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Hands Off Our NHS, Hunt!

Friday, 27 April 2018 10:19
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Campaigners tell Health Secretary “Hands Off Our NHS!” - PRESS RELEASE 27/04/2018

PHOTO OPPORTUNITY – banners, placards and a government minister. For further information call James Beecher 07734 058789

Campaigners are preparing to give Jeremy Hunt a Stroud welcome, with the Health Secretary due to visit Stroud Hospital at 1.30pm.

Campaigners from Stroud Against the Cuts, Keep Gloucestershire’s NHS Public and other groups plan to rally at Stroud Hospital from 1pm to greet Hunt with their questions and concerns. Members of the Hands Off Lydney and Dilke hospitals campaign – currently planning legal action against plans to close the hospitals[i] – will also attend. Expressing surprise that Mr Hunt would want to visit Stroud – a town known for successful campaigns to save the local Maternity Unit[ii] and prevent privatisation of community health services[iii] – campaigners say they are keen to ask Hunt about a number of local issues of concern:

-       Why are our patient transport ambulances run by private Arriva?

-       Why is our 111 service run by private company and Tory donors Care UK?

-       Why are the Forest of Dean equivalents of Stroud Hospital – Lydney and Dilke – set to be closed?

-       Why is Stroud's Minor Injury Unit now closed at night?

-       Why are patients waiting up to a year for hospital referrals?

A Facebook page for the event suggests, at time of writing, that 75 people may be in attendance. A tweet about the event has been shared 119 times.

NHS campaigner with Stroud Against the Cuts, Caroline Molloy said:

“Next month Jeremy Hunt will become the longest serving Health Secretary – there’s no else he can blame for the crisis in the NHS that’s occurring under his watch. Hunt has recently watered down or scrapped targets for timely NHS treatment – thousands of patients in Gloucestershire and hundreds of thousands around the country see their conditions worsen while they wait. Thanks to the ‘Hostile Environment’ in the NHS we’re even seeing people who’ve lived in the country for years told they can’t access the NHS.[iv]

Chair of Stroud Against the Cuts James Beecher said:

 “We’ve had enough Hunt’s lies – the cuts, closures, the privatisation. We don’t want Hunt coming here to pose for photo opportunities and pretending he cares when the reality is that with him as Health Secretary the NHS has experienced its worst ever funding squeeze. Yet at the same time somehow private health providers are receiving more than 4 times more NHS cash than they were a decade ago, with Arriva taking over our local patient transport and Care UK running 111 and Out of Hours care. Hospitals, particularly small hospitals and A&E departments are closing or downgrading as we see in the Forest of Dean and at Cheltenham, and indeed Stroud Hospital’s own Minor Injuries Unit. As NHS services are scaled back, private health firms are swooping in.”

NOTES FOR EDITORS:

Jeremy Hunt became Health Secretary on 4 September 2012. Since February he’s been in the post longer than the founder of the NHS, Aneurin Bevan – and he’s set to become the longest-serving health secretary[v].

 

The number of patients not receiving treatment within 18 weeks of referral has gone up by 100,000 since January 2016[vi] and locally, people have been told they may wait up to a year. Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said “there had been an increase of nearly nine per cent, or about 7,000, patients waiting for non-urgent elective care between 2013 and 2016.”[vii] Meanwhile, Hunt has signalled he doesn’t think most people need to be treated within 4 hours at A&E.

Gloucestershire’s patient transport ambulances were handed to private company Arriva to run on the 1st December 2013. The company were given a 5-year contract till 30 November 2018, but their performance has been repeatedly under question. The company has regularly missed targets to drop patients off between 45 minutes earlier than booked arrival time and 15 minutes later than booked arrival time, and left elderly people crying in Gloucestershire waiting rooms.[viii]

Since 2010, 15,000 beds have been cut from hospitals – which amounts to one in ten beds being lost[ix]. Here in Gloucestershire, plans to close The Dilke and Lydney hospitals in the Forest of Dean could see them replaced with half the number of existing beds.[x]

Thanks to a government NHS pay freeze, nurses pay has fallen by 14% since 2010[xi] - and the impact on morale and retention, as well as the cuts to recruitment and nursing bursaries, means that in some parts of England only 1 in every 400 nursing places are being filled.[xii] A shortage of nurses was behind the reduction in opening hours at Stroud’s Minor Injuries unit implemented in 2016[xiii]. Cheltenham A&E is among a host of units around the country that have been downgraded since 2010.[xiv]

According to a parliamentary answer given by Minister of State Stephen Barclay of the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS commissioners’ spend on non-NHS bodies was £2,193 million in 2006/07, and had risen to £9,007 million by 2016/17.[xv]

References:

 


[iii]England: Campaign to save Gloucestershire’s NHS” – podcast on successful campaign by People’s Health Movement North America.

