The UK: Not a democracy, more a dictatorship by distraction

Governments refusal to debate NHS Bill proves they no longer represent the UK people

11th March 2015; it was to be a day of reckoning for the Conservative government and their increasingly obvious plans to dismantle and privatise the NHS. Parliament was to listen to the 2nd reading of the Green Party’s NHS Reinstatement Bill…….

FOR MORE ON THIS STORY, PLEASE CLICK HERE.

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How YOU can help save the NHS

NHS Reinstatement Bill to be debated in Parliament 11/03/2016

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So we’re in to the 2nd day of the 4th round of industrial action by junior doctors‬. It’s a disgrace that our highly trained and valuable medics have been put in this position by a government intent on breaking their promise that the NHS would be “safe” in their hands. As with Jeremy Hunt’s handling of this entire situation, it was a lie.

When the junior doctors return to work tomorrow, the battle for the future of the NHS will continue, inside the Houses of Parliament. The NHS Reinstatement Bill, which has cross party support, aims to remove our health service away from the prying hands of private contractors and keep it in public hands, ensuring that the most important thing remains patient care, not shareholders bank balances.

MP’s must vote in favour of the bill to ensure this happens, that’s why today I have written to our local MP asking her for support. I ask you please to do the same. You can write to your local MP by entering your postcode at https://www.writetothem.com/.

You can read more information on the NHS Reinstatement Bill at http://www.nhsbill2015.org/

Please help to do what the Conservative government clearly can’t – keep the NHS safe.

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Can we still call ourselves Great Britain?

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Right, I’m coming straight out with it – I’m embarrassed to be British.

A while ago I was staying in a hostel in New Zealand, and I saw a couple – blatantly American – checking in, trying to convince the receptionist they were Canadian. It wasn’t like the couple were going to get banned from staying there or anything, they just wanted it to be made clear – they were from Canada.  I ended up speaking with them a few hours later – nice couple, properly patriotic but at the same time embarrassed by what their country, or rather their President had been doing. It might be prudent to mention at this point that their president at that time was George W. Bush, so you can kind of understand their wishful anonymity, sad as it was to see. It was like watching a lion trying to convince the rest of the zoo he’s a vegetarian – cute but sad.

I’m embarrassed to be British, and for me that’s not cute. I was never the biggest patriot in the world to begin with, but watching the gradual and systematic destruction of our country’s values and ideals has made me realise just how great Britain is, or rather how great it used to be. And I’m not talking about the grand old days of colonialism and how our great nation ruled the seven seas. Our greatness came from our morals and beliefs. Unfortunately we have a group of people running our country who have done nothing but abuse the country’s systems, infrastructure and people, and then lie with the pretext that they are doing this to make the country better, safer and more financially viable. While I include previous governments in this, all the evidence from the Conservative governments recent activities suggests this is far from the case.

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There’s the tax credit cuts – something that David Cameron swore blind before the election wouldn’t happen. It hasn’t – yet – but not for the Tories lack of trying. When you parachute in as many of your honourary peers to vote for the cuts in the House of Lords, and it’s these lords who show they have more in common with the general public than those got voted in to power, then you must know something is wrong.

There’s the government secretly changing the rules – having recently altered their own ministerial code to effectively exempt themselves from international law. This mean that the UK is not obliged to observe any international laws or treaties that would prevent them from using military force in other countries. or even answering to a United Nations investigation believing that tax credit cuts are a human rights violation. This effectively means the government of the United Kingdom answers to no one but itself.

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There’s the recently passed Trade Union bill that will, among other things, greatly restrict the rights of professional individuals and their unions to vote on and participate in industrial action. It is also so draconian as to set back equal opportunities in the workplace, with women workers the most affected by the divisive bill.

There’s the Investgatory Powers Bill, or as it’s become known The “Snoopers Charter”. A piece of legislation drawn up by Theresa May and the Home Office that we are told is there to make us safer, by monitoring all of our personal communications. People are naturally sceptic of this, and the government has been accused legalising invasion of privacy. The act has been further questioned in light of the recent and horrific attacks in Paris by So Called Islamic State, with many noting that “keeping everyone’s online history for a year and passing that to the intelligence service will not make us safer.” Even IT business leaders have said it’s a “bad idea”.

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It will soon be a lot harder to vote the Tories out

There’s also the worry that the game is being rigged. Again, behind closed doors, this government is changing more rules, and this time it’s on how we as a nation vote. If you think they’re doing the sensible thing of scrapping First Past the Post in favour of proportional representation, I’m afraid it’s far more troubling. They are planning to cut the number of British MP’s, presumably under the cloak of streamlining the parliamentary system. This will also change how we register to vote, which has the potential to leave thousands of UK citizens unable to have a voice in an election. Effectively the Conservatives are making it more difficult for those citizens who are more likely to vote against them to vote at all.

