A Tale of Two Deaths – NHS and Private Health Care

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Some years ago, two good friends died within a few months of each other … M (female aged 63) in the plush surroundings of the private wing of a London Hospital…. the other, P (male aged 56) in a NHS hospital in the Wirral.   Their personal circumstances could not have been more different.   M had a very comfortable, successful professional life whereas P was one of Thatcher’s casualties, consigned to the benefits scrap heap and unemployed since the 1980s.

I’m write now, because the manner of each of their deaths offer such a vivid picture of why we need to fight for the reinstatement of the NHS and a National Care Service… why privatization and financialisation of our health needs lead to the two tier contradiction of too much for those who can pay and too little for those who can’t.

M became increasingly ill with ‘a mystery’ illness only a few months before her death.   Eventually, she was admitted onto the private wing of a vast NHS hospital, in one of the wealthiest areas in central London. When I visited, I waited on leather bound settees, in a plush carpeted area decorated with original art works on the wall and filtered coffee on tap.

I have no doubt that M received state of the art medical treatment in her palatial room, with magnificent views over the London skyline.   However, when I last saw her, she was desperately phoning her husband to get onto the private health insurer because they had refused to fund the treatment that her consultant wanted to prescribe.

This was only two weeks before her death. She lay prone in her bed, with oxygen feeding into her nose. Her skin colour perfectly matched that of her white sheets. But, nevertheless, she was forced into worrying about the funding for her treatment because it was above that which the private insurer could authorize and ‘their special committee would not be able to consider the claim until after the weekend’.

I watched on, as she tried to explain over the phone to her husband that he needed to make the health insurer understand the urgency of the situation. Her desperate husband asked if they couldn’t just pay for the treatment outright. ‘No’ explained M. ‘The consultant says that any additional payments would invalidate the insurance plan and the insurers would then withdraw all payments for the hospital room and her care’.

I cannot describe my horror at the situation.

 

In contrast, P received the most extraordinary surgery and expert care in his NHS hospital without any financial limitation.   Through a freak accident, he had managed to dislocate his shoulder and somehow ruptured his oesophagus… I never got a very clear picture of how. Nevertheless, many weeks after 3 hours of surgery and a 3’ long incision spiraling around his torso, he had ‘recovered’ sufficiently to be sent home.

P lived alone, had had major surgery and yet there was no aftercare… no follow up. An extremely elderly neighbour (without a car) did a bit of shopping for him and that seemed to be it.

P was a highly intelligent, well-read socialist… a friend, made online.   We never actually met… so I cannot give the details as to why he did not receive help from social services or health checks from his GP… but I know that I made him contact the doctor after a few weeks when he confessed that he couldn’t eat and whenever he drank anything, it burned his whole insides!  That was the first time that he’d seen a doctor since leaving hospital.

Unfortunately, his oesphagus had split again and he was re-admitted to hospital for more expensive surgery. He lingered on for a few weeks before finally succumbing to a lung infection from which he eventually died.

I am not for a moment suggesting that either of these two deaths resulted from medical negligence.

But sumptuous surroundings are no compensation for the additional nightmare of exceeding your insurance policy’s spending limits…

And, there is little point in state of the art surgery if there is no aftercare in the community.

Under the Tories (with the help of the LDs in coalition) we are inexorably moving towards the two tier system of the US even though they spend more per capita on health and have worse outcomes.

The truth is that when there is a profit motive, the rich are over-investigated, and the poor are under-treated.

Stuart Hall despaired, in 2012:

“How can millions of people have benefited from the NHS and not be on the streets to defend it? Come on. The NHS is one of the most humanitarian acts that has ever been undertaken in peace time. The principle that someone shouldn’t profit from someone else’s ill health has been lost. If someone says an American health company will run the NHS efficiently, nobody can think of the principle to refute that. The guiding principles have been lost.”  https://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2012/feb/11/saturday-interview-stuart-hall

 

Today’s demonstration may be later than he wanted but the many thousands turning out to march today must have pleased Stuart Hall.

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The Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn pledges:

‘We will end health service privatisation and bring services into a secure, publicly-provided NHS. We will integrate the NHS and social care for older and disabled people, funding dignity across the board and ensure parity for mental health services.’

http://www.jeremyforlabour.com/pledges

The only question is what sort of health service will we be left with after 10y of Tory asset-stripping?

 

Why the hell doesn’t Corbyn put the bell around the cat’s neck?

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‘Why the hell doesn’t Corbyn put the bell around the cat’s neck?’

Cryptic?

No. It’s the Aesop’s fable that springs to mind when I read the various Princess and Princeling (elected or not) posturings and complaints about Corbyn and Copeland:

The mice call a conference to try to decide on how to stop the cat catching and eating them. One ‘princeling’, or it might have been a ‘princess’, got up and announced that the solution was to put a bell on the cat. At first, the other mice were all pleased and excited to have a solution. Then someone asked ‘How are we going to put a bell on the cat?’ ‘Oh’ said the prince/essy mouse ‘If you’re not going to listen to my advice, I’m off’. And with that, she/he flounced off.

