John Lister – Health Emergency

I recently attended a talk by John Lister. John Lister has been campaigning for a fair, transparent public NHS since the 1980s through his work with London Health Emergency.

The Cuts

There will be £23bn cuts to the NHS this year, of which 43% will be taken from the payroll (of which a large amount is due to pay freezes). As people leave, these posts are often not filled which puts increasing pressure on remaining staff. The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) states that 60000 jobs will be lost in nursing between now and 2014. These cuts are part of a ‘shock doctrine’: create a crisisand then ‘solve’ according to your own (right wing) ideology. For instance, the recent £140bn quantitative easing went straight to banks rather than local councils or NHS. Also are they using this crisis to smash the public sector?  Lister then went on to talk about examples from the 80/90s when one private cleaning firm calculated that it took 29 seconds to clean a bath! Indeed hospital cleanliness has been a big issue over the past 20 years.

Many of the hospitals are in financial debt due to PFI and several hospitals in London have already paid the equivalent of double the cost of the hospital with many years of PFI payments to go! This along with the cuts means that many Health authorities do not meet the strict financial requirements of “foundation trusts”. Will they drop the financial criteria? or stick with it until these resources go to the wall? Lansley recently threw £1.4m at PFI projects to help prop them up. He outlined that several hospitals will (and have) gone to the wall; there are dozens more in a similar situation. MPs cannot be against hospital closures yet still support the health and social bill!!

He gave the example of Mid-Staffordshire NHS which tried to impose £10m of cuts in 1 year; these cuts have led to extra deaths.

The Bill

150 Primary Care Trusts (PCT) will become 212 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG), yet Lansley claimed to reduce bureaucracy! Lister is not a fan of PCTs put they look positively brilliant compared to the untested, unresolved CCGs! PCTs will be scrapped next April but where will their 140 statutory duties go? CCGs cover areas of  90-700000 people and have little communication with neighbouring CCGs.  Lister stated that many of the current boards are open to the public or minutes are published online, this will no longer be true under new legislation. The strategic health authority is to be scrapped. This is important as it 1)organises all medical training and 2)Is responsible ensuring PCT plans work together and do not conflict with one another  (as opposed to planned CCGs).

The new “regulator” has the completely contradictory responsibility to encourage competition and promote integrity. Do they promote one in the morning and the other in the afternoon?

Lister stated that community services are very important. Labour began converting these into “Social Enterprises” (SE) which is a stepping stone to privatisation. Recently Virgin & Serco have bought these social enterprises. In both conversion to SE and privatisation, staff are often bullied into these changes. Lister stated that mental health has a low profile in many countries, it begs belief how people can make money out of such services.

Foundation Trusts: The bill allows Foundation Trusts to accept up to 49% of their income from private patients. This will lead to a two tier NHS in which paying customers will get priority

Health & Wellbeing boards: Local councillors will be involved in these boards and we should aim to make them as open as possible. It looks like they will be very underfunded.

USA currently spend 18% of GDP on health and rising fast and UK currently spends 9% of GDP on health.

Conclusions

A successful campaign in Stroud forced the NHS to look at NHS choices rather than just Social Enterprises or private firms. As a concession to win GPs over  in early 2012, Andrew Lansley said that they do not have to use ‘Any Qualified Provider’. We should try to persuade GPs to choose NHS services and slow down the bill. By April 2012 all of the structures will be set up. We have 9 months to fight against privatisation using any lever we can. We must fight against the free marketeers and the privatisation of OUR health service.

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