Plus there’s proposed changes to the Freedom Of Information act, which will greatly restrict access to vast amounts of important data and will further entrench the government whilst covering up potential scandals. Remember the MP’s expenses story? That was published through gaining FOI. This new act will mean such stories that are well within the remit of public interest will be harder to divulge.

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And finally, my personal (for want of a better word) favourite: the NHS. The UK’s health service has been chipped away at since the 1980’s, and now it looks like rhyming slangs best friend and current Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is packing the whole thing with political dynamite! He wants a 7 day NHS, he wants to reform the NHS, he wants to impose new contracts on junior doctors…..and there’s the final straw. 53,000 doctors, ranging from the “just out of uni” stage to the “about to be a consultant” stage, have said no, with 98% of those balloted (76%) of all junior doctors) saying quite clearly they are “prepared to take part in industrial action” – something that if the previously mentioned Trade Union Bill was currently law would be much more difficult, nay impossible. And before we start saying “how dare junior doctors talk about striking, they have a duty of care”, it’s worth noting that our police force got to this stage back in January 2015, for similar reasons. Plus given that further cuts to the force are on the Tory agenda, I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear of more disquiet from our hard working law enforcers either.

Junior doctors have had enough because the contract being imposed on them – not offered to them – is unsafe, both for them and their patients. Mr. Hunt has said that he wants to negotiate, but has a funny way of showing it; from describing junior doctors as “militant” for balloting on strike action, to offering an 11% pay rise that is actually a 26% pay cut. The health secretary, aided by Conservative media cohorts Daily Mail and The Times, also tried to launch an ill advised smear campaign against British Medical Association leaders, which quickly fell apart (I mean Heaven forbid that medical professionals have interests outside of their career. MP’s would never do that #sarcasm.) There’s one thing you should never do if you’re going to pick a war of words and ideals with people: don’t start one with a group whose very job involves examining and scrutinising hard data and facts. It will win out against lies and spin every time.

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This isn’t another prolonged piece on the state of the NHS and defending junior doctors, because their doing a bang up job themselves. It’s just another piece in a very disturbing puzzle, and while what I’ve written here is by no means a complete picture, it must at least make you question the Conservatives true agenda for the UK.When you see the Prime Minister shaking hands with leaders of countries who have at least questionable records on human rights (China and Saudi Arabia) then you know that what it means to be British has changed for the worse.

Fear and lack of leadership alternatives got the Conservatives in to power, and now that they’re in they are doing everything they can to keep themselves there. They are taking steps to minimise any chance of a response from the public that disagrees with them, whilst making dangerous decisions on our behalf that may not affect us directly now, but may well affect the next generation. It’s not a dictatorship because it’s more than one person, but it’s pretty close.

Like I said, I’m embarrassed to be British.

 

Don’t let The Good Ship NHS sink.

rewardingQuestion: if you were responsible for the biggest workforce in the country, one that potentially holds the lives of every man, woman and child in the country in their hands, would you treat them with respect? Would you meet and talk with them directly about your concerns over a stretched service and try to work together to find a solution? Would you think it absurd to create a new contract that removes a cap on lengthy, unfair and unsafe working hours while reducing their pay? If you’re answer is ‘yes’ to these three questions, congratulations – you are not Jeremy Hunt.

quoteI’ve found myself talking to lots of different people over the last couple of weeks about the state of the NHS, and the fight that the country’s junior doctors are putting up. It is of course these people that are making the biggest noise right now; fighting against an imposed contract that is, according to Jeremy Hunt and the Department of Health, non-negotiable (save for one clause) that will, according to the people who actually do the job, make their jobs unfair and unsafe for them and their patients.

jessenHaving seen the visible exhaustion on Jeremy Hunt’s face recently, and his clear contempt for transparency in his department by refusing to answer questions from the public, health care professionals, or even his fellow MP’s, it’s clear that he underestimated the reaction he would get to his new contract. Medics are seen to have effectively just rolled over in the past acombond taken whatever outlandish new proposals have been forced upon them. This is no longer the case. Marches in London and across the rest of the United Kingdom have made it clear that enough is enough. Support has been coming in from all sides, with patients, celebrities and even politicians showing their support. The Junior Doctors are shouting, and more and more people are listening, save the ones who caused this mess in the first place.