[xv]Spending on private health providers by NHS commissioners in the last 10 years”, tweet by Health Services Journal reporter Lawrence Dunhill.

 

Last Updated on Friday, 27 April 2018 10:51
 

Videos from the "What's Happening to Our NHS?" conference

Saturday, 17 March 2018 17:09
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Videos from the "What's Happening to Our NHS?" conference organised by Stroud Labour Party recently.

We understand that sadly there were technical issues with the official filming at the conference, but provide links to videos we made through live-streaming to Facebook of the event. Please excuse amateur video and audio skils and the limitations of our equipment - we believe this footage is still useful both for those who could not attend the event and anyone wishing to revisit a session:

 

1. Successful Campaigning with Pete Gillard from Shropshire Defend Our NHS and Joanne Land from 999 Call for the NHS

2. Professor Wendy Savage on the current threats to the NHS

3. David Drew MP, Michael Sweetman from Unison and Reg Beagley from Unite on the Gloucestershire NHS SubCo

4, There are also some quieter videos from the session on the impact of the cuts from the perspective of a clinician in the NHS and on rural areas with Gill George, and on children - with Barbara Potter, which was followed by a panel discussion.

Some of our other recent videos you may be interested in:

* Junior Doctor Joe on the NHS Gloucestershire SubCo

* Live at the union rally against the NHS Gloucestershire SubCo, with Michael Sweetman and a representative from the successful North Bristol campaign

If you are on Facebook, you can keep up to date with local and national NHS news via the Keep Gloucestershire's NHS Public page (don't forget to like and turn notifications on for the Stroud Against the Cuts Facebook page too!)
Last Updated on Saturday, 17 March 2018 17:11
 

Gloucestershire NHS "SubCo" despite unanswered questions about NHS land, buildings and more

Thursday, 01 March 2018 14:37
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Press Release 01/03/2018 – Keep Gloucestershire’s NHS Public - Contact: James Beecher 07734 058789.

Campaigners furious as Gloucestershire NHS "SubCo" approved despite unanswered questions about NHS land, buildings and more

Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust sets up private “subsidiary company” for 675 staff claiming it will save money on VAT

Over 900 staff had signed petition against plans

Shadow Secretary of Health and Social Care raises the issue in Parliament

In the coming weeks Unison and Unite will be conducting separate indicative ballots to find out whether staff are willing to take industrial action on this issue.

Today - 1st March 2018 - Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has announced that "The Board has approved the plans to establish a wholly owned subsidiary company (SubCo) effective from 1st April 2018. The company will employ around 675 support staff in estates and facilities, sterile services, and materials management functions".

Reacting to the announcement, James Beecher of Keep Gloucestershire's NHS Public said: "We are extremely disappointed to hear this - the whole SubCo proposal and process stinks. The VAT-avoidance is fishy, £200,000 has been budgeted for advice from dodgy private sector consultants, and there's a huge range of unanswered questions including crucial ones about hospital assets, land and buildings. Local NHS bosses have refused to listen not only to concerns raised by us and fellow campaigners-but have ignored over 900 of their own staff who signed a petition against the plans. They've also disregarded advice from the government’s NHS Providers Finance Director - who wrote to NHS Trusts telling them not to pursue VAT-avoidance just last September. We asked several crucial questions about the plans ahead of the decision and have received no answers [see overleaf] - this is sadly typical of a process which has often given the impression that NHS bosses have something to hide. There's been no formal means for the public to comment - if the plans are so great, why have the public been excluded?"

