Friends, we have been here before:
It was ordinary folk like you and I who built the NHS brick by brick. our grandparents and great grandparents donated the land that our NHS hospitals were built on, they were the first NHS doctors, nurses, electricians, pathologists, lab technicians, cooks and the cleaners in 1948.
What is wrong with the principal of joining together to provide a public service for the benefit of all and for the benefit of the health of our nation and of our workforce?
Well the 2 Governments of 2010 to 2017 have made it very clear what is wrong with it; there is not enough profit in it for private health care companies, health insurance companies and their shareholders.
In 2014 a group of us set off from Jarrow to walk 300 miles to Westminster to raise awareness that the 2012 bill was a licence to break up the NHS and allow private health care companies to cream off the easier, more profitable sections of the National Health Service. The most worrying thing was that all of the national press journalists that I spoke to responded in the same way…..
“The Government will never privatise the NHS, you are surely just scare mongering and even if they did, the Tories promise that healthcare will always be provided free at the point of need. “
Well more people in the press have got their heads round the subject now because they can actually see the crisis in the NHS that this Government is deliberately creating by cutting off reasonable funding. Its hard to deny what the Government is up to when you see with your own eyes the suffering of members of your own family or your friends.
Not only do they want to reduce the size of the NHS at a time when demand for health care is actually growing but they want us to think this is about efficiency. It is not efficient to expect pregnant women who have started their Labor contractions to travel 40 miles through country lanes in Copeland or Devon in order to find somewhere safe to have their baby.
The only efficiency that the Tory Government have in mind is that of efficiently removing money from our pockets to pay for private health insurance. There are mega bucks to be made in the UK if the NHS is effectively crippled and more and more people have to buy top up insurance or pay for treatments in order to avoid the long waiting lists that this Government have deliberately created.
The new Sustainability and Transformation Plans are another significant challenge for us: The original objectives of each plan sound very sensible and we should all recognise that constant evolution and modernisation is essential to keep our NHS at the cutting edge of health care. BUT the action plans that have been developed are driven by large scale removal of budget NOT by the fine words outlined in the plan objectives. Many of the STPs contain real risks for people and communities.
This is where all of you come in: The risks to health are significant in some areas. read your local STP and discuss it with your friends and between you identify the risks within it. Remember that health care and access to it is about lots of things, including costs and lengths of journeys, including how easy is it to take young children with you to appointments. Are certain community issues being ignored? Healthcare is also about what kind of staff are available. If West Cumberland Hospital cant find enough staff is that their problem or is it the Governments for not training enough new nurses and doctors?
When you have identified all the risks in your STP put them in a list of bullet points and submit it to your local consultation. Also share the list with local papers, community Facebook groups etc. Take your lists to local management meetings - the clinical commissioning groups and Hospital and Health Trust Board meetings. Insist on getting answers to the risks that you have identified. Also send a copy to me at email@example.com and I will try and collate them.
One of the biggest issues hurting the NHS is the £billions of pounds of Social Care cuts over the last 7 years. My local Council, Surrey, have overspent on Social Care by £21 million this year and they have therefore authorised a 15% increase in council tax on which we will have a referendum. Please don't go thinking that everyone in Surrey is very wealthy and can afford it, we can’t. We have some of the highest housing costs outside London and council tax always hits the poorer people in the community hardest because it is more heavily loaded at the smaller property end of the market and poorer people quite simply have less money.
For my sins Philip Hammond is my MP and his complacency in not responding to the crisis in Social Care shows us how little influence local Conservative councils have over their masters at Westminster. To people who vote Conservative in local elections in order to try to influence a Conservative Government, this demonstrates that it is a truly pointless exercise!
Mrs May, when questioned about Surrey County Council’s overspend on social care said that Councils must learn to work efficiently with the NHS to deal with the delayed hospital discharges: What an insensitive, ill informed comment to make when the ‘excellent’ rated Frimley Hospital, in Surrey, is actually leading the country in that kind of co-operative partnership work. As a Governor at Frimley for the past 2 years I can assure the Prime Minister that hospital and social care staff do not need that kind of put down in these difficult times. She is not showing any belief or confidence in her own Tory councillors either.
The Tories are using Surrey as a test case for raising the Council Tax in your home area too. Mrs May and Mr Hammond want the question to Surrey residents to be “do you want the Council to close your libraries or your fire stations or your social care services, or turn off the street lights - take your pick?” In Surrey they have already turned off our street lights and closed another fire station and cut social care. More cuts to social care will be next and they will devastate the NHS and peoples lives.
Please make your objections to your local Sustainability & Transformation Plans and send me a copy at firstname.lastname@example.org . Lets make this battle local and national, lets fight this together - a healthy, productive society supported by excellent social care and an excellent national health service should win hands down against this Governments greedy lust for profit.