shipThis new contract isn’t just about junior doctors – it affects the whole of the NHS. The nurses who work with them, the varied care workers who rely on them, the consultants who train them (and may one day hand over their roles to them) and the students who will become them. When you see that 70% of junior doctors plan to leave the National Health Service if this current contract is enforced, and that the government plans to reduce funding the NHS to the lowest amount since the 1950’s, despite their pledge to create 7-day NHS, you are basically being told that the NHS is sinking fast. It’s a grand ship that’s had so many holes been rammed in to it but no one’s willing to plug the holes. It’s a ship captained by a man who is lying to you about the direction it’s headed, while he secretly signals for more expensive competitors to come along port and starboard side with their own ships that will cost the passengers all their pieces of eights, nines and indeed tens. This captain believes in efficiency and profit at the cost of patient health. The partnership between five UK NimageHS trusts and the Virginia Mason hospital in Seattle is one such example; an establishment that is “renowned for adapting the Toyota lean production system to patient care”. On the face of it, the hospital scores quite highly for standards in America, but as this comparison shows, it measures up poorly against a hard working NHS hospital. This is hardly surprising given that our NHS was rated the best in the world in 2014, with America coming in substantially lower.

protestThe facts and figures are there in black and white. Mr.Hunt’s ability to twist these figures is now being closely scrutinised after serious allegations (backed up with evidence) that he “misrepresented a key study” on weekend deaths. but still this is not enough. Action needs to be taken. Junior doctors have already marched in London, and there will be similar marches round the UK in the coming days. Add to that the British Medical Association will start balloting it’s members on strike action from 5th November, and you realise how terrible this situation has become. Jumior doctors do not want to strike, but they have been forced in to an untenable position, which thankfully, a growing number of the public understand.

I spoke to two individuals who are effectively on either side of the battle – Michael Cearns is a final year medical student in London, and will become a junior doctor in August 2016, when this new contract is set to be enforced. Dr. Hamed Khan is a GP, A&E doctor, and at the forefront of commentating on the junior contracts. I have transcribed their interviews in full, so you can have a glimpse at the different sides of this battle.

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Fear and Loathing in Great Britain: The Real Legacy of David Cameron

4It’s totally normal that when a person is nearing the end of a job, they would want to leave knowing that they had some kind of impact. Barack Obama is clearly thinking of his time in office. I’m sure Zayn Wotisname from that boyband my little girl likes did the same thing. Our illustrious leader, still with four and a half years of premiership left, is clearly doing the same. After all, he said even before the election he would be stepping down after this term in office. He clearly wants to leave the impression on the world stage that he created a “Greater Britain”, yet as I sit here now, I can see David Cameron’s legacy as British Prime Minister will be one of scaremongering, manipulation and segregation (and to a certain degree, swine based debauchery). He believes in a country that cares nothing for its own citizens. He believes in a country more concerned with money than with humanity – a country that he is turning in to a corporate playground with little hideaways for tax evaders. Now you could probably say that this is just the angry rant of some anti-Tory leftie who doesn’t respect the democratic process. You’d be wrong. I accept the result of the General Election. What I deplore is the lies Mr. Cameron told to win that election. I have no problem with the Conservatives. I know many Tories and they are genuinely nice people. What I question is whether the party in power is really a Tory party, or is it like it is in America, with the Republicans being infiltrated by the infamous Tea Party? Now I’m not quite sure what our version of the Tea Party would be called, but I’m pretty sure it would still begin with a ‘T’. Heck maybe it’s UKIP, I don’t know. Either way, if you look at the actions of our six month old government (not the lies we have been told), they do appear to be very similar to a small section of our American counterparts.

2David Cameron’s new Conservative party claims to be the party for working people; that they have the UK citizens best interests at heart. This years Conservative Party Conference seems to suggest otherwise, with every major speech or claim made by a senior Tory minister expertly dissected, derided and more often than not, dis-proven.

