Reinstate Charlotte Monro

The following was sent by the Reinstate Charlotte Monro campaign. The National Health Action Party East London group is happy to offer our support of the campaign and of Charlotte and her family. We call on Barts Health Trust to reinstate Charlotte Monro. Please sign the petition here.

The dismissal of long standing union rep and health worker Charlotte Monro has repercussions not only for health workers but for all workers, particularly those in the public sector. As her tribunal approaches we are publishing these bulletins in order to promote discussion around some of the issues this case highlights.

Bulletin 1

Cuts to budgets and services

Barts health Trust a paradigm for the NHS problems
The NHS is facing a crisis of unparalleled proportions, which the public are now beginning to wake to. But health workers and union reps who speak out are increasingly finding themselves under threat.
Over the last few months growing waits for operations and treatment, long established targets as A&E waiting times impossible to meet, overworked staff unable to deliver the quality of care needed have been reported in the press. A report from Cancer Research UK reveals the strain on cancer services from funding reduction as need grows, stating recent improvements are “in danger of unravelling”.
On Saturday thousands in London greeted the Jarrow peoples march by the Darlow Mothers defending the NHS against cuts and privatisation of the NHS.
Nearly half the acute hospital trusts in England are in financial difficulties. The total deficit forecast of £750 million is nearly double that of last year. This is now recognised as a systemic issue not confined to a few ‘failing’ trusts. (1)
London acute sector faces a deficit of £100 million but this is driven by deficits in just six of the twenty acute providers. Of those six, Barts Health has the largest deficit of £44.8m forecast. This trust provides health care across East London and West Essex to some of the most deprived areas of the capital – indeed some of the most deprived in the country. The population in the three main boroughs served by this trust is set to grow by 32% over next 20 years – 270,000 additional people equivalent to a whole new London borough.
Yet instead of increasing funding to meet need the government is reducing funding by £400m in the health budgets for the area, stated in the ‘Case for Change’ issued by Barts Health Trust with the NE London Commissioning Support Unit (2). This is clearly in direct conflict with meeting need.
We have already seen the consequences of a ruthless drive to meet spending cuts of £76 million last year (now £108 million this year) where experienced staff have left in droves as demoralisation and demotivation followed a mass down banding and staff reduction programme forced through by the Trust Board. Building health services is a long term process driven by the vision and commitment of health staff. To destabilise the workforce inevitably has an adverse effect on services to patients, rendering them more vulnerable to reduction or closure.
Staff and unions warned of the impact of the proposals, and more than 500 written submissions, representative speaking at the board, and staff demonstrating in their hundreds. Along with the drive to implement these reductions in staff pay and conditions came an increasing climate of intimidation. This was revealed in a Care Quality commission inspection at the time in November 2013. Management determination to remove barriers to change by silencing critical voices is demonstrated in the case of Charlotte Monro, a senior clinical staff member and trade union representative of many years’ service, very well placed to comment on the changes proposed and on the likely effects.
Ahead of the launch of the change proposals she was barred from the Trust meetings with Union reps and placed under disciplinary investigation for her trade union activities and then dismissed. This sent a clear message to staff on the likely consequences of speaking out. (The dismissal is being challenged by Charlotte and her union through an employment tribunal to be held on 23rd September 2014.)
The campaign for her reinstatement is gaining widespread support because the issues are increasingly seen as having national resonance with concerns that this is a growing national trend. In a climate where NHS budgets and services are being cut and contracted out to the private sector, the importance of staff and staff representatives being free to speak out to maintain good quality patient care has been clearly demonstrated by recent experience.

In the context of impossible funding cuts how can any consultation be meaningful unless it includes challenging the fundamental assumptions which drive the proposals for change.

Please look out for further bulletins from the Reinstate Charlotte Monro campaign.

Notes
1 – HSJ online and printed version 22/8/14
2 – Transforming Services Chinging Lives Interim Case for Change

This clip outlines some of the financial impetuses behind NHS privatisation and cuts.

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NHAP representative’s write-up of The People’s Parliament – Save Our NHS

Following the successful launch of the NHAP European election campaign I decided to attend a session of The People’s Parliament last night in the House of Commons. It was the first time I had ever set foot inside the Houses of Parliament. I was unsure what to expect.

The only snag came during the screening upon entering the complex. While I encourage you to carry your #stickupfortheNHS stickers with you at all times, if you try to take them into parliament your stickers will be confiscated, despite my assurances that I’m not going to plaster stickers everywhere. I’m not a child. Tempting mind! Thankfully a receipt was issued and stickers were returned.

You can read more about the panellists who spoke at the meeting here. The panel included Dr Jacky Davis of Keep Our NHS Public. Dr Davis gave the National Health Action Party credit for pressuring Labour into taking a stance (of sorts) to exempt the NHS from TTIP. More on Labour and TTIP here.

