January 2017: Winter – crisis of Government policy
At the start of 2017, nothing highlighted more clearly the level of neglect shown by this government towards the NHS, and the risks to safety they have allowed, than this image: a sick two year-old waiting in A&E for initial assessment, including the possibility of meningitis, lying across two chairs in the A&E waiting room where there were no beds or cubicles.
Two deaths were reported of adult patients waiting on trolleys in Worcestershire Royal Hospital A&E in for admission to the wards and for treatment. One patient had been waiting 35 hours before eventually succumbing still on a trolley in A&E.
February: Think Tanks tell NHS England, Stevens and Hunt to ‘think again’ on STPs
NHS England’s Simon Stevens had railroaded through the signing of operating plans by NHS trusts and CCGs end of January that are totally unrealistic. Stevens imposes draconian ‘financial control totals’ in order to deliver dangerous levels of underfunding demanded by Jeremy Hunt – through radical cuts, mergers and closures contained in England’s 44 so-called ‘Sustainability & Transformation Plans’ (STPs). Emperor Jeremy Hunt has no clothes, and everyone knows it:
National Audit Office report Health and social care integration February 2017
There is no compelling evidence to show that integration in England leads to sustainable financial savings or reduced hospital activity … The Departments have not yet established a robust evidence base to show that integration leads to better outcomes for patients … do not yet have the evidence to show that they can deliver their commitment to integrated services by 2020, at the same time as meeting existing pressures on the health and social care systems.
Great expectations – shifting the balance of care March 2017
While out-of-hospital care may be better for patients, it is not likely to
be cheaper for the NHS in the short to medium term – and certainly not
within the tight timescales under which the STPs are expected to deliver
change. The wider problem remains: more patient-centred, efficient and
appropriate models of care require more investment than is likely to be
possible given the current funding envelope.
March: 250,000 demonstrate greatest ever support for #ourNHS
The biggest march ever for the NHS condemned Government policy to underfund and privatise the NHS. See the summary of media coverage of this truly historic occasion – it changed the mood of the country about the NHS. Organised by Health Campaigns Together and The People’s Assembly Against Austerity, with Keep Our NHS Public, the demands were simple and clear:
- For a fully funded, publicly owned, NHS & social care service
- No cuts, no closures, no privatisation
- End pay restraint for NHS staff
Alongside a demand for an end to racism towards patients and NHS staff, this is a clear and relevant manifesto to save our NHS.
April: Theresa May calls General Election on Brexit
But our response was to ensure the electorate voted on the NHS and on social care – the NHS Roadshow was born the next day, set up by junior doctor, Aislinn Macklin Doherty for the Health campaigns Together, Keep Our NHS Public, People’s Assembly alliance who had staged the dramatic 4 March #ourNHS demonstration.
May: NHS Roadshow – #VoteNHS
NHS Roadshow, Health Campaigns Together, Keep Our NHS Public and People’s Assembly combined once again and intervened in the General Election campaign to ensure that the NHS had a high profile. NHS Roadshow Twitter (renamed as Health Campaigns Together’s @NHScampaigns) Twitter was the fourth most effective Twitter stream on the election. And highly effective videos were put out including ‘So you’re thinking of voting Conservative’ which reached 11.5 million people.
June: General election
The election result was a disaster for the Conservatives and a major step forward for campaigners for the NHS and against austerity cuts to health, social care, education. The hung parliament meant that the Tories had to buy support from the Democratic Unionist Party in the North of Ireland for £1bn. Difficult and controversial decisions would be ever more difficult to push through parliament – we had made a very real contribution as NHS campaigners to the outcome of the election. Our job however was very far from done.
But the relationships and alliances forged in the making of the 4 March demonstration and the NHS roadshow stand us in good stead for the future.
July: NHS Birthday – new KONP website relaunched – new threats for NHS
Saturday 1 July and Wednesday 5 July saw events up and down the country to mark the 69th birthday of the NHS – a mixture of celebration and thanks to the NHS and staff and of anger and demands to government that they change direction and stop deliberate underfunding and privatisation of the NHS.
Our campaigning new website went live on 24 July – with heartfelt thanks to Geoff.
Notice of Hunt’s intention to privatise NHS Professionals – the in-house NHS agency staff organisation saving over £70m per year by-passing private agencies. The effective response launched by We Own It was supported by Keep Our NHS Public – see ‘September’.
August: Hawking backs NHS and destroys Hunt’s posturing
An important debate on the future of the NHS took place at the Royal Society of Medicine 19 August. Very well organised by Bring Back The NHS, the debate was put on by Discourse and attracted the brilliant presence of Professor Stephen Hawking, as well as a range of informed speakers including Sarah Wollaston, Conservative MP for Totnes and Chair of the Commons Select Committee. The importance of the debate should not be lost, but the overwhelming impact was the decision of Jeremy Hunt to challenge the analytical abilities of Stephen Hawking – the rest is history. Hunt came off significantly the worse in reputation and credibility. Thank you to Professor Hawking. What follows is a brief history of that time:
September: NHS Professionals saved from privatisation; Labour commits to NHS
September was a boost to NHS campaigners: following We Own It’s campaign with KONP in support, Justin Madders referred the threatened privatisation of NHS Professionals to the Audit Commission. Jeremy Hunt backed down and the Department of Health announced its withdrawal of the plan to privatise.
