Welcome to our latest edition of the Friday Surgery. For those of you who don’t know, the Friday Surgery is where you can find the most update summary of the NHA’s recent activities. As well as analysis, commentary and much more. Without further ado, let us begin!
Congratulations to Naveen and the South Yorkshire Save our NHS Party
The National Health Party would like to offer its sincerest thanks to Naveen Judah, our Party Treasurer, who stood as a candidate for the South Yorkshire Save our NHS Party in the Sheffield City Region Mayoral Election. Despite being excluded from hustings, standing for a new party, and having far less money than the other parties, Naveen managed to secure 4.24% of the popular vote. He also managed to beat the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party and the English Democrats in Rotherham.
But the real success story is that Naveen managed to draw attention to the £500m in NHS “savings” that are due to come into force in the region by 2020 as a result of the region’s Sustainability and Transformation Plan. And, that he managed to spread the message to over 1Million people that their region has become the experimental site for the roll-out of Jeremy Hunt’s much vaunted “Accountable Care Organisations”.
“Accountable Care Organisations”, also known as “Integrated Care Organisations”, are American derived models of providing healthcare. They are nothing more than an attempt to introduce privatisation into the NHS through the backdoor. The rollout of these organisations is currently being challenged in the courts. However, what we found to be truly concerning in this election was the Labour Party’s complicity in supporting the roll out of these organisations, despite the fact that support for these organisations is contrary to Labour Party policy. We also unearthed the existence of financial links between the Labour Candidate and now Sheffield Regional City Mayor, Dan Jarvis MP, and an individual who had managed a company that has held substantial shares in Accountable Care Organisations.
By looking at the Electoral Commission website and its list of donations to individuals we found that Dan Jarvis had accepted a total of £76,000 in cash payments from an individual known as Martin Taylor, between the 4th of February 2016 to 12th of April 2017 . Martin Taylor used to manage a hedge fund called Nevsky Capital which in 2015 was reported by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism to hold $15m in shares in United Health. United Health is a huge, for-profit, American healthcare insurance company which runs a series of ACO’s and at the time of the report was worth £76bn and bidding for a £1.2bn NHS contract for end of life care. This is the same company that from 2004-2006 the now head of NHS England, Simon Stevens, acted as President for in relation to its European subsidiary, UnitedHealth Europe. And who then went on to hold a series of senior management positions within the company up until 2014 where he would go on to advocate privatisation of the NHS through TTIP.
Now, while we’re not saying that Dan Jarvis or his donors have been involved in any wrong doing. It does nonetheless raise questions as to the integrity of the Mayor in scrutinising the rollout of ACOs. This was telling when we analysed the Labour Party’s election literature. The NHS was not mentioned at all, just as it wasn’t mentioned by the other major parties.
The argument Labour might use to justify this is that the mayoral role has nothing to do with the NHS, it is largely symbolic and has no powers and no budget. But we know this is disingenuous. Firstly, if the role of the mayor is to bring together leaders and stakeholders in the area to facilitate local development and the local economy then this will necessarily involve the NHS. The NHS is a vital part of local economies across the country. It is also one of the Sheffield City Region’s largest employers.
Secondly, local councils do have important roles in relation to health: not only the wider social determinants of health such as housing and transport, but also social care which involves much of what was previously health care: such as health visitors, school nurses, public health and health promotion. Thirdly, local authorities have powers in scrutinising health service changes and can challenge them, as some Labour Councils have in parts of London and across the country. Yet, in local authorities all over England, including in the Sheffield City Region, Labour Councillors are also massively failing to challenge, and in some cases, are actively collaborating with policies such as STPs and ACOs. This includes Labour local authorities such as those in the Sheffield City Region (Barnsley, Rotherham, Doncaster and Sheffield).
Naveen did an amazing job in spreading the message on these issues. It is however a shame that greater media scrutiny at a local and national level was not placed on the Labour Party, its candidate, and its lack of a challenge to rolling out of an ACO in the region.
Pay Your Taxes!
Last week we saw Theresa May’s Government crack, and finally U-turn, on its support for the UK’s Overseas Territories to maintain closed registers of beneficial ownership. You can read Dr Louise Irvine’s opinion piece on this issue published in the Canary, here.
The Left Needs an Electoral Alliance
With the recent call by some Labour MPs for Labour to embrace a progressive alliance to unseat the Tories, NHA party co-leader Dr Alex Ashman has made a powerful case for the adoption of such an alliance. You can read that here.
We are still witnessing the fallout from the Windrush Scandal. Amber “deport them first ask questions later” Rudd has been sacked and the Home Office and NHS will now cease their current data sharing on immigration. In an opinion piece on this issue Dr Louise Irvine looks at how both the Conservatives and the Labour Party have historically pandered to a negative portrayal of immigration in their quest for votes, and the impact this is having on the NHS. You can read that here.