Like all the rest of the mice, I’m left wondering if I’ve missed something … but no. That really is the sum of it.

In fact, there is another fairy story which fits … The Emperor’s New Clothes.

 There are two fraudsters who manage to persuade the Emperor that they have tailored him a magnificent set of clothes which only the intelligent can see.

The Emperor doesn’t want to admit that he can’t see a thing. So he pays the men a huge amount of gold and wears his new ‘clothes’ in a procession down the High Street. The people, suitably primed that they must be stupid if they can’t see the wonderful clothes, ‘ooo’ and ‘argh’ about the magnificent appearance of their King.

All that is except for one little boy who shouts out that the King is as naked as the day he was born.

No-one ever says what happened to the little boy. I guess that he was pilloried by the combined weight of the press and BBC… and by right wing MPs of all political parties. The entire weight of the establishment would have come down on the little boy’s head.

And the people in the crowd?  Well, I imagine that like all groups of people, they won’t all have thought the same thing.

Some will have persuaded themselves that they really could see the non-existent robes. Others will be more cautious and want to give the fraudsters the benefit of the doubt.  Another group will have seen exactly what is happening but won’t want to be pilloried like the little boy and decide that it’s better just to play along with the fraud because it’s too difficult to go against the establishment.

 Then there will be those who see the fraud as good thing… good for them that is.

However, there is a final group. These will be those brave and honourable souls who will gather around the little boy, standing up against the fraudsters regardless of the jeers of the press and public.  Those who realise that it is better to see the world as it really is rather than as they fear or want it to be… because it is only by recognizing the lies, the frauds and the sleights of hand that they will be able to fashion a better world which works for ordinary people and not the vested interests of the establishment and global finance.

It speaks volumes that there is more reality to be found in the words of Conservative journalists like Peter Oborne or in the comment threads on ConHome than there is from a majority of the PLP.

I will finish with an except from a Danny Finkelstein article about Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters:

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That’s why it’s called a ‘struggle!’

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By Theresa Byrne, previously published here
Ok I’ll start in the traditional style, and confess: I pinched the headline from Jeremy Corbyn’s speech to Scottish Labour. But it summed up my feelings and emotions over the last few days. Yes politics is a struggle, yes it is a constant push for progressiveness. And that is why most of us are in it.Change is not easy, whether it is changing a habit or changing a mind set. That is a psychological and emotional given. The Labour party is about change. Change in society, change in economics, change in politics. Many within the party forgot that after 1997, because the changes in society that were introduced were easily done. And were in many ways relatively superficial.

Take an example. The National Minimum Wage was introduced in 1999. It was profound in many ways, as the government said via the Low Pay Commission ‘this is the minimum people can be paid’. Many people on very low wages received a significant increase in their wages, the threatened job losses never materialised in the numbers forecast, the amount of the NMW slowly crept up, and the Tories accepted it as inevitable. But the amount of the NMW was not a significant amount of money, not really enough to live on and still required additional benefits from both government and local councils in order for families and people to survive. The concept was excellent but the execution left much to be desired. The underlying philosophy of poorly paid jobs with poor prospects was not directly challenged by the government, it was accepted. A superficial change to the pay structure was introduced but the two or three tier job market remained. Where was the necessary investment in manufacturing that could have created better jobs? Where was the governmental challenge to repeated outsourcing of work by business which encouraged the minimum level jobs and eventually to zero hours work?

Opportunities to challenge and significantly change the way society operated at an economic level were missed by the Labour Government between 1997 and 2010. We missed the chance to have the arguments and discussions about the links between taxation and public services, preferring to allow PFIs to pay for new hospitals and schools, and to allow the financial services bubble to pay for other investments. We did not regulate the financial markets so the crash that happened in 2008 caused horrendous problems to the economy and to people, as the Government scrambled to save the banking industry. We also then allowed the Tories to set the myth that we overspent, even when they had agreed with our spending plans back in 2007.

If we had made the case for taxation paying for public services, people would have understood that Labour was not overspending. We were providing those services such as the Health Service, social care, education etc in common, as common goods where we share the responsibility and the cost of provision together because we share the goods. We pay for the services, they are not ‘provided’ for us through a vague government spending concept but through taxation paid by everyone and a progressive taxation system where the more income you have the more you pay is the balanced and fair way to tax. But this argument was not made. And by the time we needed to challenge the myth it was too late, our opportunity has passed by. We have to remember that in 1997 the schools, hospitals and local services were in such a dire situation that the people understood that (i) a new government was needed and (ii) that serious investment was demanded. That was our opportunity to make the case for taxation to pay for the services and people were open to us, to our new ideas. We failed to make that case. Again we superficially changed by investing through PFIs but the underlying philosophy of linking taxation to public services as a part of a civilised society to challenge the economic view of taxation as a necessary evil that should be reduced for a small state was not made.

