Midwives Standing Together – When We Have Had #ENOUGH


There are many good people  in working reponsible roles in society. They are not earning a fortune; they are doing jobs because they care, careers they are proud of – because they want to make a difference.

But caring is not enough. Everyone derserves a life, a family, a home. The government’s treatment of our skilled health professionals, on whom we depend for our lives is appalling.  Staff are working long shifts with no mealtimes, with wages frozen and no prospects of improving conditions. Remember this is in  one of the richest countries in the world, one where where bankers have bonuses, where  global corporations hold democracy to ransom, and where they seek to silence dissent. We should be ashamed. Now it is time to say, “Enough”!

This plea from Hayley, a midwife,  is calling time on this government’s treatment of our workers, on the erosion of our public services. We will take no more.

A Midwife’s Call for An End  to Abuse of Good Will

By Hayley Huntoon

Twitter: @hayleyhuntoon

Yesterday a man came to me livid with frustration ‘this is not good enough’. He told me ‘my daughter has been waiting hours to be seen’ . He went on to tell me, ‘it isn’t you. It isn’t the other midwives – the care has been impeccable but the situation just isn’t good enough.’

I know. I agree. I have shed too many tears over a career I could not love more because there is nothing I can do. What he didn’t know was that heartbreakingly this is a daily occurrence in my life as a midwife. What he didn’t know was that actually yesterday was a rare Saturday off for me yet I had come into work so that my amazing colleagues could have a break from their 13 hour shift. A break they won’t be paid for whether they take it or not, but that they physically need as human beings. I had come into the unit so that women like his daughter could be seen. So that our unit could be open to women who needed our skills as midwives, doctors, health care professionals. Women who were in labour. Women who’s babies weren’t moving much. Women who were concerned about their own wellbeing.

5 maternity units in the north-west have been closed over the weekend. These women need our care. We are literally being worked to the ground. I am watching amazing midwives leave a profession they love because the workload and stress is too high.

Today is a rare Sunday off for me. But I will be spending it supporting our rights as workers. The NHS is run on good will. But there is only so much we can take. We joke at work that midwives don’t need to eat. To rehydrate. To empty our bladders. To sleep. Let us look after ourselves so that we can look after our women. Our future generation of children.

Earlier this year, our country voted for a government that said no to more midwives. The Conservative party have demonstrated five years of austerity, falling living standards, pay freezes and huge cuts to public services. They have threatened to make cuts to our night shift and weekend enhancements. Over the past 4 years I have missed Christmas days. New Years days. Family’s birthdays. Countless nights out. I had a good education and did very well at school. I am 22. I have held the hands of women through the most emotional times of their lives. I have dressed Angels we have had to say goodbye too. I have supported women to make decisions that empower them. I have been scared myself. Tired, stressed, emotional every day. Yet I am not and will not be paid well like my friends who have chosen business careers. I am not offered pay rises for my efforts or successes. I don’t care because I get something more valuable than that from what I do. I love what I do. I’m passionate about what I do that’s why I do it. But I do care that we are the ones who are being threatened with further cuts. Further strain.


So today I stand with doctors, midwives, nurses, teachers, firemen and many other amazing people to spread awareness of a situation that has gone too far. To share information that the general public are oblivious to because as midwives, we will not let these women be failed. I am regularly met by stunned responses from women and their partners to the situation they watch me working under. But Hayleytoday I say no. Enough is enough.

I have shed too many tears over a career I love. Missed too many meal breaks. Not physically been able to care for too many women the way I wanted to. Spent too many days off in work. Lost too much sleep over the stress I am under. Watched more of my colleagues than I could count (myself included) be signed off work with stress in the early years of their career. Watched too many good midwives leave careers they love. This is not humane.

Please let’s end this. Protect your NHS. Your children’s future. Your education system. The core foundations of Great Britain.

I have recently learned the world is a selfish place. But I have also learned that there are a lot of very good people in it. The NHS is run on good will and because of this we have been pushed too far. Let’s change this.

Further Reading:

The Battle to save the NHS


The crisis in the NHS grinds on inexorably.  In just the last day, former LD health minister, Norman Lamb warns that the healthcare system will crash in two years and says Tories are being dishonest over crisis.   Furthermore, NHS junior doctors have condemned a new contract imposed on them, fearing that it will cut their pay by up to 40%, force them to work more antisocial shifts and put some off becoming GPs or A&E medics.

They have pledged to resist the move by ministers, which they say is “bad for patients, bad for junior doctors and bad for the NHS”. The joint leader of the 53,000 junior doctors in England affected has indicated that they may even go on strike in protest.

