Campaign groups and community members gathered in Abney Hall, Stoke Newington, on Tuesday 9th October, to discuss how we can keep The NHS from privatisation.
The Hackney Coalition to Save the NHS is made-up of local doctors and hospital workers, national campaign group 38 Degrees, patients and politicians, all fighting the current push towards privatisation solidified in the Health and Social Care Act.
Expected was Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP, Diane Abbott, who proved to be a no-show, nonetheless there was a range of excellent speakers, including journalist Andrew Robertson, Becky Jarvis representing 38 Degrees and local GPs.
Chairing the meeting was Unites, Bronwen Handyside who outlined the central concern that private healthcare companies are “more concerned with profit than looking after patients”. She called for a community pledge against private outsourcing to show “total opposition to privatisation of the health service”. The promises made by Andy Burham at the Labour party conference to repeal the Health and Social Care Act should they win government in the next election, could not have been reiterated more.
Investigative journalist Andrew Robertson took the mantle of speaking first, and explained at length the conflict of interests that sits at the top of the House of Lords. He exposed the figures to the audience and said, “It isn’t that they [the Lords] have registered an interest, it’s that they have the interests in the first place”. He further explained that 142 Lords have companies with financial interest in private healthcare, of which 1 in 4 are Conservative.
Dr. Clare Highton, chair of ELIC and Joint Chair of City & Hackney Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) called for more input from patients. She spoke of “great uncertainty” about the future and explained: “What is not at all clear is where the power will lie or how much money we will have”.
Bronwen Handyside reinforced this statement saying: “Everybody has a responsibility to get involve and [to] do something”.
An out-patient at Homerton Hospital described first-hand how the public say in members’ meetings was being reduced and claimed the governors were forgetting “we are the most important part of the hospital”.
With a spirit of consensus building in the room, Cllr Jonathan McShane (Haggerston Ward) and Chair of City & Hackney Health & Wellbeing Board, moved the discussion to how we can oppose the Act in a coherent fashion. Using wording directly from the Health and Social Care Act, he took issue with the semantic point “any qualified provider”.
Mr McShane detailed that using any qualified provider, that is, a private company “undermines the principle of public service which the Conservatives seem to find so abhorrent”.
“The only phrase we will accept is a “Hackney qualified provider”: an organisation that has a track record in local provision, a commitment to the local population, a commitment to working with other local services…”
A local GP, speaking from the floor, summed up the feeling in the room: “We will be run, we will be ordered, we will be controlled by the likes of Virgin, Serco and KPMG… If we don’t agree, they [the companies] will sell us off.”
Anyone wanting to join the campaign to save the NHS can join the TUC march against austerity on 20th October. The march commences at Unite the Union headquarters in Holborn at 11 am, there will be a banner for the Hackney Coalition to Save the NHS. You can also ring 07745 130 645 for further details.
Further details of Andrew’s investigations can be found at his blog, http://socialinvestigations.blogspot.co.uk/.