Saturday, April 25, 2009

NHS privatisation is barmy says BMA chair

Hamish Meldrum's letter in the Guardian is well worth a read. The BMA have been very hit and miss in the past over the question of privatisation. It is great to see such a strong statement by their chair.

"The suggestion that privatising further aspects of public services would save money is barmy economics (Treasury report suggests cutting thousands of public sector posts, 22 April). Instead of employing the staff and running the service yourself, you would simply be handing the cash to someone else to do so. Where is the sense in pouring money into the clutches of the private sector, whose prime motives are usually founded on making profits for their shareholders?"

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

BNP nurses should be banned from nursing

Police officer are banned from being members of the BNP or promoting the BNP and yesterday UNISON voted unanimously to call for BNP members to be banned from nursing.

I find it hard to imagine how a profession that has been built on caring and compassion can be compatible with racism. As a registered nurse myself, I would find it very difficult to understand how an openly racist nurse could provide care to without discrimination.

Well done to Unison (which I have recently rejoined after the debacle of the Unite elections), and I hope the NMC take heed of this call.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Green New Deal for the NHS

Today, the Green Party will launch a powerful bid to influence the health agenda towards the next general election.

The Green New Deal for the NHS proposes an extra £500m a year for maternity servces, plus £1.8bn a year for dental care. Most of this would be paid for by savings of £1bn on getting rid of Independent Sector Treatment Centres, and a further £1bn or more saved by scrapping the health care market.

There would be one-off costs of £1bn for reorganisation and at least £12bn to buy back the private finance initiatives, but liberating the NHS from PFI payments would save £1bn a year. So the Green New Deal for the NHS would pay for itself in the medium term, say the Greens.

On maternity services, the Greens' £500m stimulus would create a single-tier approach for all mothers:

* A wider range of birth choices - including home birth for all women who want it.
* All women to be entitled to support from a single midwife throughout each pregnancy.
* A major recruitment drive for midwives.
* Medical interventions to be significantly reduced.
* Culture change throughout the NHS so that birth is treated as a normal event - not an illness - in which mothers are empowered and able to be in control.

The extra £1.8bn a year for dentistry would restore the principle of dental care free at the point of access, with an end to the severe difficulties many people are now facing in attempting to find an NHS dentist.

Dignity, compassion and accountability

But improving the health service isn't just about wise spending and better access to services, say the Greens. The Green New Deal for the NHS would also improve the accountability of those services, along these lines:

* The NHS to be accountable to local government and thus to local people.
* An end to the purchaser/provider split so that public health, service planners and providers of care are under local government.
* The NHS to have centrally-defined minimum standards and national agreement on which treatments are available.
* Local people and clinicians to have a real say in how and where these services are delivered.

Finally the Green New Deal for the NHS would restore and develop a culture of dignity and compassion in the UK's health service, the Greens say:

* Health services must meet the needs of patients, not the needs of the market and corporate shareholders.
* Maternity care must meet the needs of women and their babies.
* Patients suffering with poor mental health must get a real say in the way they are treated. They must be told their diagnosis and must be able to set advance directives that spell out what type of care they want when they are ill.
* There must be legislation to prevent discrimination against people with mental illness.

Caroline Lucas MEP, Green Party leader - who is widely tipped to become the first Green MP at Westminster in the next general election - said today: "We need to protect and improve the National Health Service, and we need to stop it being used as a vehicle for private profit. We believe the public wants this too. So we're throwing down the gauntlet to the other parties, to match the Green Party's commitment to the NHS."


1. The report can be found at [][1]

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Greens on Maternity

A new policy report from the Green Party will demand radical improvements in UK maternity services.

A Green New Deal for the NHS (1) will demand a single-tier approach for all mothers, funded from the public purse:

* A wider range of birth choices - including home birth for all women who want it
* All women to be entitled to support from a single midwife throughout each pregnancy
* A major recruitment drive for midwives
* Medical interventions to be significantly reduced
* Culture change throughout the NHS so that birth is treated as a normal event - not an illness - in which mothers are empowered and able to be in control

The Greens announced these policies on the day that a study was published in the British Obstetrics and Gynaecology Journal showing that home-birth is no more dangerous than hospital birth, for "normal" pregnanices - something Greens had long claimed, and which has now been demonstrated in a study of half a million births in the Netherlands.

The party's recent spring conference decided the Greens must take the lead in proposing huge improvements in UK maternity services. The conference debate was told:

* In 25% of NHS trusts intervention rates are double the targeted rates
* There is a severe shortage of midwives within the NHS
* The proportion of women giving birth by caesarian section remains at twice the target rate suggested by the World Health Organization
* The bill for medical negligence in childbirth rose almost 60% from 2005 and 2007

NHS maternity services need to change direction towards midwife-led, women-centred services that provides medical interventions only when necessary.

The Greens estimate that the dramatic improvements in maternity services proposed in A Green New Deal for the NHS would cost about £500m.

Green Party leader Caroline Lucas MEP, who is widely tipped to become the first Green MP at Westminster in the next general election, said today: "The UK must achieve the best possible standards of maternity care. Currently, due to shortage of funding, shortage of midwives and excessive interventions, we are far behind where we ought to be. The Green Party will fight the next general election on this platform - huge improvements in the NHS, and not least in maternity services."


