11 Sep 2011

Join Stroud protest to save NHS

Designed by James Milroy
Stop Stroud Hospital & NHS services leaving the NHS - on Sat 24th Sept there is a Stroud Against the Cuts demonstration in Stroud - assemble on Park Road (below Maternity Hospital) at 10.30am to march to Sub Rooms. I plan to be there and hope many others will join the protest. Below you can read their leaflet that says more about the action but I would also urge people to write to the County Council and their County councillor. The County Council has a legal responsibility to scrutinise significant changes to our health care through the 'Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee' but they have not done this properly.  The failure to scrutinise this process comes in contrast to the way previous decisions - including a similar plan to transfer Stroud Hospital to a social enterprise a few years back - were scrutinised.

The Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee is next meeting on Tuesday 20th September, 10.15am at Cotswold District Council chamber. Write to your County councillor to get it on the agenda and to the current Chair of the Health and Overview Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) (stephen.mcmillan(at)gloucestershire.gov.uk). Sample points for letters are available here: http://www.stroudagainstcuts.co.uk/fightback/healthcarecuts/38-healthcare/83-countycouncil.html?start=1

Here's the leaflet:

We believe that the transfer to social enterprise is a step to privatisation. It is being forced through without proper consultation of staff and no consultation of the public, and it has not been scrutinised by Gloucestershire County Council (through the Health & Social Care Overview & Scrutiny Committee). At the same time the government’s Health and Social Care Bill will also accelerate privatisation of our NHS.

We make the following demands:

·      Keep our NHS Public: don’t hand our services to a Social Enterprise Trust
·      Stop the Process - Social Enterprise No Way, We Demand Our Say
·      Oppose the Health & Social Care Bill – say NO to a US style market based health system

On 1st October, if Gloucestershire NHS Management has its way, Stroud Hospital, 8 other local hospitals, and 4,000 NHS nurses, health visitors, physios, podiatrists, etc, will all leave the NHS and be forced into a secretive ‘Social Enterprise Trust’, a registered company which will then ‘compete’ with other ‘providers’.

80% of the public say that they don’t want any more ‘competition’ in the NHS. The experts agree competition in healthcare is unfair and inefficient. Everywhere that has balloted on such changes has resulted in rejection by 90% of staff, but there’s been no ballot here.  NHS management is racing ahead, refusing to consult or even inform either public or staff before forcing these untested plans through (whilst claiming the point of the SET is to be ‘inclusive’).  The County Council has also helped keep these plans secret, rather than scrutinising them.

A social enterprise in the Forest of Dean quickly went bust losing £200,000.  We demand that the process is STOPPED (as it has been elsewhere). Local communities along with health workers trade unions need to build a major offensive to demand a publicly owned NHS.

The ‘Social Enterprise Trust’ – What does it mean?

·       As a private company, it will be run as a business; it will have HIGHER COSTS including at least £3MILLION A YEAR in unnecessary VAT, and massive administration costs to replace the back office services it currently gets free from the central NHS.  This money will have to come from patient care.

·       It is a FIGLEAF FOR PRIVATISATION of our health service. The contract will run for a maximum of 3 years (or much less, if commissioners judge it to be ‘failing’) and then all services will be opened to any private company that wants to run them for profit.  Overseas healthcare companies are waiting in the wings, seeing our NHS as an ‘unopened pearl’.  The body representing social enterprises admits they are being used in a way that means the ‘risk of a slide into the mass privatisation of services’ (Guardian 18.8.11). In Hull, where the NHS PCT services were the first to be transferred to social enterprise, several award-winning clinics were fully privatised within months, resulting in shortages of staff and even bandages (whilst admin costs ballooned).

·       It will mean POORER CARE, FEWER SKILLED STAFF, AND LONGER WAITING LISTS, as corners are cut to turn a surplus and to pay for admin.  £20billion of cuts to NHS jobs and services have already started, and this isolated ‘social enterprise’ will be poorly placed to resist them.  Instead, they have admitted they will lift the cap on NHS hospitals & clinics earning income from private patients, meaning that those who can afford to pay will be able to jump the queue far more easily, at the expense of the rest of us.

·       All decisions about care, contracts etc could be made BEHIND LOCKED DOORS with no accountability to the public.  They are already using the excuse of ‘commercial confidentiality’ to hide their plans from the public.

These changes are unnecessary, expensive, and dangerous.  No-one locally has been asked if they want them. The local community and health trade unions together, can stop them.

The Health and Social Care Bill – How does it fit in? Currently the government is trying to force its Health and Social Care Bill through parliament.  Aside from forcing unwilling GP’s to become accountants, this bill also removes all barriers to privatisation by opening up the NHS to EU competition rules and by removing the government’s responsibility to provide a comprehensive free health care system.  Trusts which have left the NHS to become a social enterprise will then be the most vulnerable to takeover by the vast healthcare multinationals.  Whether the bill passes or not, they are using Gloucestershire and the SW to try and take  our NHS off us anyway – led by Sir Ian Carruthers, Chief Executive of SW NHS, who is one of Cameron’s closest health advisors.
‘The NHS will exist for as long as there are people left with faith to fight for it’
Nye Bevan, founder of the NHS

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