Monthly Archives: August 2014

The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it

Aneurin Bevan, the Labour Health Minister who created the NHS, famously said: “The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it”.

On 16 August 2014 a group of mothers from County Durham will set off from Jarrow to march to the Houses of Parliament, following in the footsteps of those who marched the route in 1936 to protest against mass unemployment. They did this as a bold but peaceful protest against the current NHS policy.

Whilst the Government can clearly influence the State media, it might also be true that the NHS will last as long as there are folk left in the social media and also those willing to show their democratic stand against the undemocratic demolition of a publically-owned NHS.

That people care about NHS issues, for example, is shown by the enormous affection held by many for groups such as the “NHS Action Party” and “Keep our NHS Public”, as well as the trades unions.

There have been some Labour MPs, especially, who have served in an outstanding way to represent the views of their constituents and beyond over health and social care policy.

The lack of credibility from the Department of Health is demonstrated in their statements below:

The first statement read, “We’re committed to an NHS which continues to be free at the point of use for everyone who needs it.”

Evidence of a postcode lottery in surgical provision has especially become clear in the lifetime of the current term of office.

The critical thing for the next Government not to do, of whatever political variety, is to introduce compulsory unified personal budgets and a system of co-payments, as that will torpedo in an onslaught against the free-at-the-point-of-need principle.

It clearly is a problem if one part of the system which is means-tested is soldered onto another part which is not means-tested, like a dodgy banger.

The second statement read, “By taking tough financial decisions elsewhere, this government has been able to increase the NHS budget by £12.7 billion during this parliament.”

Last year, the UK Statistics Authority upheld a complaint by Labour about government claims the NHS budget had increased in real-terms in the past two years.

And members of the current Government keep on lying about this.

The current Government took the public for granted in inflicting on them a £1.5bn top down reorganisation, turbo-boosting the awarding of contracts to the private sector.

It is conceded that the extent and speed of NHS contracting under the current Coalition have been a disaster.

Lynton Crosby, PR guru of the Conservative Party, does not want to talk about the NHS, it appears.

But now it is clear that people should make clear what type of NHS they wish to have.

Furthermore, the next Labour government will be seeking to fuse the NHS and social care, and to pool their budgets. This will be a huge step, and could have massive implications for the national roll-out of a shift from hospital to community care to promote wellbeing and health rather than acute crisis management.

People who have had their local hospital services shut down will also have a chance to make their opinions known. It is well know that many people do not want a ‘platinum service’ miles away, if they do not have ready access to an emergency service on their doorstep.

These are indeed testing times for the NHS and social care, but Jeremy Hunt fails to command a leadership necessary to lead the NHS beyond 2015, many feel.


via The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it.

Why do private hospitals want to hide their patient safety records? | openDemocracy

Why do private hospitals want to hide their patient safety records?

Colin Leys 21 August 2014

In opposition George Osborne criticised the ‘endemic culture of secrecy in some private hospitals’. But after 4 years in government, the secrecy persists, even as the NHS itself is opened up to ever more scrutiny.

In February 1999 Mrs Laura Touche, the wife of an American lawyer in London, died of a brain haemorrhage after giving birth to twins by caesarean section at the private Portland Hospital in London, the favoured choice for maternity care of the Royal Family and many celebrities. It emerged that unlike NHS hospitals, the Portland had no protocol requiring patients’ vital signs to be checked at frequent specified intervals following a delivery. Although complaining of a headache Mrs Touche was not checked for two and a half hours, by which time it was too late.

In the UK maternal deaths directly due to pregnancy are extremely rare – around five in 100,000 live births. A coroner’s jury found that neglect had contributed to Laura Touche’s death. Her husband Peter Touche said the facts disclosed at the inquesthad convinced him that his wife’s death was ‘completely avoidable’. He added: ‘This all took place in a private hospital at the end of the 20th century. I understand that the Government is now contracting out NHS operations to the private sector. The NHS is opening up and publishing statistics. So should the private sector. The irony is that often, as in Laura’s case, a patient is transferred to an NHS bed and so the death is registered at the NHS hospital.’

And it is not just deaths that are a cause of concern. Serious incidents short of death can be devastating too. For example over the past year no fewer than three patients at one private hospital in Southend had the wrong joints replaced – ‘never events’, in NHS parlance.