Tony O’Sulivan sets out the current position in the piece below, re-posted from openDemocracy

The NHS stays centre stage as the political ground shakes

By Tony O’Sullivan – Consultant Paediatrician and member of Keep Our NHS Public and the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign.  First posted 14.09.15 openDemocracy

The English NHS is likely to stay centre stage in political fights.  New Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s first official visit as Labour Party leader was to Camden & Islington NHS Mental Health Trust yesterday.  His new shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, last night highlighted his opposition to the EU/US TTIP trade deal which many see as a huge threat to the NHS.  And – uniquely amongst leadership contenders,  Corbyn is a signatory to the NHS Bill 2015 – which aims to reinstate the NHS and was re-tabled in Parliament by Caroline Lucas, Green MP with cross-party support on July 1st.

Yesterday, Corbyn wrote

“We as a labour movement have to be strong enough to stand up and ensure that we have a system that prevents anyone falling into destitution, supports those going through mental health crises and ends the internal market and privatisation of our health service.”


Later today, parliament will debate a vote of no confidence in health secretary Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary, after two petitions calling for such a debate attracted over 300,000 signatures – though the Government has relegated it down from the main chamber of the House of Commons, to the significantly more low-key Westminster Hall venue.  Doctors have been asked to ensure their MP attends this debate and to ensure the focus is on Hunt and his record.

NHS campaigners will be out in force to show the Government the depth of feeling for the NHS and against Conservative ideological direction at the Tory Party conference in Manchester on 3-7 October.

The greater openness of political debate, first in the Scottish independence referendum and now in the Labour Party leadership election, means that many more will be ready to get involved.  And we must be ready to respond to every anti-NHS argument.

The ideological untruths and practical assaults on the NHS and public sector that we saw under the coalition government are being ramped up under the new Tory government.

If a public service is starved of essential finance for long enough it will start to fail – and the NHS is no exception.  Just earlier this month, GPs in Worcestershire were told not to refer patients to local NHS hospitals for three months so that they could clear a backlog – and encouraged to pay private hospitals to take patients in the meantime.

The NHS is ‘broken’, wrote James Bartholomew in the Telegraph electing to place the NHS bottom of the pile of European health systems.  He concludes that the ‘failed’ NHS must be replaced by a compulsory insurance system, such as that of Switzerland.

In the UK of course, there is a compulsory contribution to the NHS from public taxation made in the UK.  The great difference is that the UK system is not run for profit and is free at the point of need.

This principle makes the NHS far more cost effective – out-performingSwitzerland in effectiveness and value for money according to a 2015 Commonwealth Fund report.

No doubt other systems have lessons that we can learn from.

But Bartholomew’s argument is a purely ideological one. Like the Government, he wants us to equate publicly funded health systems with failure.

His 2004 book The Welfare State We’re In was praised by Thatcher’s guru, Milton Friedman, as “a devastating critique of the welfare state”.  During the 2010 pre-election period, Bartholomew advocated the abolition of the NHS on Radio 4.

Our NHS has been amazingly effective despite ongoing underfunding compared to other advanced national health systems.  Just why is it that the NHS has lower number of doctors and acute hospital beds per 1000 population and second lowest number of MRI scanners per million compared to other advanced European health systems?  It is a failure of funding rather than a failure of the NHS.  It receives less funding than the OECD average and less than the European comparators.

Nonetheless, the Commonwealth Fund’s comparative analysis of 11 advanced national health services, using data and surveys from 2010-13, placed the USA bottom and the NHS top.  The NHS was best in 8 out of 11 criteria and was the most cost-effective national health system.

In fact, despite significant underfunding, the NHS has punched above its weight for three generations.

It is now under threat from cleverly disguised ideology, worsening cuts, PFI payments and privatisation, not from its ‘failure’.  The failure to adequately fund front-line NHS services over the last five years has increased waiting lists.  We need more GPs, hospital doctors, more nurses and therapists and better equipment.  Not an insurance based system such as the USA or Switzerland.  The USA spends double the UK on health but over 30% of that funding is wasted on private insurance administration and profit margins.  In insurance-based health systems, the incentive of profit regarding who gets investigations, procedures and treatments, can be a more powerful motive than what is bestfor the patient.

Efforts to privatise whole swathes of health services have failed to deliver more effective care and are proving more costly.  We now face a national health service increasingly without national coordination of standards, with shrinking resources and accelerating fragmentation.  This will devastate patient care pathways which rely on many services cooperating together (including social care).