1Theresa May stated that we need tighter controls on immigration, repeating the claim she made back in November 2010. It was seen as nothing more than an attempt by the Home Secretary to lay blame on the (apparent) state of the country on people from other countries; people whom, as it has been proven time and again, make more of a contribution to our society than they do a drain. (A full dissection of the Home Secretaries claims, and evidence to the contrary, can be found here). Her speech, whilst trying to make clear that there needs to be a difference between refugees seeking asylum, and “economic migrants”, still left many, including myself, in doubt over David Cameron’s pledge to take 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years. This renewed demonisation of migrants, which is “almost devoid of a single factual accuracy”, coupled with the governments increased attacks on the low paid, hard working families, public sector workers and the disabled goes completely against the “cohesive society” soundbite that the Home Secretary coined, with great futility.
imageThis leads neatly in to George Osbourne, as he continued on his austerity journey by announcing he will cut tax credits, despite Mr. Cameron promising before the General Election, that no such cuts would be made. The Chancellor has also gone to great lengths to ignore serious human rights violations as he negotiated trade deals with China recently. A step that even former Tory party chairman Chris Pattem described as “lax” and describing Mr. Osbourne as “very far from traditional Tory instincts”. Showing support for China, as well as Saudi Arabia in a recent back-room deal that saw the worlds dominant oil producer gain a place on the UN Human Rights Council also calls in to question our governments feelings on human rights in this country. This remains a concern as Michael Gove continues to work on repealing the Human Rights Act – a fact that was carefully swept under the Party Conference carpet but is due to progress in the Autumn. It remains to be seen how much the public will find out about this step from the government directly, but I suspect little will be made by them of our links with countries that flaunt human rights to secure multi-million pound trade deals for oil and arms.

1jeremy-huntAnd then there was our trusted Health Secretary and rhyming slangs best friend, Jeremy Hunt. A man who has made no secret of his ambitions to be Tory party leader once Mr. Cameron steps down (Mr. Osbourne and Mrs. May are also considered contenders). A man who treats the country’s health service, its employees and its patients with such contempt you have to wonder if keeping Cameron around as leader a bit longer is the lesser of two evils. Mr. Hunt has had a busy month; from insulting Junior Doctors with an enforced (non-negotiated), unworkable, immoral contract, (a story I will be looking at in greater detail in my next piece) to insulting anyone in this country with a pulse by saying they need to work harder, like the Chinese. I’m all for hard work, but that alone isn’t enough. You need investment as well, plus recognition that there are those that are physically unable to work. What happens to them? This poisonous rhetoric of ‘survival of the fittest’ spouted by Mr. Hunt and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Ian Duncan Smith (or IDS as he’s become known, which doesn’t at all sound like an expensive treatment for infected hemorrhoids) is just another spit in the face for those who struggle, who need help. People who genuinely need a welfare state that is being ripped out from under them. Never mind this being un-British; it’s inhumane.

Then there was the grand finale of the Conservative Party Conference, where David Cameron stood up on stage and performed the biggest work of modern day fiction over seen in a party conference. From describing Jeremy Corbyn as “a threat to national security” by cleverly quoting the new Labour leader but removing any context, (you can see Mr. Corbyn’s full thoughts, in context, here) to proudly declaring that his policies are helping the country’s poor when the opposite has been proven, he has shown nothing but barefaced contempt for the people of this country through twisting facts and figures, or just outright lying to support his own self/friends serving narrative.
imageMr. Cameron has this dream of turning the UK in to a country of “high wage, low tax and low welfare”. In theory this is something that I’m in favour of, well two-thirds anyway. I mean what family doesn’t want more money in their pocket and less to go to the tax man? The thing is that we have tax for a reason; to fund our schools, our hospitals, the upkeep of our roads and waste disposal services etc. This government, as with several before, have gone out of their way to demonise tax when they should be relying on it, championing it. People want more money, obviously, but they also want to live in a country that is kept functioning properly, You only need to look at a survey showing that a vast majority of people in this country would back a tax rise to support the NHS. I honestly do believe that if we could see our tax money in real action, making a difference to our country’s infrastructure instead of just lining politicians pockets, then we would have no real problem with it, but to live in one of the highest taxed countries in the world and to have the problems we have is just plain negligence, It is the reason why we are losing our welfare state and our other vital public services, and it’s clear evidence that the government is not listening to and does not represent the people of the UK.

3There is also the divisive subject of national defense, in particular Trident. Now I totally understand the need to defend your nation’s borders against external threats, but you have to ask if nuclear weapons are really the way to go. Mr. Cameron has gone on record as saying that he would have no problem pushing the button, and that Jeremy Corbyn’s refusal to commit to such a stance undermines national security. Be in no doubt, this is scaremongering at it’s best. Firstly, if David Cameron were to press that big red button first he would be nothing more than a highly paid murderer. Secondly if the Trident missiles were to be launched in retaliation it would not have been that much of a deterrent in the first place. We are constantly told that the biggest threat to our national security right now (current Labour leader excepted) is So Called Islamic State. They don’t have nuclear weapons, they have propaganda, ideology. There is more chance of an IS member already in this country getting in to the Trident system to launch the missiles on our own soil than there is of us needing to fire them off to Syria, Iraq or any other middle eastern country our government has a vested interest in. It makes no sense. Trident isn’t a nuclear deterrent, it’s a political one – something our government can shake to make themselves look big in front of other countries.

