Calderdale and Kirklees 999 Call for the NHS met with Shadow Health Secretary Heidi Alexander MP on Thursday 14 Jan in London, as part of their efforts to stop and reverse NHS cuts and sell offs that are decimating our health services.
Worst of all is the badly mistaken plan to close Huddersfield A&E, and shrink the 2 District General Hospitals into the equivalent of 1, that will have to serve the needs of nearly half a million people across Calderdale and Kirklees.
19 other groups of NHS supporters from all over England were also at the meeting, in order to:
- tell the Shadow Home Secretary how NHS privatisation and cuts to NHS funding and services have damaged hospitals, GP and community health services across the country,
- ask her whether and how she and the Labour Party will support the campaigners in their drive to stop and reverse NHS cuts and privatisation.
Calderdale and Kirklees 999 Call for the NHS Chair Jenny Shepherd and Secretary Victoria Kennedy were there to tell Heidi Alexander about delays and restrictions to patient care.
Patients are suffering from NHS cuts and closures
One example they reported on is the imminent closure of the whole Calderdale arts therapy service – one of the community services that helps keep patients out of hospital.
An art therapy client told Jenny:
“Working with the therapist has meant I’ve been able to withdraw off medication and have not been hospitalised with somatic pain for around 5 years. Previously I was a regular inpatient on general wards for pain management due to acute bouts of IBS and also under consultants for migraines as well as being prescribed medication for anxiety and depression. Working with the therapist has saved thousands of pounds for the NHS and many hospital hours, so I dispute that cutting this service is a cost effective measure.”
This is the first time the mental health trust has decided to cut an entire service for so-called “cost improvement”; until now, it’s only cheese pared services. The art therapists’ Union is challenging this strongly as a dangerous precedent.
Meanwhile, the client has been anxious and stressed for a year, since cuts to the service were first rumoured, then denied by the mental health trust, and then announced. This has worsened her symptoms and she recently had a blackout in the street and knocked out her front teeth.
The client said,
“I’m gutted. My therapist and I agree that I have around another 18 months of work to do and then I’m finished – or if my treatment ends now I’m likely to remain as I am, having blackouts and other symptoms (such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome) which mean I’ll not be employable due to long periods when I’m off sick.”
To stop and reverse cuts, closures and sell offs, the NHS must be restored as a fully publicly owned and run service
At the meeting with Heidi Alexander, the key question from all the campaign groups was whether the Shadow Home Secretary supports the NHS Reinstatement Bill, which has its second reading in the House of Commons on 11 March.
By stopping the waste of between £4.5bn and £30bn/year on the bureaucratic costs of running the marketised, privatising NHS, the Bill would go along way to filling the predicted £22bn NHS funding shortfall by 2020. This predicted funding shortfall is what’s driving the nationwide programme of A&E and District General Hospital cuts and closures, that has now hit Calderdale and Huddersfield.
These hospital cuts and closures are central to the government’s stealth scheme to run down the NHS and turn it into an American private health insurance-type system.
To stop and reverse this process, Caroline Lucas MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, and 10 other MPs, from 5 parties in all, have tabled this Private Members Bill. It is supported by:
- the British Medical Association
- the Medical Practitioners Union
- Doctors for the NHS (previously the NHS Consultants Association)
- Calderdale NUJ
- Calderdale Trades Council
- Huddersfield Trades Council
- West Yorkshire TUC
- Calderdale People’s Assembly
- national People’s Assembly
- Calderdale & Kirklees 999 Call for the NHS
- Calderdale 38 Degrees NHS Campaign group
- North Kirklees NHS Support
- Keep Our NHS Public
- the Green Party of England and Wales
- and many others
The NHS Reinstatement Bill sets out how to restore the NHS to its core working principles as a fully publicly owned, publicly funded and publicly run health service, that is comprehensive, universal, free at the point of need, based on patients’ clinical need and that the Secretary of State has a duty to provide. All these conditions apart from “free at the point of need” were abolished by the 2012 Health and Social Care Act. And that principle has since been up for questioning in the House of Lords.