Then came the Labour Party annual conference: health campaigners, KONP activists, Socialist Health Association and LP members mobilised to get a staunch defence of the NHS and a call to end the market in healthcare on the agenda. Composite 8 was passed unanimously – this was a great day. Read more below.
October: Legal challenge to undemocratic Accountable Care Organisations (ACOs)
[We have published an excellent briefing and post on ACOs]
Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England moved quickly between December 2016 and the summer.
- December/January he imposed plans to deliver underfunding annually of a total to £25 billion by the end of 2020/21 – remember ‘cost control totals’ and the threat of special measures if NHS trust, clinical commissioning groups in the 44 local ‘footprint’ areas failed to ‘balance the books’ – knowing that this involved ‘thinking the unthinkable’ (literally a message given to senior NHS managers).
- March saw his plan to force through implementation of the plans and deadlines for financial plans to cut services to meet the cost controls by end of June; and he outlined his vision for accountable care systems to be put in place, which would develop to accountable care organisations (ACOs) more or less quickly – where the budgetary control and governance of the NHS would be broken up for ever into 44 areas, run by 44 organisations controlling the delivery of health care within a tight financial control
- June saw explicit threats to 14 footprint areas to enforce £450 million of cuts or to be put in special measures; a furore saw some row-back and a reduction of target to a still damaging £250 million of cuts
- August saw model contracts for managing the ACOs – including the explicit provision that tendering would include private companies or an alliance in the form of ‘special purpose vehicles’ notorious for being the holding ‘vehicle’ for private finance initiative contracts. There is no primary legislation allowing for this and no debate in the House of Commons had taken place nor was it planned.
So – four doctors and academics announced their intention to mount an judicial review against Jeremy Hunt and NHS England. These four became ‘The Famous Five’ when Professor Stephen Hawking joined them in December.
They are still crowd-funding for funds to cover legal costs – please support here and read more below:
November: Tories’ budget heightens reckless, heartless neglect of NHS & Social Care
The Autumn Statement was 22 November. Campaigning to highlight the need for emergency funding for health and social care came from many quarters – NHS Providers, NHS England and Simon Stevens himself, the major thinktanks, Sarah Wollaston Chair of the Commons Health Select Committee and of course campaigners.
The People’s Assembly Against Austerity held a rally in Whitehall at Downing St the night before to highlight the impact of universal credit vindictiveness, foodbanks and cuts to health and social care. The next day Chancellor Philip Hammond refused to fund the NHS safely and failed to even mention social care.
December: Evidence of privatisation racing on
Despite the blatantly false denials from Jeremy Hunt that he is privatising the NHS, the scale of privatisation has been confirmed by The Guardian at year end: 70% of 386 NHS contracts tendered in 2016/17 financial year went to private companies! £3.1bn of health services – including a shocking £1bn of contracts to Virgin over the last year – the very same company that has sued the NHS for failing to renew the Surrey contract (above). It is heartening to hear a clear message given out on one of the mainstream media outlet at year’s end on LBC:
— LBC (@LBC) December 30, 2017
January 2018 – Winter catches Jeremy Hunt by ‘surprise’ again
Deliberate neglect of the NHS for eight years – over 5 years on Hunt’s watch – leaves NHS staff facing unacceptable winter pressures once again. They have been totally let down by Hunt.
New Year’s Day and Cornwall’s main hospital remains on ‘black alert’ with five hour waits and not enough doctors or beds to treat patients.
And Plymouth runs out of corridor space for patients on trolleys already stacked up because the A&E proper is full.
We cannot allow this to go on – the Winter Crisis is a political crisis made by Hunt and the Tory Government
We will indeed ‘fight for our NHS’ – for the care patients need and for NHS staff who need our support.
Please join us, support us, help fund our campaign
Become an individual member of KONP and join one of our local groups – near 80 across England. Get your organisation to affiliate to Health Campaigns Together – with 80 affiliates including four national unions: Unite the Union, Unison, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and National Education Union (NEU).
Together we are strong enough to win back and protect the NHS. We will force this government to change course or go – that is what it will take to restore NHS and social care funding, to end the threat of privatisation and to return the NHS fully to public service.
Watch for our response to the Winter crisis – and join us
Put Saturday 7 July in your diary
National demonstration to mark the 70th anniversary of the launching of the NHS – 5th July 1948 – this year’s event launched once again in celebration and in thanks – but with extra significance to our defiant opposition to attempts to underfund, dismantle and put out to private contractors our very special and vitally needed National Health Service.
Support the Judicial Review – JR4NHS
Follow the campaigns round the country – from Huddersfield to Dorset and beyond!
Tony O’Sullivan, Co-chair KONP