5It’s the same argument as in America – calls are growing louder for stricter gun controls because of multiple mass shootings this year alone, yet the trigger happy faithful believe such a move will strip them of any defense against ‘the enemy’, constantly invoking their second amendment right to carry fire arms – an amendment that was invoked in 1791 when muskets were the weapon of choice, not semi-automatic rifles. Times have changed, war has changed. I wish I could say war will stop one day, but I can’t honestly say that, simply because we’re so damn good at it. We always find an excuse to pick a fight, and as we all know, nothing drives the economy faster than war. So why would we stop? The way war is fought has changed – much more divisive, much more guerrilla-like than ‘the good old days’ of the Cold War. Trident is irrelevant. Even military spokesmen have said this, saying that funds would have greater effect being used on weapons and equipment for soldiers on the front line, the ones in all the conflicts we have our feet in around the world. We sit here and berate the Americans for their stupid, antiquated, 200-year old guns laws, and yet we have exactly the same problem here with Trident. The governments priorities are totally out of touch with those of the people.
wpid-img_20151007_175119.jpgDavid Cameron’s legacy will speak for itself when the political dust has settled around his tenure as Prime Minister. The facts above will break through the spin and innuendo that this Conservative government relies so heavily upon, but by that time it will be too late. Austerity will have pummeled those already in financial hardship. Our hospitals will be run by profit hungry conglomerates rather than care providing doctors and nurses. Our children will be packed in a hundred to a room because of the 50% reduction of teaching staff.

One of my favourite phrases is this: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”. So what if it’s from Star Trek that’s how it should be. For so many people that’s how it is. You only need to look at the public reaction to the plight of the Syrian refugees to know that in spite of our own problems, when there are others in trouble we step up to help. Even if it’s just to give a terrified kid a stuffed toy, we step up. Sadly, there is the minority who thrive on secrets, lies, under-hand trade deals and ill-gotten gains. Mr. Cameron and his government has taken that powerful line and changed it to something far more sinister, but appropriate for their view of this world – “The wants of the few outweigh the needs of the many”. Maybe that should be the real New Conservative logo. At least then we’d really know where we stand.

An Eloquent Rant: Hashtags, The NHS, and the Desensitised Population

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As I sat down to start writing this, I was surrounded by a storm. A Twitter-Storm, but none the less, mud was flying. On Sunday 2nd August 2015, hot off the heels of #ImInWorkJeremy and #WeNeedToTalkAboutJeremy, we had #SaySorryHunt; which kind of feels like the Return Of The Jedi of the ongoing NHS Hashtag Wars. I’m not belittling the work of anything that shines a light on Jeremy Hunt’s ongoing attack on the NHS, and the manipulation of the media to create fear and distrust between medic and patient, but I do at the very least question the hashtags target. This is because it is taking aim at one man. Yes, it’s the Health Secretary, the man responsible for running the NHS and also responsible for the ridiculous state it’s in, but Mr. Hunt is a small part of a much larger beast that wants to devour our health service and spit out it’s bones. Mr. Hunt is never going to apologise for his actions because he thinks he’s doing the right thing. Quite clearly he’s not going to change his mind. And even if we get a vote of No Confidence in his abilities as Health Secretary, there will be another to take his place, and continue with the policies that were created within an institution that has been wanting to privatise the NHS for years; the politicians.

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On Sunday morning I was doing my regular patrol of the Twitter-sphere and came across a rather inflammatory tweet from A2DaviesMPa Member of Parliament. Geraint Davies, “Labour & Co-operative MP for Swansea West”, has since deleted this tweet from his feed (and replaced it with another that supposedly has more clarity, but still making general and harmful statements) presumably because of the responses he received from people who actually work as GP’s, and within the rest of the medical community. Now it may well be that the MP thought he was doing his job as a public figure by sharing something that he’d learned, however as someone who has claimed to be a supporter of the NHS in the past, and as someone who has a career in the public spotlight, you would think he would know better than to share a confusing and wholly unsubstantiated statistic with a public that are already in fear and confused by doctors. There is no doctor that I know that would delay a cancer referral because of cost. This is another unsubstantiated, libellous attack on GP’s

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A conversation on Facebook between myself and a colleague.