Eva Ward, County Councillor for Stroud (Green) added: "As a relatively new member of the Health and Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HCOSC) at Gloucestershire County Council, I have been astonished to discover that decisions are often made without the opportunity for advance committee scrutiny. The Subco issue hasn’t been included in previous discussions and the committee depend on hospital staff and their union representatives to keep us informed. It is also difficult to accept that some of the current changes within the NHS and social care are considered to be outside the HCOSC remit. I will be pursuing questions about the SubCo at the next HCOSC meeting on 6th March"

The Gloucestershire case was raised in parliament today by Shadow Secretary for Health and Social Care, Jonathan Ashworth who said: “I’m sure you will have seen the news that a Foundation Hospital Trust, in Gloucester, has just announced that it is setting up a wholly owned subsidiary. This is where hospital trusts essentially set up a private company and transfer NHS staff, and indeed assets, into that company. Dozens of hospitals are doing this, or looking at doing this, because of the underfunding of the NHS. It will create a two-tier workforce, thousands of jobs could be transferred – and essentially backdoor privatisation it is. Has the Secretary for Health given you any notice that he will come to the House and explain why underfunding of the NHS is allowing the fabric of a public national health service to be undermined in this way?”

Meanwhile, Bath’s Royal United Hospital has decided to postpone any decision on transferring staff to a SubCo, sending a statement to all staff yesterday reading: “we have listened… after careful consideration and discussion the Board of Directors has agreed that more time and information is needed”. This follows a decision by North Bristol NHS Trust to abandon their plans.

Notes for editors:

Joint Union Statement on Gloucestershire SubCo Board Decision

openDemocracy OurNHS article on SubCos: “Are cash-strapped hospitals walking into a trap that could cost the NHS its family silver?

Text of letter sent February 26th to local NHS bosses:

"Dear Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust Directors,

Re: SubCo – urgent outstanding questions

We are writing on behalf of Keep Gloucestershire’s NHS Public, the campaign group who in 2011/2 successfully brought an injunction and Judicial Review in the High Court to halt and reverse the decision to transfer community hospitals and 4,000 NHS staff into a new ‘social enterprise’ company, ensuring instead that staff and assets remained within the NHS.

We set out below some urgent questions in five areas – assets, financial assumptions, tax, staff, and governance - regarding the proposal coming before the Extraordinary meeting this Wednesday (28th February) for the ‘go-live’ of a Subsidiary Company.

We recognise that you may already have the answers to some of these questions, but wanted to ensure that all Trust directors were given the opportunity to ask all these questions of the Trust executive. We have researched them with the help of OurNHS openDemocracy, the respected NHS news & research platform, and with and other experienced NHS campaigners and solicitors.

It is our view that – given the problems there have been elsewhere - the Trust risks being negligent in its stewardship of public money and assets if it does not ensure all these questions are satisfactorily answered before signing off any arrangement.

We believe that public need to be given these answers themselves, before a decision is made. To this end we support the call by David Drew MP, unions and others to – at the very least - pause the scheme so that proper public information and consultation can take place.

Implications of the scheme for assets (including buildings)

  1. What assets will be transferred (including, but not limited to, freehold and leases in respect of buildings and equipment) and what is their value? 
  2. What proportion of the liabilities relating to those assets will also be transferred?
  3. What proportion of the projected £35m (over 10 years) tax savings are dependent on transferring the Trust’s legal rights over its assets in some way to the SubCo?
  4. If transferring assets, is the Trust going to select an organisational form for the SubCo that is, by law, subject to an asset lock? If not, why not?
  5. What restrictions has the Trust placed on the SubCo selling, assigning the lease, or subletting any property transferred to it from the Trust, to a third party such as a private healthcare provider? (ie, what restrictions has the Trust placed on such further transfer of interests, beyond the standard minimalist restrictions in commercial leases)?
  6. Have any of the assets being disposed of/transferred (or leases sold), been on the asset register and identified as relevant to the provision of Commissioner Requested Services at any point? If so, has consent been sought and obtained from both the CCG and from NHSI for the disposal/transfer of assets to a third party (ie the company)? If not, why not?

Robustness of other financial assumptions

  1. If assets are transferred, will the SubCo have to pay the 3.5% capital charge to government on those assets, as GHNHSFT currently does?
  2. Does the Trust know for definite whether the SubCo will be able to borrow money for capital investment without being prevented by Treasury limits on government expenditure/ capital expenditure (bearing in mind that NHS borrowing / investment from the private sector currently still hits up against these limits)? If it does know, what is the answer?
  3. Does the Trust/Company expect to receive any loan financing from NHSI contingent on this arrangement?
  4. What assessment has the Trust made of the impact of the SubCo on its financial risk rating and net surplus?
  5. Does the Trust expect to raise private patient income from any of these arrangements?

