The Battle to save the NHS

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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.

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Let’s do hope not despair | Owen Jones meets Jeremy Corbyn

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Jeremy Corbyn was rank outsider in the Labour leadership contest but in the last few weeks Corybnmania has swept across the country and pushed him into poll position.

Published on Aug 10, 2015

http://bit.ly/subsowenjones

Solidarity is forever, not just Election Day, SNP.

Solidarity is forever, not just for Election Day

One has to question the authenticity of the claims that SNP stands for socialism and anti-austerity. These policies  were attributed to have resulted in the huge numbers of voters in Scotland who gave their vote to the SNP on May 7th this year, resulting in all but three Scottish seats returning an SNP member of parliament.

I am reminded of the huge turn-out for the Liberal Democrats in 2010, many people saw the LibDems as an opposition to the  Conservatives in the wake of disappointment with New Labour. These voters, angry with LibDems joining the  coalition turned their back on LibDems in 2015, many candidates losing their deposits and with the party  gaining only 8 seats, out of the 57 defended.

Over the next few years, will the SNP prove to be the socialist opposition so many anticipate, or will, in 5 years time, the SNP suffer a similar fate? Much will depend on how the SNP act in parliament, and also the direction Labour decides to follow.

Already the cracks are beginning to show in the SNP’s facade. Failure of SNP to stand alongside ferry workers taking industrial action does not indicate solidarity with workers or opposition to austerity.

The SNP sails into choppy waters after ferry strike statement  

RMT calls on SNP members to reject party’s “defeatist” line over austerity action

A row has broken out between the RMT, whose members at Calmac Ferries are today on strike, and the Scottish National Party.

The RMT members are taking action to defend jobs, conditions and pensions, warning the Clyde and Hebrides service is being set up for takeover by the profiteering private company Serco.

Ferry copy

And they have been infuriated by the release of statement from the SNP’s Trade Union Group which, while saying it recognises the union’s right to take strike action, fails to support the strike.

The statement reads: “The SNP Trade Union Group is aware of the ongoing dispute between the RMT and Caledonian MacBrayne – which operates the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry service (CHFS) which our communities rely on – and has resulted in RMT members balloting for strike action.

“The SNP Trade Union Group recognises the democratic right of fellow trade unionists to ballot for strike action and also recognises the concerns of RMT members regarding terms & conditions within the Caledonian MacBrayne workforce.

“In light of this escalation, the SNP Trade Union Group’s representatives, MSP’s and MPs have been invited to talks with the RMT to discuss these issues further.  These discussions will take place early next week and will hopefully help the workforce and the SNP TUG will do all it can to ensure that the concerns of the RMT are heard and heeded.

“Additional meetings have also already been organised by Christina McKelvie MSP – convenor of the SNP Backbench parliamentary trade union group at Holyrood – between the RMT and the transport minister.

“The Scottish Government is required by EU procurement laws to place the contract out to tender, with the process is being carried out in accordance with EU rules on procurement and state aid. This has been the case previously in 2005 where Caledonian MacBrayne was awarded the contract.

“The SNP Trade Union Group takes the unwavering view that terms & conditions should never be eroded in the workplace and that working standards should be raised at every opportunity. We welcome the statement from Transport Minister Derek MacKay pledging that the Scottish Government will ensure that the pensions of the CHFS workforce are protected.

“We believe that the current tendering process must be an opportunity to improve and strengthen the working conditions of all working on the Clyde and Hebrides ferry service. Additionally, every effort must be made to ensure that the workforce is at the forefront of decision making while this process is ongoing and continuing on into the future.

“However, while the SNP Trade Union Group is pro-European in its outlook, it believes that the EU laws that have necessitated the current tendering process are inherently flawed and do not take into account vital lifeline services such as the Clyde and Hebrides ferry services that communities depend on.

“The SNP Trade Union Group will ensure that its elected members take this issue to the heart of Europe. We will campaign for a rethink of this regressive procurement policy which is damaging to both the workforce and the communities in Scotland and across Europe which rely on such services to survive.

In response, RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “This statement from a group claiming to represent trade unionists makes not a single mention of support for fellow trade unionists battling to defend jobs and services and instead hides behind a barrage of EU anti-worker legislation that has no relevance at all to this dispute and which could be challenged anyway with a united campaign.

“RMT would appeal to rank and file SNP members and supporters to reject this defeatist line and stand by a workforce fighting to defend jobs, conditions, safety and lifeline ferry services against this attack. You can’t claim to be anti-austerity, pro working class and pro public services and then duck the issue when jobs and services are under all out attack like on CalMac. The question to the SNP TU Goup is which side are you o‎n?”

Yesterday a cross party motion tabled in Scottish Parliament backed the union’s campaign. Supported by John Mason (SNP), Neil Findlay (Lab), David Stewart (Lab), Elaine Smith (Lab), Anne McTaggart (Lab), Cara Hilton (Lab), John Wilson (Ind) Jean Urquhart (Ind), the motion read:

That the Parliament notes the current dispute between Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) ferry workers and the employer over concerns about future services, staffing levels, job security and pensions, which it understands have arisen from the tendering process of Clyde and Hebrides ferry services currently operated by CalMac; supports CalMac workers and what it considers the excellent job that they do and calls for their concerns to be addressed; notes that the private sector corporation, Serco, is bidding to take over CalMac services, and believes that the interests of islanders, tourism and the Scottish economy would be best served by these lifeline ferry services remaining in the public sector.

This article reproduced by Creative Commons Licence previously published by Unity Solidarity International

Austerity Cuts – NxtGen Message for Youth and the rest of us

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F The Tories Freestyle – NxtGen

Published on Oct 13, 2013

Remember, Remember the 5th of November – Bonfire of Austerity

Get in touch with your local group to find out what’s being planned near you.

BONFIRE OF AUSTERITY – LOCAL ACTIONS

http://thepeoplesassembly.org.uk/5nov/