1. The full report A Green New Deal for the NHS is scheduled to be published on Friday 17 April.


Published and promoted by Tracy Dighton-Brown for the Green Party of England & Wales, both at 1a Waterlow Road, London N19 5NJ.

Monday, April 13, 2009

NHS Dentistry

New Green Party policy report to reveal some startling new figures on NHS dentistry:

* 55% of NHS practices are not taking new patients
* Little more than two-thirds of children visit NHS dentists - and it's getting worse
* Access to NHS dentistry is down to "geographical accident"

A new policy report to be launched this week by the Green Party will reveal startling new figures on the state of NHS dentistry, based on Freedom of Information Act research.

And the new report - A Green New Deal for the NHS - will show that just £1.8 billion a year would make NHS dentistry "a service that Britain can be proud of."

The report will show that:

* Between 55% and 60% of NHS practices are not taking new NHS patients.
* Access to NHS dentists can range from 1 dentist per 1,000 people - to as little as one-quarter of that, depending on where people live.
* Some Primary Care Trusts have no NHS dentists taking on new patients.
* The percentage of children who visited NHS dentists fell from 70.7% in March 2006 to 69.0% in June 2008.
* Less than half of the adult population is accessing NHS dentistry, and the numbers are continuing to decline.

Green Party health spokesperson Stuart Jeffery said today:

"The dental service received £2.1 billion of direct funding in 2007/08. If the current NHS dental service was provided free at the point of use, the total cost to the NHS would increase by £531m to a total of £2.6 billion.

"If the NHS wanted to provide free dentistry to 75% of the population (from the current 50%, assuming that some people will want to remain private), the total level of funding would need to increase from £2.6 billion to £3.9 billion. As the NHS currently provides £2.1 billion, an increase in funding of £1.8 billion would be required for patients to have dentistry free at the point of access.

"It seems little to ask to restore NHS dentistry to what it should be - a service that Britain can be proud of."

The full report _A Green New Deal for the NHS_ will be published later this week.


Published and promoted by Tracy Dighton-Brown for the Green Party of England & Wales, both at 1a Waterlow Road, London N19 5NJ.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Cooperation and Competition Panel Consultation

This is from the excellent NHS Support Federation:

From NHS Support Federation, a founder organisation of Keep Our NHS Public

NHS services are now to be provided by a wide range of organisations all competing within a market. The new Co-operation and Competition Panel for NHS-funded services is to help deliver the supposed benefits of competition. It will investigate potential breaches of the Principles and Rules as defined by the Department of Health. It will also advise the Department of Health and the foundation trust regulator Monitor. The Co-operation and Competition Panel is a misnomer as its remit is weighted so heavily in favour of promoting competition, whilst neglecting the considerable benefits of cooperation.

We need your help to respond forcefully to the Panel's current consultation and to lobby MPs. Please write a letter objecting to the imposition of competition and commercial values on the NHS and raising the crucial questions listed below. Send your letter to the Co-operation and Competition Panel at the address below and a copy to your MP.

Send to: Interim Guidelines Consultation, Cooperation and Competition Panel, 1 Horse Guards Road, London, SW1A 2HQ or email Respond by 30 April.

Points to make:
  1. Will the panel ensure that the alternative of a publicly led service is included in consultations about future tenders?
  2. Is the duplication of services to produce choice a good use of resources which constitutes economic efficiency, especially given that the benefits of competition in healthcare are unproven (indeed Minster of State Ben Bradshaw said that the "mix of competition and co-operation in the NHS is a unique model in the world")?
  3. Will the tendering process be fair and transparent, with no discrimination against NHS organisations in favour of either commercial or voluntary bodies or social enterprises?
  4. Will the public be consulted on an ongoing basis about local tenders e.g. via local involvement networks (LINks)?
  5. Will the panel foster co-operation not only between commissioners and providers, but between providers, a hope expressed by Richard Taylor MP in a debate in Parliament on 24 February?

It is vital to protect and promote a publicly led NHS which has an ethos which is truly patient-centred. We must insist to the Panel that our objections to the notion of a health service based on a competitive market are widely shared. With your help we must ensure that our views are not ignored.

You can see the consultation paper, the four guidance documents which are the subject of the consultation, and the response template at

Please send us copies of your letters or emails. Thanks for your help.

NHS Support Federation

Thursday, April 2, 2009

NALM Conference

The National Association of Links Members conference today seemed like a great success. It looked packed with people, I'm guessing around 250 attended and depth of questions and level of debate from attendees was excellent.

I spoke last on the panel session, having been preceded by Cyril Chantler (Chair of the Kings Fund), Barbara Young (Chair of the new Care Quality Commission), Norman Lamb (Lib Dem health spokesperson) and David Pink (CE of National Voices).

The one question that stuck in my mind was why are most councils ignoring LINKs (or at least not giving it the high priority it deserves)? It does seem puzzling that a system that should give voice to patients and public about local NHS services is not being driven hard by many local councils. I would have thought they would jump at the chance to do this.