Opposing TTIP was a key theme of the discussion. Read this article to learn why we at NHAP think it is so vital to exempt the NHS from the treaty. This is not an anti-trade stance, this is not an anti-American stance. This is an anti-entombing-the-NHS-in-privatisation-forever stance. I pointed out that people need to be more vocal about the fact that the ‘public consultation’ is a sham. I’m going to try to grapple with this some more. I believe that the online questionnaire (full version here) is designed to be inaccessible.

Here’s the intro:

Given the length of this consultation we strongly recommend that you print out the consultation notice and the consultation document and prepare your answers off-line before completing the questionnaire.

It is not technically possible to save your answers in the questionnaire and come back to it later. Your session on-line will remain open for 90 minutes for you to fill out your answers.

I can only assume that it is deliberately complicated in order to put us off. I feel highly motivated to oppose the ISDS element of TTIP in particular. I simply do not have half a day to devote to completing this questionnaire. The issues are in fact not impenetrable so why is the alleged consultation so unwieldy? As I stated during the meeting, this consultation is only taking place at all very late in the whole process because people from many EU countries are opposing TTIP. This questionnaire is designed not for consultation but to give the authorities something to which they can refer back and tell us that we had the opportunity to have input and we elected not to make good use of that opportunity. In short, this stinks!

The People’s Parliament was set up by Labour MP John McDonnell to stimulate debate in the build up to the 2015 general election. It would be good to have a broader cross-section of views represented within the People’s Parliament. I wonder whether the other main parties can be tempted to join? It would be good not to have need for a People’s Parliament. Isn’t parliament meant to be the people’s parliament anyway? We can dream. The anti-Labour feeling in the room must have made the Chair, East London MP John Cryer feel uncomfortable.

There was a great discussion about what must be done to put the Labour leadership under pressure to have faith in the public’s faith in the NHS and their strong desire to keep it. There was a gentle reminder that some pressure should be applied to the Lib Dems too. Many of their supporters are strongly pro-NHS. The NHS could be an election-winner. The plain fact is that the majority of Conservative voters want the NHS to remain public. The merits of appealing to the party to repeal the Health and Social Care Act are beyond me but I’m interested to hear whether anyone thinks it an idea worth pursuing.

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I received a round of applause when I introduced myself as an MEP candidate for the National Health Action Party which was unexpected. I took this as a welcome sign for the party’s prospects. We just need to get our message out more broadly so lend us your voices please!

As I have said, there was a lot of talk around ‘what to do about Labour?’. One of the other panellists Jill Mountford, from Save Lewisham Hospital said people need not to vote for “all of these smaller, fringe parties” and get Labour into government in 2015 while pressuring Labour into recovering its passion for the NHS. The National Health Action Party view is in accord with this train of thought which is why we intend to focus our General Election 2015 efforts on contesting around 30 constituencies that are currently held by Conservative or Liberal Democrat MPs. Thankfully Jacky Davis made this point. We had been told nobody was going to get a second chance to speak so that was me gagged.

It was clear from the mood in the room that enough people think Labour have split their core vote themselves. Unfortunately for everyone who loves the NHS, which is pretty much everyone in the UK, we will need a Labour majority government in order to restore the NHS and make it the brilliant service we need for the 21st Century.

All the best,

Andrew Sharp
Prospective MEP for London

Disclaimer: I feel it only fair that I point out that I am not generally a Labour supporter. I have voted for them once or twice. I’ve also voted Conservative and (far more often) for the Lib Dems. Have voted Green too. Have never, would never vote UKIP.

Stick Up for the NHS – a relative’s perspective on the NHS and politics

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The National Health Action Party held its launch event for London’s European election at the Roxy in Borough. What follows is the transcript of East London resident Andrew Sharp’s (second from right) speech for this Stick Up for the NHS rally.

UPDATE: a recording of Andrew’s speech is now available here.

“My brother Matthew died of cancer aged six. I was four. Matt’s death had a huge impact on my life, on my sister’s life. It’s only since having kids myself that I can appreciate the horrors my parents endured. Our story though sad is not unique. We all hold love and loss in common. They are part of life for all humanity. In England we hold the NHS in common too. It supports us in our times of deepest need.

What would have happened to my family without the NHS? Steve Smith, creator of the Big Up the NHS blog made me question this during the #withouttheNHS twitter storm in March. I contributed two tweets that sum up why I must now stick up for the NHS.

The first was about Matt and my family. It reads:
#withouttheNHS my parents would have had to bankrupt their young family when my older brother was ill with cancer”

For two years the NHS cared for Matt, just as it cares for us all. No payment required beyond the taxes we already pay. If forced to pay my parents surely would have bankrupted themselves trying to save Matt’s life. And then failed. Don’t be fooled by my accent. We weren’t rich. I’m the milkman’s son, and not in some jokey metaphorical way. Any parent would willingly bankrupt themselves wouldn’t they, if they thought they could save their child’s life? And if that attempt failed? They’d lose their child, their home and their other children’s prospects in one fell swoop. Without the NHS this could happen to any of us. That can’t be right can it? Not when we already have a better way; a National Health Service way.