It is we, the public that are caught in the middle of this of this battle between medic and politician (which, despite what the latter would have you believe, started with their reprehensible behaviour towards the medical profession), and yet many of us don’t know it’s happening . After years of mis and dis-information from certain branches of the media, coupled with Mr. Hunt’s demoralising speeches on “lazy” work-shy doctors, high waiting times, cancer scares etc. the people of this country are either scared and distrusting, or have simply no interest. Even with the “NHS Hashtag Trilogy”, people are still not getting the point of what thousands of medical professionals are trying to say. I’ve had multiple conversations on social media with people trying to understand what it is I, along with thousands of others, have been trying to get at. Lots of people still think that #ImInWorkJeremy and #WeNeedToTalkAboutJeremy is all about doctors complaining they don’t get paid enough. Of course, that is not the case at all. And it’s so frustrating!

There are also those I spoke to who had no idea what #WeNeedToTalkAboutJeremy was even about. For all they knew, Jeremy Clarkson had been secretly filmed stumping his toe on a plank of wood and had wondered outside to punch a gibbon! Even people within the media didn’t know what this Twitter trend was on about, and that’s a sobering thought. Jeremy Vine was one of many news presenters that I wrote and tweeted, asking them to explain why this massive online backlash against the Health Secretary wasn’t being reported. To his full credit he was the only one that replied, but as you can tell from the conversation, he had no idea what any of it meant. Once he dug deeper, he seemed to get the picture.

A short conversation between myself and Jeremy Vine, the day before he tweeted a link to my article on #WeNeedToTalkAboutJeremy

A short conversation between myself and Jeremy Vine, the day before he tweeted a link to my article on #WeNeedToTalkAboutJeremy

This is what the NHS is up against – the desensitised population. The fact that people still do not the know the plight of the NHS and the damage caused by the Government is not their fault. Despite living in a world so well connected through communication, which should be widening our eyes and ears, we have become an increasingly insular society. We are surrounded by and are connected to multiple sources of information, yet have the ability to choose to read only what we’re interested in. On Twiitter I follow a raft of writers (and now NHS staff), while the person next to me just follows gossip sites giving the latest celebrity gossip. On the BBC app, we can choose what type of news we would like to be informed on, and remove from our feed the ones we don’t care about (not that it matters about the BBC when we’re talking about #WeNeedToTalkAboutJeremy – their silence on this continues!).

We have our own lives to lead, and our own stresses and strains to deal with in an increasingly frantic world. To quote one person I met today: “why are you worried about the doctors? It’s not like they won’t have a job any more. They’ll probably earn more money “. True, maybe they would, but like we all know, that’s not what this fight is about. It’s about the National Health Service. Keeping free health care for future generations. The fact that people always gravitate towards the money is just another example of the type of society we live in.

A5Rail

If you replace “rail” with “hospitals”, and “passengers” with “patients”, this will explain precisely what the health service will look like if privatised.

Take the rail industry as a prime example. This once publicly owned transport network went through a complete privatisation programme between 1994 and 1997, and it remains one of the worst performing rail networks in the western world, with continued delays in service and hikes in ticket prices. This is the epitome of privatisation, and the reason why we cannot let this happen to the Health Service. The very nature of private business is to make money through providing a service. There is always a bottom line. Cuts may be made to stay in the black. Shareholders will always come before the service users. In the case of a service that provides medical care and treatment, surely this would be completely unacceptable, as cost cuts would be potentially life threatening to the “customer”. If you’re lucky, maybe you get a private health care company that is financially well off. Maybe they’re able to provide you with services that you hadn’t thought you needed. You may be sold on the idea of this extra treatment, or diagnostic tool, or insurance product, for extra piece of mind. It would be the medical equivalent of PPI’s!

A6Competition

On 1st April 2013 (the date doubtless ringing alarm bells!), The Health & Social Care Act 2012 came in to force, much to the utter dismay of medical professionals. What the government dressed up as a step to making the Health Service fit for the modern world, was seen by those who actually know and work in the sector as ” the final stage in the systematic dismantling of the NHS […] carried out by stealth” (Doctor Youseff El-Gingihy, Guardian- 30 March 2013). 

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Doctor Youseff El-Gingihy writing in The Guardian, the day before the Health and Social Care Act 2012 came in to force.

One major part of this act was to open up the medical field to competition. In much the same way as the opening up of the country’s telecommunications industry, it allowed private medical firms to swoop in with the promise of a better service than provided by the public one. The idea was apparently that doing this would help drive up health care standards through business competition offering more patient choice. The fact is that even before this act came in to force the “marketisation of the NHS has driven up costs and produced worse results”, thus repeating the failings of the privatisation of the rail network. It was made abundantly clear to those who understood this unknown (to the public) yet enforced legislation, that patient care would inevitably be reduced while “there are huge profits to be made for private healthcare companies”.

