Updates and news on the Lewisham downgrade and judicial review; potential for NHS campaigning at the Eastleigh by-election; Ken Loach's new film, Spirit of '45, featuring Jacky Davis; talk of an April 1st action, mendacity from Hunt, and Unite derecognised by ambulance service.
Too much has happened this week to summarise, but there are some interesting points to pick up on, as well as developments in the broader NHS movement that should be opened up to debate. The final release of the MidStaffs report has dominated the news agenda and for that reason will put to one side for the minute. What else is happening:
Lewisham – it has today been announced that Lewisham council have given Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt until February 22nd to withdraw his planned downgrade of Lewisham hospital. Ideas were floated this week to crowdfund money to legally challenge Hunt’s decision but it appears Lewisham Council are indeed stepping up. Speaking to an activist from the Lewisham area it seems there may be wider plans for more imaginative action on securing the hospital’s future. OurNHS welcomes any submissions from activists, campaigners, medical staff or citizens on their local situation, what is happening, what they’re doing, what is working and what is not working – the Lewisham campaign has already generated significant attention from both the media and the public. Building on local experience with a national audience is critical.
Eastleigh by-election: will take place 28 February 2012, forced by the resignation of Chris Huhne. The National Health Action Party have announced they will be contesting the seat – first blood for the NHS backlash? Is there an opportunity to put David Owen’s reinstatement Bill into use: will the prospective candidates back it? If you are campaigning in Eastleigh or want to write something on the issue – get in touch.
The Spirit of ’45 – Ken Loach’s new film launches March 15th, a stirring account of the foundation of the welfare state, the NHS, and contrasts the optimism and unity of the post-war years with the squalor and poverty that preceded it. The film is strongly polemical without being overly didactic, made up solely of interviews with those recalling the pre-war realities, as well as contemporary speakers – including the brilliant Jacky Davis – on what is happening now. It’s a powerful piece of film making and there are discussions already underway on how it might be utilised for NHS campaigning.
April 1st - will mark the formal switchover to the new NHS structures, 2 weeks after the launch of Spirit of ’45, and is being mooted as an obvious day for a big NHS action. If you are planning local actions for April 1st or have ideas for something bigger – get in touch, tell us what’s happening, write about it.
NHS reforms at ground level – we are in talks with partner organisations to bring people’s personal accounts of what’s happening locally into public debate and that project should be launching shortly. Grass-roots accounts of what is going on are vital, as well as a good way of generating media coverage, whether from patients, the public, staff, whoever – if you want to write about local closures, outsourcing of services, etc: get in touch.
David Owen writes to the Royal Colleges on Mid-Staffs - writing to the Colleges, Owen urged some rethinking over their roel in maintaining professional standards and queries whether there is a danger they have become too close to the DoH. The essay accompanying his letter was published here today, in full. OurNHS would be interested to hear from rank and file members on how well they felt their College presented their concerns in the passage of the H&SC Act.
Government continues to ‘mis-speak’ on spending commitments – just yesterday I was forwarded a press release from Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary, the first line of which read “No one can doubt the Conservatives commitment to the NHS.” For sheer mendacity it was a brave opening gambit as well as an almost perfect inversion of the truth. The next few lines read as follows:
“In the toughest financial climate we've faced in years our party was the only party to commit to increasing the NHS budget. More money to the frontline and less spent on management and bureaucracy. A commitment we are delivering in Government, which remains unwavering today.”
In black and white, Hunt claims his government are “delivering” their commitment to “increase the NHS budget”. Yet according to the Independent back in December, the Conservatives conceded months ago that they had failed to uphold that pledge, like so many others.
“The Tories changed their website [in December] to amend their totemic pledge after the official statistics watchdog rebuked the Prime Minister and the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, for claiming that NHS spending has risen since coming into government in 2010.”
Real term spending has fallen. Yet the Conservatives continue to mislead the public without any tangible sanction.
Yorkshire ambulance bosses dismiss whistleblowing union in patient safety row - an interesting press release from Unite explained:
Managers at the Yorkshire ambulance service are ignoring the recommendations of the Francis Report, as they try to silence Unite, the country’s largest union, from raising patient safety concerns by derecognising the union.
“At a time when the Francis Report recommends a culture of candour focused on patient care and underpinned by law, it beggars belief that bosses at Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust have taken this action."
“They have derecognised Unite, as the trade union representing paramedics and other ambulance staff, for raising concerns about the proposed shake-up in ambulance services."
“Their attitude flies in the face of the findings of the Francis Report and smacks of bullying and gagging those who believe patients will be put at risk. The fact that Unite’s membership at the trust has soared in recent weeks proves that we are on the right track in raising concerns.”