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Dear Supporter,

Welcome to our June newsletter bringing you up to date on all of our recent activity. 

Jeremy Hunt is now the longest serving Health Secretary in British History: our view

This week saw Jeremy Hunt crowned the longest serving Health Secretary in British political history. Dr Louise Irvine, Secretary to the National Health Action Party and a practicing GP who has stood against Hunt during the General Elections of 2015 and 2017 took to Sky News to review Hunts performance over his nearly six-year reign of the NHS.

In the interview, which you can see here, Dr Irvine made the case that not only has Hunt presided over a severe worsening of NHS performance across all services, consistently missing the government’s own targets on diverse issues such as A&E waiting times, cancer treatment and recruitment, but also that the series of crises now facing the NHS were entirely predictable and could have been avoided, had Hunt and the government listened to NHS staff concerns. Instead Hunt deflects blame onto external factors such as winter or the growing number of elderly people. The fact is that years of underfunding, understaffing and bed closures mean that the NHS is less able to cope not only in winter but throughout the year.

Hunt has had many years as health secretary to sort this out but instead things have got much worse.  Meanwhile the government continues to waste precious resources on outsourcing NHS services to the private sector and endless experiments with turning the NHS into a full-blown market, with Accountable Care Organisations being the latest manifestation of this folly.

Dr Irvine also challenged Jeremy Hunt’s claim that his management of the NHS has been one underpinned by a concern with patient safety.  She pointed out that the NHS has become less safe under Hunt’s tenure and gave examples such as increasing numbers of patients waiting on hospital trolleys for lack of beds – a very unsafe situation because patients in corridors can’t be properly treated or monitored, or the frequent inability of mental health services to provide timely care to children and young people with serious mental health problems.

In reality Hunt has done very little to act on the concerns set out in the Mid Staffs report regarding safety issues. The Frances Inquiry identified that inadequate staffing levels had been an important reason for the deterioration in patient safety at Mid Staffs. Consequently, it is obvious that the NHS can only function safely and in the best interests of patients when there is an adequate amount of experienced staff. But what we’ve seen over the last few months, and indeed years, is a government which has systematically created a recruitment and retention crisis. There are now fewer nurses and GPs per person than when Hunt became health secretary, despite recognition that there was a desperate need for those to increase. While the number of hospital doctors has risen there are severe shortages in key specialties such as emergency medicine, psychiatry and paediatrics.

Brexit has resulted in foreign nurses leaving the UK and in an absolute decline in the numbers registering to work in the UK. Work related stress is on the increase and his having an impact upon frontline A+E staff who are struggling to cope in light of the extra strains cuts to social care have placed on bed spaces. And of course, the ongoing pay cuts via the public sector pay cap have resulted in a retention crisis, in many cases exacerbating geographical inequalities in terms of service provision, as shown in the recent decision to close paediatric wards in Boston Hospital in Lancashire.

The NHS's 70th Birthday

On the 5th of July the NHS will be 70. As many of you will know from last week, the NHA is an affiliate member of Health Campaigns Together who are organising, in partnership with the Peoples Assembly, TUC and 10 other health trade unions, a demonstration taking place on the 30th of June to celebrate 70 years of the NHS and to protest against the current mismanagement it is being subjected to by the government. The demonstration is demanding proper funding for the NHS, and end to cuts, closures and privatisation, and support for NHS staff.

The event will be taking place at 12pm Portland Place, London W1A. If you would like to attend to show your support, then please do come along. NHA Party members will be meeting outside Great Portland St tube station at 11.30 am. Come and join us

If you are unable to attend but would like to support the demonstration you can do so by either donating directly to the crowdfunder for the event (please click here), or alternatively purchase some clothing from Health Campaigns Together which will go towards event costs and future campaigning activities. You can purchase merchandise here.  Please note that all clothes have been made using recyclable materials which are organic and vegan friendly.

The battle against wholly owned subsidiaries

Last week we brought you news of strike action taking place at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust as a result of plans to set up a wholly owned subsidiary company which would allow for NHS facilities staff such as porters, cleaners and caterers to be transferred into the private sector.

We have already covered the general dangers that wholly owned subsidiaries pose to the NHS in a recent article in Left Foot Forward which you can view here.

However, the issue is not abating, and this week has seen protests in Leeds as NHS Trusts across Leeds and Bradford are also considering the move to wholly owned subsidiaries. The NHA has given its backing to Unison which is continuing to organise protests across the country and to raise awareness of the issue. You can read our most recent comment on the issue as it pertains to Leeds here in the Telegraph and Argus.

Forthcoming article on NHS spending 

In light of the Institute for Fiscal Studies most recent report on NHS spending, a number of politicians have come out in favour of using hypothecated taxation to make up for the current spending cuts in NHS finances.

For a number of reasons, we are opposed to using hypothecated taxes to raise funding, and we will shortly be publishing an opinion piece in the Huffington Post setting out a series of alternative ways in which the government could fund the NHS on a more secure, and socially just long-term basis.

Thank you for your support

Another reminder of our new mailing address: National Health Action, PO Box 802, Rotherham S60 9LU.

With best wishes as always,
Dr Alex Ashman, on behalf of the NHA Team.
Copyright © 2018. National Health Action Party. All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is: National Health Action, PO Box 802, Rotherham S60 9LU

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