5ProtectNHS

This is what the diligent, hard-working staff at the NHS want to stop, because they know full well it will compromise patient care. Full stop. Yes, their salary is effectively being cut due to unfair contracts being imposed by the Health Secretary, and that’s insulting for the medics and all others with cuts or without pay-rises while politicians at Westminster receive a pay rise. Yes, they work exceedingly long shifts and often unsociable hours, but that’s part of the job. What they despise is two things:

  • The blatant bad-mouthing and lack of respect from politicians and the media who make unsubstantiated, scaremongering claims and accusations based on twisted facts and figures.
  • The thought that they will one day be forced to put the size of a shareholders bank account over the care of a patient.

This insular society we live in has distracted the public from the fact that they are slowly losing their NHS. Free health care will soon be a thing of the past, and many people seem to neither know or care. There’s too many other things to worry about in life, “there will always be doctors”. We’ve had almost 70 years of the NHS, and as time has gone on we have taken it for granted. As time has gone on we have become an increasingly self-important society, where no one has bigger problems than us. This, coupled with the ridiculous scaremongering stories by the press and ill-informed politicians has created the “worried well”, who believe that because they “haven’t stopped sneezing all day” (true story – hay fever!) and because the health service is paid for by their taxes, they deserve to see a doctor more than someone who has chest pain and is in a full on heart attack. We as a society have forgotten to take care of ourselves, of each other. We rely increasingly on professional medical advice for symptoms that are in no way serious, while removing that attention from someone who actually needs it. This is why the NHS is stretched beyond breaking point, and this is why private companies can swoop in and save the day, as long as you have a credit card!

On a personal note I feel it’s time for me to stop talking about this for a bit. Talking people can’t hear a whisper, and yet when you shout at the top of your voice for too long, those people just turn and walk away. No matter what you take from everything I have written on this NHS fiasco, remember this: there is currently an online petition to debate a vote of No Confidence in Jeremy Hunt. Parliament requires a minimum of 100,000 signatures for a debate to be considered. The number is now way past that at over 211,000, and it’s still growing. If nothing else, keep one eye on this. If this Government continues to come back with ridiculous defensive statements based on the same twisted facts and figures that they have fed you for so long, or if they do not even call for a (serious) debate, then you have hard proof (more so!) that this Government does not have your best interests and those of your friends and family at heart.

a8PETITION

This isn’t about Doctors or Nurses, GP’s or Consultants. It’s about our Free Health Service

Yesterday morning, the silence was broken. Fifteen days after Jeremy Hunt made his inflammatory speech at the Kings Fund in Central London, giving NHS consultants an ultimatum on working weekends, and describing the rest of the staff as “lazy” and over-paid, the desperate voices of those people he bad-mouthed and those who support them were set free. After spending over two weeks building up in the virtual pressure cooker of social media, traditional news outlets have finally started to take notice.

Twitter

Jeremy Vine used his Twitter feed to break two weeks of silence around #WeNeedToTalkAboutJeremy.

Jeremy Vine is the first mainstream media broadcaster to openly take notice of #WeNeedToTalkAboutJeremy. He neither supports nor ridicules, merely highlighting the fact that there is a story here. Whether he decides to take it further and make it part of his Radio 2 show remains to be seen, but the fact that he recognises it, and has put it in the public arena, means that the hard part is about to start.

The public’s take on this is crucial, and the petition to debate a vote of No Confidence in the Health Secretary could be seen as a risky move. What is seen as a democratic register of the public’s view by some can also be questioned for it’s validity – ‘it’s just NHS staff signing’ or ‘people are just bored’. I mean if you can get a petition going to get a flavour of low fat yoghurt back on the supermarket shelves you could petition for anything. The danger with this petition was that the public wouldn’t take it seriously; that it was ‘those doctors whinging again’. Which is sad because that would miss the point completely.

petition

Reputation is everything in a career, especially in one as publicly scrutinised as the NHS. Mr. Hunts speech, where he (among other things) put the emphasis on consultants and their apparent refusal to work weekends as the reason for higher patient deaths on Saturdays and Sundays (totally wrong), has made a scapegoat of that particular senior role in the health service, while still allowing the Health Secretary to appear to maintain the view that he cares for the NHS. He turned the blame of failure of weekend access on a group of people who, yes, do have an opt out clause in their contract so they don’t work weekends but, as you will be able to read already in the Mirror, and from this weekend in the Independent, “88% of consultants are already working weekends”, based on a survey by the BMA of almost 900.

Independent

Preview of Independent cover – Saturday 1st August 2015

The Mirror starts to expose the lies.

The Mirror starts to expose the lies.