Breast Cancer Screening
The current revelation that up to 450,000 women have missed out on screenings for breast cancer is truly shocking. At this early stage we cannot know for definite what caused this error. Although it is being reported that it is due to an I.T. fault dating back to 2009. We will have to see if in due course there is in fact any linkage between the error and the cuts to capital spending which have been inflicted on the NHS since the Coalition Government took office. However, what we do know is that it is totally inappropriate for the Government to have outsourced the helpline for women affected by this issue to Serco.
These women need to be able to speak to those with more than an hour’s training and who have genuine medical knowledge, i.e. in house clinical staff. Unfortunately, this current debacle is an all too real example and reminder of how the free-market ideology which drives the Tories poses a real risk to patient safety, and quality of care.
Prime Ministers Questions
Finally, we are going to end the Friday Surgery on a lighter note.
We know that it can sometimes be difficult to actually understand what Theresa May is saying in response to Jeremy Corbyn during PMQ’s. What she lacks in competence as a Prime Minister she more than makes up for in her ability to confound her opponents (and the public) with nonsense. Eventually grinding down our power of attention, as we fall into a state of catatonic boredom. But do not fear! For we have bought you a rather more succinct account of what actually took place at this weeks’ PMQ’s. Follow us as we cut through the bluster.
Corbyn opened with an easy question, by asking the PM what she thought of her Foreign Secretary calling her Brexit plans bonkers. May responded by ignoring the question and arguing that she was an opponent of TTIP. A highly irrelevant answer, and one straight out of the May “manual of nonsensical responses.” Nonetheless, it is worth remembering that the Tories were in support of TTIP just as they are in support of CETA. And that Theresa May has failed to rule out increased involvement of private American firms in the NHS post-Brexit.
After being attacked on the economy by Corbyn, May responded by saying the Tories had a record high on driving up employment. Unfortunately, she forgot to mention that this record was largely based on low-skilled, low-waged and insecure forms of work. Where workers are left with little to no rights, and which has in cases led to deaths, where workers have skipped GP appointments in order not to lose their job.
In round three May took the fight to Corbyn by arguing that the recent Labour rebellion in the Lords- which will now pave the way for MPs to have a vote on remaining in the Single Market- was a typical example of Labour letting the country down. One could not escape the feeling that May was delighting in trolling Parliament to the upmost. Especially in light of the fact that her government are literally starving the NHS of cash, denying access to much needed foreign doctors, and attempting to introduce privatisation through the backdoor via ACOs.
Corbyn then retorted by shooting himself in the foot. He argued that the PM ought to allow for meaningful debates and votes on Brexit in Parliament. One of his aides had unfortunately forgotten to tell him that he too had attempted to stifle debate by whipping Labour peers to abstain on the EEA amendment. After this slight stumble, Corbyn got back to his first question by asking the PM how she could negotiate a good Brexit deal in the interests of the British public when her own Cabinet are split on the issue. Once again, the aid had unfortunately forgotten to remind Corbyn that the Tories don’t care about the public, and this is now common knowledge after their total evisceration of the country’s public services.
The SNP followed up by asking what plans the PM had in place to ensure that vital UK-EU cooperation on medicine regulation and scientific research could continue post-Brexit. The PM responded by saying the UK would be an associate member of the institutions in which it is currently a member. This was greeted by incredulity. Primarily due to the fact that this is nonsense and the EU have already stated the UK cannot be an associate member, as no such status exists. At this point serious questions were interrupted by a Tory sycophant who asked the PM to agree with her that the Local Election results were good for the Government. May responded by saying she was happy that Tory councils could continue to deliver sub-standard services under budget cuts mandated by her Government. A brief interlude ensued where MPs decided to shout for no apparent reason for a rather prolonged period of time…
Then we were back on track, with a Labour MP asking the PM what she thought of the 13% rise in foodbank usage this year. The PM got up, acknowledged food bank use was on the rise, and sat back down. It was too much to pretend she cared about those who are starving in one of the richest countries of the world.
Labour recognised a change of approach was needed. Another Labour MP who bought up the issue of inter-generational unfairness and the current lack of housing for young people. This time the PM thought she had to at least attempt to feign concern and failed spectacularly. The PM argued the Tories had increased affordable housing. Somewhat forgetting that £400,000+ is not a definition of “affordable” that most people would agree with.
As if to rub salt in the wound, May then proceeded to argue that the UK was a country where people could succeed on talent alone, irrespective of their background. Her cabinet of millionaires roared support from behind the PM, blissfully unaware that in that moment if someone had taken a photo we would have finally been able to produce a meme which did justice to conveying the meaning of irony.
The session was finally drawn to a close when a Labour MP told the PM that cuts to policing in her constituency had led to a rise in crime. May proceeded to argue that cuts to the police, and by extension NHS staff, had no bearing upon the performance of public services and the ability of the police and doctors to do their job. And with this response May breathed a sigh of relief as she had yet again managed the feat of speaking for half an hour whilst actually providing little to no information of any use to both Parliament and the country at large.