How to Stop NHS being dismantled

Our afternoon meeting on October 21st entitled ‘How can we stop the NHS being dismantled?’ was well attended indicating the high level of concern amongst local pensioners that we should conserve and protect our NHS. The speaker was Gay Lee, a practising nurse & campaigner for Keep Our NHS Public (KONP). This is a brief digest; for a full report consult

Gay reminded us that that Scotland and Wales had retained the old style NHS; but in England the Health & Social Care Bill had made changes to how the NHS was run. She asked us what we thought were the problems currently facing the NHS. We came up with many – the shortage of staff, increased burdens of bureaucratic paper work on staff, delays on discharge from hospital caused by local authority’s shortage of facilities and funding.

Others indicated changes in organisational practice as systemic causes for the problems, one being the system of costing and tariffs, the internal market – that alone absorbs a large proportion of overall funding. Another was the Private Finance Initiatives (PFIs) used to fund many hospital builds, an alternative to public borrowing that would have been cheaper. It is now acknowledged that PFI contracts were a bad deal and many hospitals are suffering crippling debts, causing a massive shortage of beds all across London.

The introduction of the ‘purchaser/provider split’, introduced in 1990, was mentioned. This separated the responsibilities for management and healthcare provision and introduced a form of sub-contracting that many consider has since led to fragmentation and creeping privatisation of services.

The NHS is good because of its skilled staff, yet para-medics, once trained, cannot afford to live in London, leading to a critical shortage. The real value of pay in the NHS has been falling for five years and this year 60% of NHS staff will not get any pay rise at all. This is leading to staff leaving, a heavier work load on those that remain, and a higher dependence on agency nurses. No wonder these loyal workers threaten strike action.

Gay mentioned a new threat. Junior doctors used to receive unsocial hours payment. They and nurses depend upon this extra earnings to survive. Yet the government proposes to abolish this payment.

Gay’s message was to make people aware of the government’s agenda. She quoted Noam Chomsky, who said “That’s the standard technique of privatization: defund, makes sure things don’t work, people get angry, you hand it over to private capital’

One of our members not present, had sent a glowing report of the treatment she had received when referred by her doctor to the new Ambulatory Care Centre (Adults) Whittington Health. Her care was prompt, attentive and efficient and she was also given a complimentary lunch box.

Let us keep it that way! Urge MPs to support the ‘Reinstatement of the NHS Bill’ due for a second reading in March 2016, and speak up against any commissioning of services to private companies.

Watch our space for further developments.

by Janet Shapiro