Robustness of projected tax savings

  1. Has the Trust a) requested and b) received confirmation that these tax saving arrangements are permissible and robust, as it undertook to do in written communications with staff, from the relevant authority (eg HMRC and GCC)? If not, can the Trust confirm when it expects and answer, and if it expects to agree the deal before the answer?
  2.  Is the Trust aware that the largest public in-sourcing to date, UnitingCare in Cambridgeshire, collapsed and the National Audit Office and NHSE investigations both noted that one of the major reasons for the collapse was a significant misunderstanding of its VAT position which increased annual costs, post-contract signing, by £5m/year? Does the Trust consider there is any risk of a similar situation here?
  3. What's the breakdown in projected tax savings between VAT and other forms of taxes (including local taxes?)
  4. Are these projected savings, net of increases in tax liabilities that may be incurred by the SubCo arrangements e.g. corporation tax, capital gains and stamp duty?

Staff terms and conditions

  1. Why does the Trust not appear to have conducted an Equalities Impact Assessment, given that this is recognised in court as the best way to ensure its General Duty under the 2010 Equalities Act is met, and particularly given the substantial equal pay claims that have arisen as a result of other SubCos where increased pay flexibility/shift to so-called market rates appears to have given rise to gender and other inequalities in pay?
  2. Will transferring staff be given written guarantees specifically that they will remain covered by Agenda for Change pay, terms and conditions, as it develops through national bargaining over time, over the lifetime of their employment, and how can these guarantees be meaningful given the weakness of TUPE legislation?
  3. Has the Trust approached the Department of Health to request permission for new SubCo staff to join the NHS pension scheme, permission which DH guidance suggests may be granted if sought? If not, why not?

Governance and accountability

  1. What will be the company structure of the SubCo?
  2. Why has the full business case not been made available (in electronic or hard copy form) to governors, unions, staff or the public, as it has been in other Trusts for example Northumberland? Why has the options appraisal not been made available?
  3. Does the Trust consider that Gloucestershire Health & Social Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee supports the SubCo? If so, what evidence do they have for assuming this support? Why were questions at the last HOSC to Deborah Lee regarding SubCo, met with the statement that the SubCo was not an appropriate matter for the HOSC to discuss, given that the HOSC function permits councillors to scrutinise anything they think could affect local health services?
  4. We note that that there has not been any meaningful consultation with the local community in Gloucestershire on these proposals, as evidenced by your attitude to formal scrutiny by the GCC HOSC. On what statutory basis have you concluded that such consultation is not required? Please give urgent consideration to this issue and provide a detailed response. A failure in proper process often provides a basis for legal challenge.
  5. What powers is the Trust formally reserving in respect of the SubCo, beyond the statutory and regulatory requirements?

We look forward to hearing from you,

James Beecher, Chris Stockwell, Caroline Molloy and Hannah Basson, Keep Gloucestershire’s NHS Public

Cc: Local press and radio, local councillors, local and national political parties, national campaign networks, local and national unions

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 01 March 2018 15:56
 

NHS demonstration as local campaigners join national “NHS in Crisis–Fix it Now” protests

Monday, 29 January 2018 11:35
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Press Release – 29/01/2018 – Stroud Against the Cuts

NHS demonstration as local campaigners join national “NHS in Crisis–Fix it Now” protests

Contact: James Beecher 07734 058789

·         Protestors will gather at The Cross in Gloucester from 12noon on Saturday 3rd February.

·         They will form a “waiting line” to represent the growing waiting lists for treatment and people forced to wait in corridors or ambulances as they wait for care in A&Es around the country.

·         The demonstration will be followed by a meeting for campaigners to discuss next steps from 1.30pm.

·         Organisations Stroud Against the Cuts, Cheltenham and Gloucester Against Cuts and Hands Off Lydney and the Dilke hospitals have joined forced to arrange the protest – which will coincide with a massive demonstration in London and other local protests around the country.

·         Facebook event: NHS in Crisis - Fix it Now protest - Gloucestershire.

James Beecher from Stroud Against the Cuts said: “The government is underfunding the NHS by at least £22billion between now and 2020. Gloucestershire faces over £200 million in cuts and a £100 million hole in their capital budget. This financial pressure follows over seven years of the same. This has resulted in chronic bed shortages around the country. Waiting times are getting longer, operations have been postponed and people have died waiting for care.”