Here’s the truth about doctors, and I can say this because I’m married to one. People don’t become doctors or nurses for a dream working week. They don’t sign up because they’ll have time for lengthy breaks during the day, and they certainly don’t do it for the money. People become doctors because they feel they can help, they can make a difference. They spend at least 10 years training and honing their skills to be the best they can be before they are officially qualified, and even then, throughout their entire career, they never stop honing and training. They spend an increasing amount of time in an environment that never stops, having to tell patients often horrifying/heartbreaking truths, while diagnosing conditions from their encyclopaedic medical knowledge, all the time speaking to patients who may be as nice as anything, or rude and uncooperative.

Now here’s the thing about medical professionals – none of that bothers them. They will never complain about their job because it’s what they love, it’s what they signed up for. Long hours, no breaks, finishing late – it’s all part of the job, and that includes working at weekends. Doctors accepted this ages ago because of how our modern society functions. Thousands of people working shifts which includes weekends, and the staff at the NHS knew they would have to adapt to that. What staff at the NHS do not appreciate, is their own boss telling them that they are useless, they’re not doing enough and should work more but be paid less. This whole notion of a seven day working week for the NHS already happens because of demand and need from the public, but there is one fundamental question nether Mr. Hunt nor the Health Department has answered – how will this be paid for? For a hospital to be fully functional at the weekend extra staff of all levels are required. Then there’s support teams outside the hospital walls; social care workers, councillors etc. They will all require funding, which the the £8bn the Government pledged in the manifesto will barely touch.

stethoscope

Here’s another thing about medical professionals; we, our society, will always need them. There will come a point where you need to make an appointment to see that nurse, or you need to sit down with a consultant, or you may need to pay a visit to A&E. The thing we are fighting for is how those life-saving services are going to be funded. We live in a capitalist society so all those man hours, knowledge and equipment need to be paid for. Time is money, and that money must come from somewhere. Do we really want to squander a universal free health care system that is paid for through our taxes and end up paying insurance premiums for check ups and examinations that may well be a waste of medical time, but will create a profit?

While I sit here telling you about all this, the National Health Service is being dismantled right in front of us. All this media attack from the government is a smokescreen, to turn public opinion against the ‘money grabbing work-shy doctors’ who in reality are working above and beyond what should be realistically expected of them, working way past the end of their shift to make sure patients get the care they deserve. In the meantime those patients are seeing ‘stories’ in certain right wing Tory linked media saying ‘leg pain is linked to cancer’ or ‘neck ache could be cancer’ or ‘Cancer Cancer Cancer’, (remember all the stories where “my doctor ignored all my symptoms and it was cancer”), increasing fear and therefore demand on medical staff way beyond capacity, so doctors have to not only deal with those who require much needed treatment and help, but also the “worried well”. This in turn portrays the doctors as unable to cope with their job, but don’t worry, here’s a privately run medical company who ‘really know how to do their job’ so everything’s ok. Oh, and what’s your credit card details please?

BBC budgetSince GP’s were forced to take control of the budget of all health services for their own locality back in 2010, they had to commission services on an increasingly smaller budget whilst patient demand has also increased exponentially. This has also meant time taken away from running their GP surgeries and stretching patient care even further, not that the doctors would ever let you see that. This model that the government imposed on them, against advice of medical professionals, was set up for GP’s to fail. It is this situation, imposed by the previous coalition government, that has paved the way for private companies to swoop in and take over. We already have the likes of Virgin Health providing their own service. As soon as patient demand picks up, they will be made to pay for extras and eventually the NHS will be nothing more than a brand name, the heart of its ‘free for all’ service ripped out. The public needs to step in and join the fight. The twisted facts that are being released to the media are nothing more than pro-government, pro-privatisation, anti-NHS propaganda, specifically designed to cause fear and confusion among the public.

The battle lines here are very clear; do you trust a government that manipulates statistics and twist figures to serve their own fictional narrative of ‘lazy doctors’, while many of them have their personal links to private health care companies which stand to take considerable profit at the expense of patient health, and who are conveniently recommended to receive 10% pay rises, or do you trust the diligent medical professionals who look after your loved ones without charge, that never complain about their vocation and are forced in to a pay-cut, while being strong armed to working longer hours, but are now fighting to get back their dignity and respect?

The only common ground that the doctors and nurses have with Jeremy Hunt and the current Conservative government is that they both want a seven day NHS. There is already a seven day NHS. The issue is that the Government don’t want to pay for it, so they are turning responsibility and blame on those who are doing the job. This is why it was imperative that the mainstream media began talking about it. Now, with the likes of the BBC’s Jeremy Vine, and the Mirror and Independent getting the story out of social media and in to the full view of the public arena, we can finally get the voices of these hard-working people heard and understood.