We must get back the NHS.  In the example of New Zealand we can see the immediate benefits if we succeed.  New Zealand privatised their health service in 1993.  Perverse incentives dominated and costs escalated.  The new 1999 government looked this failure in the eye.  They made a political decision to act on the evidence and renationalised their health service in 2000 with clear benefits.  Following the calamitous Christchurch earthquake of 2010, public conclusions were that the privatised and fragmented health service would not have been able to respond to such magnificent effect as New Zealand’s reinstated NHS.

There is one category where the UK comes out close to bottom in international comparisons like the Commonwealth Fund (though still above the USA).

It’s ‘healthy lives’, a category which reflects more specifically health inequality: the effects of poverty, education and societal attitudes to promoting early child development (see the Marmot Review).

The greatest single determinant of health outcomes is of course poverty. The impoverishment of the British people through austerity, unemployment, low wages and zero hour contracts, the mental and physical stress that places on us, coupled with the assault on the funding of the NHS and escalating privatisation, means that the battle to save our NHS is more important than ever.

With additional reporting by Caroline Molloy.

This article is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence. If you have any queries about republishing please contact us. Please check individual images for licensing details.

Leo Panitch’s view of Jeremy Corbyn as a National Threat


David Cameron Says Jeremy Corbyn is a National Threat

Who says what about the NHS – Labour leadership contenders


With under a week to go till the Labour leadership election closes, how much do we know about the candidates’ positions on the NHS?

“PFI on steroids”?  More like an NHS debate on tranquillisers

By Caroline Molloy

first posted 4 September 2015 at openDemocracy

In last night’s last televised Labour leadership hustings, Yvette Cooper launched a broadside against Jeremy Corbyn’s idea of a ‘People’s Quantitative Easing’ to fund hospitals and other vital infrastructure, calling it ‘Private Finance on steroids’.

It’s obviously a soundbite she’s proud of, having used it earlier in the week.

But it’s a senseless, illogical critique.

Corbyn’s proposals to pump government cash into investment in vital public service infrastructure to boost jobs and the economy – are the mirror opposite of Private Finance, which sought private alternatives to government cash, even at the cost of inflated interest rates and inflexible, long-term maintenance contracts.

And logically, Cooper’s criticism only makes sense if you think private finance (PFI) schemes are ‘a bad thing’. (After all, you don’t criticise an opponent by calling their plans a super-powered version of a good thing!).

But – whilst Corbyn himself has put forward a powerful critique of PFI, and widely-praised proposals to save hospitals from it, Cooper shows no sign of thinking PFI is a bad thing.

Cooper was Chief Secretary to the Treasury in 2008/9 whilst it signed off nearly 50 new PFI schemes, including many in the NHS.

In 2009, she told parliament “PFI projects have consistently demonstrated value for money and high levels of user satisfaction in vital areas of public service delivery….” She added that it was best to stick with the PFI structure because the private sector will “continue to bear the risk of cost overruns and delays” (even as she handed the private firms a £2bn public bailout).

The Commons Treasury Committee disagreed, saying “Private Finance projects are significantly more expensive to fund over the life of a project…We have not seen clear evidence of savings and benefits in other areas of PFI projects which are sufficient to offset this significantly higher cost of finance.”

But Cooper appears never to have accepted these criticisms.

Even as she berated Jeremy Corbyn for ducking her questions about “free money” at last night’s Sky hustings, she ducked his question about whether she would pursue still more rip-off PFI, as her “credible alternative” to “printing money”.

And what of the other two Labour Leadership candidates?

Shadow Health Secretary Liz Kendall of course is always right on the New Labour message that Private Finance schemes were the only way to rebuild hospitals that had crumbled under Thatcher – an argument rejected by the BMA, the medical Royal Colleges, the National Audit Office, and campaigners, who point to the spiralling long-term costs now pushing hospitals like Peterborough and Barts to the brink of ruin.

Shadow Health Secretary (and former Health Secretary) Andy Burnham’s mood music has been different , and he has admitted that some PFI schemes were bad value (though when OurNHS asked him, he couldn’t name any that were good value). And when we asked him whether he would commit, at the least, to no more PFI, his team told us “that was a matter for the treasury” – hardly reassuring.

It’s a pity that in the debate the media has failed to properly grill the candidates on their position on PFI – just as before the election, they failed to ask Ed Balls if, having abandoned the idea of ‘invest for growth’ in favour of ‘no new government borrowing, even for capital projects’, he was still wedded to the ‘off-balance sheet’ trick of PFI (though experts suspected that is exactly what he meant).

Much of our media is befuddled on the NHS issues more generally – from privatisation and funding to staffing and the big questions of entitlement to comprehensive health care.

Corbyn is the only candidate to have signed the “NHS Bill”, developed by Professor Allyson Pollock alongside many other campaigners, and put forward as a cross-party bill by Caroline Lucas.