The key lesson from all such cases was actually drawn in 2002 by George Osborne, then a backbench MP. Referring to the Touche tragedy he moved a private members’ Bill ‘to require private hospitals to publish independently audited information on clinical performance and on complaints from patients on the same basis as that required of NHS hospitals.’ He pointed out that:

Unless the hospital volunteers the information, it is impossible to know how many deaths occur within 30 days of surgery or how many emergency readmissions take place, yet information of that kind is now freely available in the NHS. Although private hospitals now need to have a proper complaints procedure, there seems to be no requirement for them to publish complaints in the same detail. Other prospective patients therefore cannot judge the hospital’s record for themselves.

But as a new report by the Centre for Health and the Public Interest points out, this information is still not available. Sir Robert Francis reporting on Mid Staffs, Sir Bruce Keogh reporting on 14 NHS trusts, the American Don Berwick reporting on the safety of NHS patients in general, and more recently Jeremy Hunt, all stress the importance of openness. But what George Osborne called ‘an endemic culture of secrecy in many private hospitals’ persists. There were 1.6 million admissions to private hospitals for surgery last year, including some 420,000 funded by the NHS; yet none of the patients involved had any means of knowing whether the hospital they were going to had a better or worse than average patient safety record, or how it compared with their local NHS hospital.

Suppose you need a hip replacement. The NHS Choices website shows all the hospitals in your area, including private hospitals, which as an NHS patient you now have the right to choose. Since Jeremy Hunt’s recent patient safety drive, for every NHS hospital you can now see, besides a users’ rating, the number of hip replacement operations it does, the average length of stay in hospital, whether the mortality rate and the rate of unplanned readmissions are above or below average, plus the hospital’s rating for infection control, whether its staffing level is safe, how far its own staff recommend it, whether patients are assessed for blood clots, and whether it reports safety incidents honestly. But for private hospitals only a users’ rating, the number of operations they do, and (for some) the average length of stay, are given. The rest remains secret.

This makes informed choice impossible, even for private patients. There is a separate Private Hospital Information Network website. But it compares private hospitals only with each other, and for most indicators does not provide the data on which the comparisons are based.

And having informed choice is only one reason for transparency. Even more crucial is that only full information allows risks to patients to be identified, trends to be analysed and lessons to be learned so that mistakes are not repeated. Yet the Care Quality Commission acknowledges that it has comparatively little information on private hospitals.

Given that the taxpayer is now the second largest source of funding for the private hospital sector and that this has, according to the Competition and Markets Authority, sheltered private hospitals from the economic downturn, there is no good reason why they should not be subject to the same reporting requirements on patient safety as NHS hospitals.

via Why do private hospitals want to hide their patient safety records? | openDemocracy.

Doctors at St Austell’s biggest GP surgery terminate NHS contract due to “financial difficulties” | Cornish Guardian

Doctors at St Austell’s biggest GP surgery terminate NHS contract due to “financial difficulties”

By Cornish Guardian | Posted: August 13, 2014


THOUSANDS of patients have been left shocked after doctors at St Austell’s largest GP practice terminated their contract with the NHS due to “financial difficulties.”

Partners at Polkyth Surgery, on Carlyon Road, informed NHS England of their decision last week.

Doctors Angus Senior and Manisha Cooper said in a statement on the surgery’s website that the practice would remain open while a new contractor was found.

“We would like to reassure our patients that we are fully open as normal for all services,” they said. “We can confirm we will be ending our contract for GP services. We will remain open while NHS England put in alternative arrangements.”

The statement continued: “We apologise if this is unsettling. It is with great regret that we have decided to relinquish our contract, having made many friends and supported the community for so many years.”

NHS England said it was working with the practice “to make sure patients are not affected”.

A spokesperson told the Cornish Guardian: “The practice has told us it has financial difficulties and therefore cannot continue with its contract.


“Discussions are already under way with another provider with the aim of securing continuity of care and making the transition as smooth as possible.

“Patients can continue to make and take up appointments as usual during this time.”

St Austell and Newquay MP Stephen Gilbert said he was gravely concerned by news of the surgery’s plight.

“As the local MP, I have visited Polkyth Surgery on a number of occasions and I know what a valuable contribution the doctors and nurses have made to the local community,” he said.

