30 Apr 2012

Glos NHS campaigners go back to the law

Local artist Russ' view on our NHS
In my last blog earlier today  I noted the NHS protest last week - see here. Anyway I wanted to note that at the Full Council meeting last Thursday Martin Whiteside followed up on questions to GCC Scrutiny that I have raised - see here. The answer came that we will write again to the county calling on them to properly consider the impact of the NHS changes on residents.

You will remember that in February, campaigners in Gloucestershire forced local NHS bosses to reconsider their plans to outsource local hospitals and community NHS services to a so-called “social enterprise”, taking Judicial Review proceedings to the High Court and obtaining a consent order which required NHS Gloucestershire to scrap its plans, and to both consider NHS options & involve before deciding on how to proceed.

This is from their press release:
This week, solicitors Leigh Day & Co., have written to NHS Gloucestershire on behalf of campaigners, warning them that they are in danger of acting unlawfully again, and giving them seven days to rectify the situation, in a case with „far reaching implications‟. They say the local NHS management appears to have „set its face‟ against NHS options, despite being “perfectly well aware that both the staff and the public want these services to remain in the NHS”. The letter adds that it appears NHS Gloucestershire bosses „continue to misunderstand the clear legal position & that management has „taken a decision that it is under a legal obligation to run a tender process…for the provision of community services [and to wrongly] rule out the option of entering into an agreement with NHS Trust without a tendering process.”  Click read more to see more.
Campaigners point to the fact that in much of the rest of the country, services have remained in the NHS without tender, & challenge the reasons for the PCT‟s actions.

Caroline Molloy of SATC said: “The government has repeatedly claimed that the Health & Social Care Act is not about opening our NHS up to the private sector, because they know the public doesn‟t want this to happen, either in Gloucestershire or elsewhere. So, is Andrew Lansley going to allow local health bosses and MPs to get away with misinterpreting their legal obligations in this way, revealing the real agenda behind the Act?”

James Beecher, Chair of SATC, added “Forcing the NHS to open to the private sector is unnecessary and dangerous. It will lead to damaging cuts and patient charging as we have seen in dentistry for example. And it is hugely wasteful at a time when we can ill afford it. Already, in NHS Gloucestershire, whilst bosses admit wasting nearly half a million pounds on the costs of trying to force through NHS privatisation, staff numbers have dropped by a quarter.”

Organisations such as Social Investigations and Spinwatch have been detailing the extensive links between private healthcare firms and elected representatives, links which extend to Gloucestershire where local MP Mark Harper received a £5,000 donation just before the election from Crispin Odey, one of the main hedge fund backers of Circle Health, one of the fastest growing private hospitals companies.

Campaigners point to polls showing that the vast majority of the public do not want any more private sector involvement in the NHS.

Locally, as reported in the Stroud News and Journal and Stroud Life, “More than 94 per cent of respondents [to Stroud Town Council‟s survey of 6,000 residents] felt they should be consulted on any changes to the health service”. Yet the MP for the constituency, Neil Carmichael MP has refused to sign a pledge supporting “the right of NHS staff and users to choose for Gloucestershire's community hospitals and community health staff to remain fully in the NHS”, saying this may be not deliverable‟.

Despite repeated requests from campaigners, local health bosses have so far refused to give an indication of how they will meet their legal obligations to involve the public, and in the letter to Cllr Marjoram referred to, have pointedly rejected the idea they are under any obligation to consult local residents.

See full press release with notes and letter to solicitors at: www.keepglosnhspublic.posterous.com

As it is election time please note the disclaimer at the bottom of this blog.

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