Our struggle now must be to understand, explain and argue for fundamental change in society, in economics and in politics which is what Jeremy Corbyn is about. The policies he has put forward, with John McDonnell, about investment in housing, in education, in the Health Service and local government, in secure jobs are all direct challenges to the neo-liberal free market knows best economics that have been in existence for over 30 years. The struggle is about asking questions about people’s perceptions, talking with them about why we believe that investment in housing is not just good for providing a home but for jobs, for increasing taxation in the economy, allowing people to establish themselves and build a community. Talk with them about the importance of security in work, how it builds community, allows children to feel secure, allows more people to become active and involved in their local community at a volunteer level because they can relax and not worry so much about still having a job tomorrow or next week. Talk with them about a good quality Health Service where having a serious illness is not a cause for money worries but an opportunity to focus on the importance of getting better, or dealing with the psychological consequences of illness. Talk to people are having a good social care system integrated with health, housing, community links so that elderly people, those with disabilities can be part of the community and know that their needs are being dealt with not just adequately but well and with respect.

We are facing a challenge, the challenge to change and more importantly to struggle to get our voices heard. We are being challenged but we must rise to the struggle together. We have a leader who wants us to be with him, to stand alongside him in the fight. If we are to be true to our comradeship, then we stand shoulder to shoulder, in solidarity with Jeremy Corbyn ready for the struggle, for the fight. We are doing it with and for the people, lending our strength and voice to their struggle as all in solidarity. We must not be found wanting, and I am sure we will not be. We will change the world, to a world of peace and justice where no one and no community is left behind step by step by step.

Free Speech – Preserving the right to express and share opinions

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We share these concerns expressed, of information of individual members being suspended, for what would seem to be expressing personal opinions, or sharing others, and look upon the Labour Party to preserve the right of free expression.  Please see below the text of a motion from Henley BLP and reasons for their support of the motion.

(Permission to post given from member of Henley BLP:)

TEXT OF FREE SPEECH MOTION

This branch believes that there should be no infringement on the rights of free speech and free criticism within the Labour Party. The thousands of suspensions of Labour members during the 2016 leadership election, based often on one-off comments on social media, unsubstantiated claims or association with left wing organisations, appears to have been politically motivated.

This process was an affront to democracy and this CLP condemns the entire process. Legitimate grievances should be dealt with according to the principles of fairness, with suspension as a last resort not a primary action. We demand the reinstatement of all those still suspended without a hearing.

Regarding expulsions, there should be no ban on memberships of campaigns or organisations as long as they are not campaigning against the election of a Labour government or Labour councils.
The only acceptable political limitation on membership of the Party, other than the exclusion of proscribed organisations, is that people who join or are members or supporters, commit to support Labour candidates in future elections. Earlier electoral activity is of no importance.

We call on the CLP to welcome in any supporter and member prepared to make such a commitment.

We call on the National Executive Committee to ensure that these principles are reflected in the membership application process, so that all party units will welcome in any supporter and member prepared to make such a commitment.

We demand the Party implement the proposals in the Chakrabarti report.

STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF MOTION

I believe that if there is to be any real unity in the Labour Party, we must have transparency, fairness and people must be free to express their opinions freely, without fear of reprisals.

In the run up to the election thousands of members were purged; the figure is now given as 182,000.

The entire Brighton and Hove District CLP were suspended – the Labour Party’s biggest CLP with 6,000 members – days after a vote that installed officers supportive of Jeremy Corbyn in key posts. The entire Wallasey CLP, was also suspended after they threatened to pass a vote of no confidence in Angela Eagle when she was nominated as a candidate in the leadership election.

Others have had the most tenuous accusations to justify their suspensions: retweeting a tweet from the Green Party in 2013; posting a tweet supporting a rock band, the ‘ Foo Fighters’; unsubstantiated accusations of ‘ abuse’ with no details of rights to appeal, or pending investigations.

The Labour Party have gone through members’ Facebook and Twitter accounts for periods up to three years back, in order to dredge up treasons to purge them, contravening their democratic and human right to free speech, a right of privacy and due process.
Many of the purged have had no reasons given to them at all, such as two bed ridden grannies with terminal cancer who have participated in no political activity whatsoever. We have no idea how many conference delegates were suspended.

What most of the purged have in common is that they supported Jeremy Corbyn.

Anti-Corbyn supporters have not been purged in the same way despite a tide of insults, including one who described Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters as Nazi Storm Troopers.

Given the timing it is reasonable to assume, it was intended to reduce Corbyn’s mandate.

Many of those who have been suspended remain distressed. One woman claims to have developed depression. Others are afraid to say what they want on social media, for fear that their accounts will be snooped and things will be used against them – because the purge continues.

Last week Labour suspended the black Jewish vice-chair of Momentum, Jackie Walker, after she asked questions deemed inappropriate.

People must be free to express their opinions freely in the Labour Party. There must due process and the right of appeal. These things are natural justice and the Labour Party, must be seen to enact them. The Labour Party has always been a broad church and we must not conduct a witch hunt of our members or silence people by exclusion and force.