Monday, June 20, 2011

Saving the NHS: the fight goes on

So Cameron has come out and stated that if there was no coalition and the Tory Party had a clear majority, then they would cut public spending, benefits and immigration even more. So there we have it. Next election, when ever it may be, the Tory party will out Thatcher Thatcher and go for the jugular, assuming there is any blood left in the patient. Oh which way will the Lib Dems turn? Cutting as usual one supposes.

In the meantime we have a Labour opposition leadership that fails to support the fight back by the unions in defence of pensions and public services, with Ed Balls leading the Blue Labour entourage in attacking strike action on June 30th. We have a lack luster Ed Milliband still looking for answers and we have the shadow cabinet collectively turning the other cheek. What a great opposition they all make, not. Bring back the Archbishop of Canterbury. One word from him is more effective than all the paragraphs put together from Labour's various empty think tanks. One never thought one would say that.

Whilst New, or is it Old, or is it Blue Labour, (sounds like a newly married bride waiting for an early divorce after her hubby betrayed her!?), the unions are gaining wide support for joint industrial action on June 30th, with more promised for the Autumn. Dave Prentice said that it will be bigger than the 1926 General Strike. 

In the meantime, in the fight to defend the NHS, here is a useful contribution from Wendy Savage.
Wendy Savage, 17 June 2011
Wendy Savage is co-chair of Keep our NHS Public.

In the last ten days we have had Cameron’s Five pledges — (one of which was “we will not sell off the NHS”), the report of the Future Forum and Andrew Lansley’s response to their recommendations in the House of Commons on. I listened to the Health Secretary’s speech in the House of Commons on 14th June and heard him say, “We will make it illegal to encourage the growth of one type of provider over another”, the very opposite of Labour minister Andy Burnham’s belated assurance in 2009. I could not believe that shadow health secretary John Healey did not take Lansley up on that even though he had been given the speech to read that morning.

The media blitz was expected and even BBC Newsnight’s Jeremy Paxman could not get Andrew Lansley to reveal the ultimate aim of this Bill, which is to turn the NHS into a commercial market. Much of the questioning has been superficial and, for example, Nick Du Bois, the conservative MP who has been most vocal in his criticism of the reported changes, said that Labour had introduced fund-holding. He was not challenged — it was of course Kenneth Clarke in his 1989  paper ‘Working for patients’ who did this. Frank Dobson abolished fund holding in the brief period when he was Secretary of State for Health in keeping with the Labour Manifesto of 1997 — “Our fundamental purpose is simple but hugely important: to restore the NHS as a public service working co-operatively for patients, not a commercial business driven by competition.”

The Newsnight programme, where five men discussed the pledges, was heavily weighted in favour of marketeers with Chaand Nagpaul, a GP on the BMA Council, barely able to get a word in edgeways between Norman Lamb, previous health spokesman for the Lib Dems, Andrew Bridgen, a conservative backbencher and Kingsley Manning responding to Jeremy Paxman’s questions. Kingsley Manning, business development director of outsourcing company Tribal, had greeted the White Paper last July with enthusiasm saying “This white paper could amount to the denationalisation of healthcare services in England and is the most important redirection of the NHS, going further than any Secretary of State has gone before.”  He believes that the NHS is unsustainable, another argument being put forward by the Right to justify these sweeping changes.

On Tuesday morning’s BBC Radio 4 Today programme we heard Lord Warner, a previous NHS manager and Health Minister in the Labour government, saying that the model of District General Hospitals was outmoded but however much care you have in the community you still need hospitals for emergency and intensive care, surgery and sophisticated medical care for complex problems.

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