He added: “Locally, we’ve seen Cheltenham A&E cease to be a full 24/7 A&E, and Minor Injuries Units around Gloucestershire have had their opening hours reduced. Fed-up GPs and other health workers are leaving after years of pay cuts. Plans to replace two of the county's community hospitals in the Forest of Dean with one have just been approved, potentially leading to a loss of another 20 beds. And services keep getting handed to private companies to run. The patient transport or non-emergency ambulance service has been appalling since it was handed to Arriva, and Out of Hours care is also now run by private company Care UK.”

Health Campaigns Together & The People's Assembly Against Austerity have called demonstrations on Saturday 3 February, under the title "END THE WINTER CRISIS, FUND #OURNHS".

Health Campaigns Together say: “The #NHSWinterCrisis has now descended into a perpetual year round crisis. A crisis that has brought staff to their knees and patients languishing and even dying in overcrowded waiting rooms and hospital corridors. It doesn't have to be this way. Let's be clear and call this what it is: an entirely manufactured political crisis by the Tories. It is time this Government stops blaming patients, nurses, doctors, immigrants, flu and the elderly for their shortcomings. It's time they start listening to the country - sick of empty promises from the mouths of cowardly politicians. The Tories must heed the call of the public, staff and patients alike who demand that #ourNHS is not only funded properly but brought back into public hands away from the waste and demands of shareholders and bankers' bonuses. On the 70th year of the NHS we created - We demand that #ourNHS is given back!"

 

Last Updated on Monday, 29 January 2018 12:07
 

NHS in Crisis - Fix it Now - Gloucestershire PROTEST Feb 3rd 2018

Friday, 26 January 2018 18:43
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Our NHS is being destroyed... it’s not an accident - but it is an emergency!
 

Let’s fight for our NHS: 

NHS in Crisis - Fix it Now - Gloucestershire PROTEST Feb 3rd 2018
Meet at The Cross, Gloucester, 12noon
NO CUTS! NO CLOSURES! NO PRIVATISATION!
 

(Part of nationwide day of protests called by Health Campaigns Together: healthcampaignstogether.com. Please share/invite friends to the protest Facebook event)


Around the country there are chronic bed shortages, waiting times are
getting longer, and operations have been postponed.

 

Cheltenham A&Ehas been downgraded (meaning it isn’t an A&E overnight), Minor Injuries
Units around Gloucestershire have had their opening hours reduced.


Fed-up GPs and other health workers are leaving.

Plans to replace two of the county's community hospitals in the Forest of Dean with one have just been approved, potentially leading to a loss of another 20 beds.


‘Phone/app-only’ services are replacing face-to-face services like the Stop
Smoking service.

Services keep getting handed to private companies to run - from non-emergency ambulances (patient transport, now run by Arriva), Out of Hours care (Care UK), and hospital pharmacy (Lloyds).


The government is underfunding the NHS by at least £22billion between
now and 2020. Gloucestershire faces over £200 million in cuts and a
£100 million hole in their capital budget... and reorganistion into an ‘ACO’.
 


We want an NHS that provides high-quality care, when people need it.
 

To provide good care, the NHS needs enough trained doctors, nurses and other workers - who should be properly paid. We want an end to the pay cap.


That means the NHS needs to be properly funded.
We must stop the underfunding and cuts of recent years.


We don’t want private companies pursuing profits to own or run
NHS services - this risks care and wastes money.


We want an NHS that cooperates to achieve the best care.
We must end forced competition for services that wastes billions in
a fake market - and allows Richard Branson to sue the NHS if contracts
aren’t given to his company.


No-one should go without care because they are unable to pay.
Treatment should be given on the basis of need -
no conditions should get in the way. Funding by progressive
taxation is fairest, charging for care must be opposed.


We want an end to the PFI rip-off, are opposed to the sell off of NHS
land and buildings under the Naylor report, and are concerned
about the introduction of ‘Accountable Care Organisations’ (ACOs),
which may mean private companies deciding which services are
available for free on the NHS.


Finally, we want the NHS to be as democratic as possible - decisions
must be accountable to patients, healthworkers, and the public.

 

Contact us for updates about campaigns, meetings and protests.
Help us spread the word: find the “Keep Gloucestershire’s NHS Public”
page and group on Facebook, send letters to local papers, and share
copies of this leaflet with friends, family, neighbours or at work.

 

Stroud: 07734 058789 - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Cheltenham & Gloucester: 07947 632437 - cheltenham-gloucesteragainstcuts.org
Forest of Dean: holdpressteam.wordpress.com

 


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