Some people think the NHS will always be there but it’s looking precarious right now. Some would say ‘get health insurance’. Well, cancer care is an expensive business and have you ever known an insurance company dodge paying out in full on an expensive claim? For your car? A burglary? It’s happened to me. It happens all the time. It happens to millions of people in America where healthcare is startlingly expensive.

Did you know that healthcare costs are the number one cause of bankruptcy in the US, causing 62% of bankruptcies? People go bankrupt just trying to stay healthy or to keep a loved one alive. Of these people over 75% do have health insurance, but it doesn’t pay out leaving them destitute. And what of those who lack the means to pay? Should we let them suffer? Just let them die?

We don’t need to worry about any of this do we? We have the NHS. Our politicians have promised that our healthcare will remain free at the point of need. So whilst they marketise and privatise our NHS we’re being promised private healthcare for free, right? Don’t believe that, not for one moment. Free at the point of need is just what they say now, a stop gap. Charging will follow.

Politicians and their promises lead me to my second tweet of the twitter storm which reads:
#withouttheNHS I would have less pride in this country. The NHS speaks to our democracy, compassion and civility. Let’s keep it!
We all rely on the NHS at some time in our lives. The NHS is a power for good, a democratic institution that looks after every man, woman and child irrespective of social status or financial means. It’s a marker of great civilisation.

We see how politicians subvert democracy to pursue their own agendas for the NHS. Do we see compassion and civility? Do we see them in the coalition government’s approach to sick and disabled people and the work capability assessments? Where is the compassion towards those forced from their homes and into destitution via the implementation of the ‘bedroom tax’? Where is the civility to people who face the humiliation of having to rely on food banks to feed their families? A growing number of people suffer from malnutrition across the UK. Government policy is doing real harm to people’s health and placing further strain on an already beleaguered NHS.

I don’t see much compassion or civility in our politics, yet I do know that our nation is full of compassionate, civilised people. I only recently started campaigning and already I have seen so much passion for the common good, so much will to sustain the NHS that sustains us all. This fills me with hope and propels me forward in my certainty that I too must stick up for our NHS. I know that when I need it, the NHS is there for me, just as it was for my brother. Just as it is there for all of our loved ones. I want the NHS to be there for my kids, and for their kids too. Please join me in this fight. Vote for the National Health Action Party on 22nd May and together let’s stick up for the NHS.

Thank you.”

Andrew will be campaigning at St Thomas’s Hospital on Thursday 1st May from 17:00 to 18:30. Andrew’s brother Matthew was cared for and sadly passed away at St Thomas’s in 1977. Please join him. It’s also his birthday on Thursday – no gifts required but a donation to The National Health Action Party would be appreciated. You can donate here.

East Londoners: your NHS needs you!

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National Health Action Party MEP candidate and East Londoner Andrew Sharp is calling on his fellow East Londoners to join the fight for the NHS.

In a letter to NHAP supporters this week, Andrew Sharp said, “we really need your help. NHAP is still a new party and we urgently need to get the word out that we are here to protect and improve our NHS. We want people to vote for us and the NHS in May. We are gaining support quickly but with the elections less than 6 weeks away time is not on our side.

How can you help? We need you to get personally involved:

Join the Waltham Forest local group
If we have enough people from different areas we can expand it to become the East London group. Please email me at NHAPartyWF@gmail.com.

Campaigning!
We need more people out on the streets, leafleting and talking to people about what we are trying to achieve. When I’m out campaigning I find people are eager to support us, relieved that “finally somebody is doing something sensible about the NHS” and want to find out more.

The Waltham Forest group is not big enough to do this on its own. Many of us work full time so we target our campaigning for maximum impact in a short space of time. This may be an hour on the way to work or on the way home, or a little longer at weekends – although there’s no pressure to stay for the duration. If you can help at just one of these sessions every week you’ll be making a difference.

There are various other ways you can help NHA to save the NHS.

Social Media
Follow us on Twitter @NHA_WF and spread the word. We’ll get an East London Facebook page up and running soon.

Stick Up for the NHS!
Put up the election poster in your windows. Get busy with those ‘Stick Up for the NHS’ stickers – let’s decorate East London!

If all this has got you in the mood and you are asking, “when do I start?” then be outside the Royal London Hospital at 5pm on Friday 25th April and/or outside Whitechapel tube at 1pm on Saturday 26th April. If you are happy to do so then please let us know your mobile number so we can confirm with you that you’ll be there.”

The European election will be held on 22nd May. You can learn more about the National Health Action Party and our election campaign here.

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