“The news that the GPs will hand back their contract will be deeply worrying for patients. It is vital that our National Health Service providers are able to operate viably and I will be raising the specifics of this case with ministers after the summer recess.”

He added: “Ultimately, I am pleased that managers are working to put alternative arrangements in place to provide continuity of service for patients; and I have offered my support and assistance for this process if needed.”

Jenny Curtis, vice-chairman of the Polkyth Patient Participation Group (PPG), said she had no idea the situation at the surgery had become so dire.

“It’s been as much of a shock to us as anyone else,” she said. “We heard about it in the news.

“I would hate to see Dr Senior or Dr Cooper leave for any reason. They’re both caring GPs. I don’t know what their situations are, but it would be a terrible shame if they did.”

Polkyth Surgery serves almost 11,000 patients, but has struggled to cope with long-term staff absences and the pressures of recent government healthcare reforms.

In 2012, the abolition of Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) forced GPs to take control of their own finances and made them responsible for planning, and buying local services for their patients – effectively turning doctor’s surgeries into businesses.

NHS England refused to speculate about who would take over the practice, but under the Health and Social Care Act 2012 the contract will be put out to tender to the private sector. “It could well be a private company that takes over, it wouldn’t surprise me” said Mrs Curtis. “These days doctors’ surgeries are forced to chase profit.

“GPs never used to be involved in the business side of things, so it’s no surprise some practices are struggling.

“The amount of pressure on GPs at the moment is incredible,” she said. “It’s appalling, but it won’t end at Polkyth. I think this is going to

via Doctors at St Austell’s biggest GP surgery terminate NHS contract due to “financial difficulties” | Cornish Guardian.

Mental Health Patients Shipped Out-of-County

44 Cornish mental patients have been shipped out-of-county following the closing of  one of the two psychiatric facilities in Cornwall. Longreach House, built under the Private Finance Initiative, has been closed since May when it failed a safety inspection. The building is 12 years old. It is not expected to re-open until November. Meanwhile, people requiring in-patient treatment are sent miles from their homes and far from the friends and family who might be able to support them.

It would be unacceptable for cancer or cardiac patients to be treated in this manner. Likewise, mental health services in Cornwall should be funded and provided in parity with medical/surgical services.

The locations of these patients are unknown, but it is likely they are in private psychiatric facilities.


Keep Our NHS Public

March from Jarrow to Parliament Square

London, 16 August – 6 September

Probably you have heard of this fantastic initiative, started by a group of mothers in Darlington (also known as the Darlo Mums). It is to recreate the historic Jarrow March of the great Depression – this time in order to save the NHS from the damage being done to it by the current government through privatisation and cuts. It is a fantastic expression of collective solidarity and support for the institution which cares for us when we most need it.


Help on the route

The organisers are doing a fantastic job but can always use a helping hand. The route is pretty much North-South between Jarrow in the North East and London, so you may live too far away to offer practical help, but if you are closer to the route there are all sorts of ways that you can help.

Please go to the website for the links to follow the route in detail. Each of the 23 towns where the march stops overnight has its own contact person (linked on the website) and they should be your point of contact if you are offering help, whether it is food, shelter, first aid, stewarding, local publicity or anything else. This is a fantastic campaigning opportunity and news will reach millions of people. Do your best to connect and get the message across that we need to Keep Our NHS Public.

Arriving in London

The last stage of the March is from Edmonton (on the northern outskirts of London) to Parliament Square in Westminster, a distance of 11 miles. The March leaves Edmonton Fore Street at 10:00am and is expected outside Parliament at 4:00pm. You are welcome to march from Edmonton if you want to, but the organisers are encouraging people to join the March at the Unite Building at 128 Theobalds Road, London WC1X 8TN, near Holborn Underground station. The big KONP balloon will be carried from there. The March will move off from there at about 2:30pm and should reach Parliament Square at about 4:00pm.

The reason for asking most people to join at that point is that from then on there will be road closures and stewards. Before that the March will be on the pavement.

In Parliament Square, there will be a rally with speakers and performers to celebrate this great achievement.

Support the marchers

Do your best to support them by turning out to walk with them when you can, attending one of the many rallies that are due to take place at the overnight stops (see details by clicking the relevant button on, make a lot of noise in local and national broadcast media, and leaflet so that as many members of the public as possible get to know about this brave attempt to remind us all how important it is to keep the NHS public.

via Keep Our NHS Public.