This August Newsletter, features news on the appointment of Boris Johnson as our new unelected Prime Minister, the danger of a no-deal Brexit for the NHS, NHS workers on strike in Bradford resisting 'Subcos', more on our Mental Health Crisis Summit 2019 and an exciting new documentary film that should be screening near come the autumn.
Boris Johnson: an existential threat to our NHS
As we set out recently, there was no pro-NHS candidate in this Conservative Party leadership election – Boris Johnson’s closest rival was Jeremy Hunt, former Health Secretary and architect of much of the chaos, privatisation and underfunding that has decimated our NHS in recent years. Nevertheless, now we know that Boris Johnson will be the next Prime Minister, it’s worth taking stock of his individual record.
The party line
As a Conservative politician of long standing, Johnson has never seriously challenged his party’s catastrophic record on the NHS. Though he presents himself today as a breath of fresh air, he has served for years in the governments that have systematically opened up the NHS to privatisation, deprived it of vital funding, and inflicted top-down disruption on patients and health workers. In fact, the NHS is one of very few topics on which the legendarily talkative MP for Uxbridge has historically been fairly silent, meekly towing the party line of endless top-down restructuring and commercialisation.
During the leadership campaign, we got at least one glimpse of what policy Johnson actually favours. At a private garden party, Johnson told supporters that the NHS “absolutely… needs reform” – echoing a long-standing, duplicitous line of argument in which successive Tory leaders have wrongly painted the NHS as fiscally unsustainable, and used this as justification for destructive restructuring that only increases financial pressure on the health service. Although Johnson claimed to recognise, in the same speech, that the NHS also “needs more money”, this posture is less than convincing given the serial dishonesty, both of Johnson himself, and of his party, which has consistently hidden and misrepresented its squeeze on NHS spending.
Johnson’s “extra” £1.8 billion – neither new nor enough to repair our NHS
The heavily trailed announcement last weekend by Prime Minister Johnson of an “extra” £1.8 billion for the NHS has swiftly been exposed not only as a blatant effort to win public support prior to an early election, but an equally blatant deception.
Far from being “new money” as Johnson claimed, more than half of it comes from reversing a previous government demand for trusts to cut back on their capital spending by 20%.
Keep Our NHS Public member and NHS doctor Sonia Adesara told Sky News:
“We have huge problems in our hospital buildings including ceilings falling in, water leaks, lifts not working, the cost of doing that is £6 billion so this money is just not going to cut it. And the reason why our hospitals are in such a state and in such disrepair is because we had £4 billion being taken away in capital funding by this government, so the money is not new, it's not enough, and it's not going to do what's promised."
Mental Health Crisis Summit announces new speakers with first hand experience as service users
The voices so often unheard are often the most powerful. Along with headline speakers including Ken Loach film director and campaigner, Jonathan Ashworth MP and more, we are now very excited to add that vital voice from the people who are trying to access mental health services in Britain today. While hardworking and devoted NHS staff work long hours to keep the NHS services going in the face of underfunding, understaffing and privatisation and outsourcing of services, service users are often faced with a model of care and limited access to help that is often inadequate. Their voices and stories must be heard. The Mental Health Crisis Summit is happy therefore to announce, the involvement in our event, of campaigns such as Mental Health Resistance Network, National Survivor User Network, Surviving Work and others a long with some personal contributions from those who's experiences highlight just how deep the current crisis in mental health is. BOOK YOUR TICKETS TODAY
Staff fight to stay 100% NHS: New round of battles against ‘Subcos’
Bradford staff dig in for another strike. They believe pay and pensions will suffer as part of a drive to cut costs if roles are transferred to a wholly owned subsidiary company (Subco), being set up by the trust.
These companies don't have to honour NHS contracts and are free to pay employees less than NHS staff doing the same jobs, creating a damaging two-tier system that's no good for staff or patients, says UNISON. The NHS works best when staff all belong to the same team which is why members want to remain in direct NHS employment.
Essentially these companies have been set up to exploit a VAT tax loophole which permits companies the ability to reclaim tax on goods and services which is otherwise not permissible in the NHS. UNISON's research into approximately 30 NHS subsidiary companies shows the extent of creeping privatisation, as we have seen many services like Community Nursing, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, Procurement & Finance, admin services, medical physics, corporate services, health & safety, pharmacy, pathology services, IT services, personnel services, etc transferred out of the NHS into these companies. The August strike follows a week of industrial action in July that saw workers come together with the local community to oppose the backdoor privatisation of health services across the trust.
Under the Knife: donate now to help launch new NHS film
The producers of Under the Knife, a new documentary on NHS privatisation, have launched a crowdfunding appeal to help launch the film with a wave of screenings around the country this October. Casting an eye over the history of the NHS, the efforts towards privatisation of successive recent governments, and the grass-roots campaigners who are fighting back, the film is a powerful and penetrating 90-minute experience.
Tony O'Sullivan, Co-Chair of Keep Our NHS Public, says:
This is the best film around on the NHS. UNDER THE KNIFE shows the vital importance of the NHS to society and exposes the dark threats facing it. But most important of all, the film gives hope to those who are campaigning to keep the NHS safe for our children. You just have to see it.
Keep Our NHS Public supports this project, and we urge our supporters to donate to help these screenings take place. It couldn't come at a more important time, with the NHS threatened by a third successive right-wing Tory government and a potential sell-off "trade deal" with the Trump Administration.
Brexit: why NHS is at risk from no-deal
Never believe a rumour until it is officially denied. Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has argued that the odds against a no-deal Brexit were “a million to one”. Billions more are being spent to prepare for this ostensibly remote possibility, and £100m on advertising the government’s view. However Johnson’s main advisor Dominic Cummings (who has declared openly that Tories don’t care about poor people or the NHS) has outlined his view that it’s already too late for MPs to stop Johnson driving the economy – and the NHS – off a cliff on October 31.
Johnson’s new cabinet Brexit chief Michael Gove has set up a “war cabinet” to meet every week onthe assumption that “Brussels will not budge”, and several other ministers have confirmedwidespread fears that no-deal is now a “very real prospect”.