the NHS’s ideal of free treatment for all was first compromised. It is only by fighting, protesting, taking strike action, that we can defend the principles of the NHS, just as the teachers’ unions eventually won part of the battle over SATs.

The party I am part of – the Socialist Party – is fighting for democratically controlled, completely nationalised public services, with no markets and less bureaucracy. This would be massively more sensible and efficient. We need more people to get involved, from the private and public sectors. We need to fight back.

Letter sent to my local Lib Dem branch

May 25, 2009

It is the Lib Dems’ fault for putting a freepost address on their leaflet . . .

Dear Sirs

I recently received with some interest a newspaper from the Lib Dems in Leicester. It claimed that you had been campaigning to stop the closure of post offices. In fact, the Lib Dems are championing the European Union which has driven through the privatisation of our postal service, which has led to the closures. I was on a campaign to save Bishop St Post Office, which comprised of the Socialist Party, the Green Party and the International Workers of the World. We gave leaflets out to all post offices affected and raised a petition with thousands of signatures. I did not see the Lib Dems campaign on this issue once.

I was also involved with the Save Our Schools campaign in the Leicester South bye-election in 2004. It was the Lib Dems, in partnership with the Tories, whom you (rightly) say are the “dirtiest party” that pushed through the closure of vital schools. If you had any principles, how could you co-operate with your political enemies in this fashion, or are you just careerists like the other main parties, with no real concerns for your constituents?

Your newsletter also fails to mention the recent expenses scandal, where Lib Dems were just as embroiled as Labour and the Tories. I think that all three main parties are morally and politically bankrupt of ideas. I think we need a new workers’ party to represent ordinary people. That is why I am supporting the RMT’s NO2EU Yes to Democracy initiative in the European elections, as it is an historic step forward in this direction – the first time since 1906 and the founding of the Labour Party that a major trade union has put forward the need for real political representation for ordinary people. I am surprised that the person who put the paper through my door failed to notice the A3 poster in my window!

I also noted the fact that, if you give a £10 donation or more, then you automatically become a member of the Lib Dems unless you opt out. I think this is a disgraceful attempt to inflate your membership figures.

Andrew Walton
Leicester Socialist Party