But 88% of the population of England and Wales want a publicly owned and run NHS, according to a 2013 YouGov poll.
NHS funding shortage is behind the hospital cuts proposal
The Calderdale & Greater Huddersfield Clinical Commissioning Groups’ Pre-Consultation Business Case (downloadable here) for the A&E and hospital cuts keeps saying that shortage of public funding for the NHS is the reason for the plan to close Huddersfield A&E and shrink 2 District General Hospitals into one – while hoping that “new models of care” in the community will make up for the disappeared hospital.
No one talks about the fact that a big cause of this funding shortfall is the huge waste of money (estimated at between £4.5bn/year and £30bn/year) that comes from running the NHS like a market and privatising its services.
The Pre Consultation Business Plan (PCBC) says the predicted £22bn NHS funding shortfall in England by 2020, on the government’s current spending plans, means NHS cuts of £281M are needed in Calderdale and Greater Huddersfield by 2020/1, in the form of so-called Quality Innovation Productivity and Prevention (QIPP) “efficiency savings”.
The combination of the Trust’s deficit and rising demand for hospital care means the Trust faces a shortage of funding of around £257m over the period to 2020/1, and the PCBC states that despite “exceeding national expectation on efficiency savings”, the Trust is not financially viable if it carries on providing the two A&Es and two District General Hospitals.
On top of that problem is the PFI debt, which the Pre Consultation Business Case for the hospital cuts says has “no negotiable exit route (legally tested)”.
But the NHS Reinstatement Bill would redirect the huge sums of money wasted on market bureaucrats back into frontline patient care
So, rather saving money by shrinking two hospitals into one, split across 2 sites, why not save money by cutting the huge waste of money spent on marketising and privatising the NHS?
So far, no Shadow Health Secretary support for NHS Reinstatement Bill
Heidi Alexander MP told Calderdale and Kirklees 999 Call for the NHS and the other campaign groups that she was not inclined to offer support for the NHS Reinstatement Bill’s restoration of the NHS to its core principles, including full public ownership and management.
She softened her refusal by saying:
“Accountability should be returned to the Secretary of State – it shouldn’t be fobbed off to NHS England.
“I’m meeting Allyson Pollock [the Health Policy Professor who is the main author of the NHS Reinstatement Bill] next week.
But she carried on:
“I think there is a limited role for the private sector in the NHS and I’m concerned about another big reorganisation.
“The focus in this Parliament needs to be on challenging the government on funding and on the quality of health and social care. Doctors have told me they’re worried about the costs of a massive reorganisation.”
Heidi Alexander added that that she and the shadow health team will talk to Jeremy Corbyn and the Parliamentary Labour Party about the NHS Reinstatement Bill.
The Chair of Calderdale & Kirklees 999 Call for the NHS, Jenny Shepherd, said:
“Labour Party members of the campaign groups at the meeting were very clear that they want the Labour Party to support the NHS Reinstatement Bill.
Just opposing the government’s underfunding of the NHS is not going to save the NHS from the government’s drive to run it into the ground. This is being done in order to clear the way for its replacement by an American-style private health insurance system.
Where is the effective Parliamentary opposition to this process, and to the waste of public money from marketisation and privatisation of the NHS?”
Protest at NHS market bureaucrats’ public meeting on hospital cuts business case
At 1.30pm on Wednesday 20th January, at the public meeting of Hudderfield and Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Groups at Briar Court Hotel, Halifax Road, Birchencliffe HD3, Calderdale and Kirklees 999 Call for the NHS, along with many other NHS support groups and members of the public, will be protesting against the plans to close Huddersfield Royal Infimary, shrink our 2 District General Hospitals into 1 (split between Huddersfield and Halifax) , and sell off the site of HRI to developers. We shall also be sending in questions.
You can find all the National Health Activists Network Testimonies on the Destruction of the NHS here, on the 999 Call for the NHS website.