The Bill – which has won huge support amongst NHS campaigners – calls for THE restoration of the Secretary of State’s duty to ensure a comprehensive health service for all, which was finally abolished by Cameron’s 2012 Health Act.

The loss of this duty was behind situations like that in Devon, where last year the unaccountable and cash-strapped local ‘Clinical Commissioning Group’ tried to ban all obese people and smokers from having any routine operations on the NHS. And it’s behind the mounting rhetoric about the ‘undeserving’ (starting of course with politically unpopular groups like migrants, fat people and addicts) who should be made to pay for their health care.

Burnham has signed a Labour bill put forward by Clive Efford which provides some similar wording, and did manage to get a commitment to ‘restoring the Secretary of State’s duty’ into the health manifesto – though not the wider Labour manifesto.

Burnham won many friends amongst NHS campaigners for saying that “we let the market in too far” and that the NHS should be the “preferred provider” (along with charities). And for beginning to talk about privatisation (though too often the language was of ‘fragmentation’ or ‘top down reform’, which seemed a lukewarm language). Such language appeared a welcome respite from the Blairite mantra (still espoused by former Health Special Advisor Kendall, of course), that “what matters is what works”. The extensive evidence of privatisation’s unnecessary expense and failures is dismissed as ‘ideological’ by these ideologues.

But the Cross-Party Bill signed by Corbyn goes a lot further in saving the NHS from expensive privatisation. The NHS Bill calls for the hugely expensive and bureaucratic NHS ‘market’ of ‘Trusts’ competing with each other and private firms – a system Burnham and Cooper consistently voted for, and Corbyn consistently opposed – to be largely scrapped, as it has been in Scotland.

Meanwhile Burnham has repeatedly refused to say just how much the market and private firms should be allowed in to theNHS, or to speak out against plans currently underway to turn a clutch of NHS hospitals into independent ‘social enterprises’, or to address concerns that merging the NHS into already privatised social care might undermine our ability to see off further compulsory privatisation under existing EU law.

This integration of health and social care remains Burnham’s “big idea” for the NHS – an idea echoed by Kendall, Cooper, and indeed the Tories and Lib Dems. It’s a holy grail that has been chased for years, of course.

But worryingly, Burnham has been a lot clearer about his desire to leave a legacy of a ‘National Care System’ than he has about his commitment to ensuring that, whatever happens to social care, our ‘National Health System’ will remain comprehensive and taxpayer-funded, as polls show the public want.

Burnham told a Kings Fund audience that we would have to “have a big conversation” about what social care and health care we were entitled to, and how we pay for itafter the General Election.

And he recently told the Guardian that he wanted a “means-tested levy” to pay for his “integrated health and social care system”.

Perhaps Burnham didn’t mean to suggest that health care provision would in future be means-tested, just like social care. His personal manifesto, released a week later, was more carefully worded. But his lack of clarity and – yes – bite worries campaigners. When OurNHS exposed that the government was planning an inquiry into funding the NHS through means-testing, co-payments, insurance or other means than tax, Burnham’s response was curiously muted. Did the Shadow Health Secretary build on the widespread outrage at this apparent back-tracking on all Cameron’s lofty pre-election promises about protecting NHS principles? No – he merely asked for the “terms of reference” of the inquiry.

And whilst neither Burnham nor Cooper have shown quite Liz Kendall’s enthusiasm for an NHS funded through ‘Personal Budgets’ (an idea strongly redolent of Thatcherite vouchers and clearly opening the door to co-payments as with social care), there’s been no criticism from Burnham of this scheme, currently being rolled out by the NHS boss to millions of the sickest patients.

It is perhaps a little unfair to criticise Burnham for his silence on these issues, without acknowledging that (apart from Kendall’s cheerleading) the other candidates haven’t said an awful lot about them, either.

The failure here is the media’s. Despite being the number one issue before the election, little of this has come out in the debate. The candidates get away with mentioning the NHS only as part of a litany of great things about Labour they are proud of. They usually add in an emotive mantra about relatives that struggled in an era before the NHS, or couldn’t have survived without it.

This is no more convincing when it’s Yvette Cooper’s great auntie than when it’s David Cameron’s son. Without strong commitments to a comprehensive, universal, quality, ethical, timely and tax-funded, NHS, such mantras are merely a haze.

To be fair to Burnham, neither Cooper nor Corbyn have fully engaged with these issues, nor would they really be expected to understand the detail of issues outside their briefs. But Corbyn’s willingness to listen to the united voices of NHS campaigners who said “THIS Bill is a big part of the solution”, bodes well, if he should win.

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