by Amanda Ramsay
I met with some very interesting campaigners last week in the west country, inspiring me with their tales of victory in overturning moves to privatise eight Stroud NHS community hospitals and health services (including 3,000 nurses and other health workers).
I was at their celebratory social and picked the brains of one of the campaigners, which should help me with my work. The lawyer was there who made their case possible. See http://www.stroudagainstcuts.co.uk/ for more information.
It is a tale of not accepting the hardships this government is trying to inflict on all who rely on the NHS for free health and social care services whenever they need them, not just now but until the day we all die.
In less than five years this government’s health reforms will no doubt see charges introduced for a GP appointment, maybe even charges to stay in hospital overnight. Yet I cannot recall anyone mentioning this to me on doorstep campaigning for the Labour party, or in social or family circles. People are either unaware of what lies ahead or maybe feel they cannot change things that are already in motion, I really don’t know.
My guess is most people really do not have a clue about these changes, about to become much worse when the government ushers in secondary legislation on competition, licensing and pricing. A clever but insidious way of detaching the marketisation of the NHS from the act itself: it is very difficult to over turn secondary legislation.
Further rationing of medication is also on the horizon via the new bureaucrats of the unaccountable CCGs (clinical commissioning groups); private consortia, who meet in private and do not produce public records of their proceedings, despite having control of the fate of our local health service provision and huge budgets.
One of the government’s own ministers, Norman Lamb, minister in the department for health, said of these CCGs: “to have independent, non-elected quangos responsible for £100bn of public money is simply incredible.”
People need to wake up to what is happening in their country and the lies this government has peddled since day one, in fact from before the coalition was even formed.
The Tories promised “no top down reorganisation of the NHS” before the last general election, then pushed ahead with the biggest reforms of the national health service this country has witnessed in 63 years.
None of these root and branch reforms appeared in the coalition agreement of 2010. (not that anyone voted for the coalition agreement either.) Yet, the LibDems traipsed through the parliamentary lobbies, supporting their political masters this year to support the NHS reforms, which are now law.
The national media virtually ignored the issue, despite utter uproar from the Labour party in the Lords and Commons over the bill and amongst grass roots campaigners across the UK. All the more astonishing considering the serious and damaging ramifications of the health and social care act (2012).
Of course, after the bill was passed into law, we then found out the numbers of Tory and Lib Dem MPs and Peers with personal vested interests in private health companies.
The Tories campaigned in the last election for efficiency savings only, not the savage cuts we are currently witnessing to public services, jobs, even health and safety laws and cutting at the very fabric of our communities. We are about to see cuts and job losses on an even more monumental scale. 88% of the government’s cuts are yet to come in, with £32.5million pounds worth of services to be cut in Bristol alone next year.
Then in the charity sector, gifted with picking-up the work of public sector workers through the Tory hatred of public sector workers and the state providing for the people, the much maligned big society has proved to be an utter farce. Meanwhile, charities are facing closure because of the savaging of grant funding.
One example: community-based charity HAWKS (Hartcliffe and Withywood Kick Start) helps adults and young people to drug and drink dependency with great success rates, also supporting children affected by addiction too. Vital for the community and the individuals involved.
But HAWKS now needs £45K in core funding by the end of January following cuts from the Lib Dem council, to just to keep the doors open in 2013.
There are countless others.
The example of the Stroud campaigners is prescient.
Launching effective campaigns is beyond the time and scope of most individuals, but the experience of the team in Stroud shows us that many of the government’s moves are possible to reject, with the right mix of legal and political minds and community campaigners, along with public support.
On the NHS, on HAWKS and on many more, it is our historic duty in the Labour party to assemble the right team and fight that fight.
Amanda Ramsay is an executive officer of Bristol South Labour party and community campaigner