|Volume 50 Number 5, February 8, 2020||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
Keep Our NHS Public (KONP) has organised a National Winter Crisis Day of Action between February 13 and 15 throughout the country to highlight the present critical crisis in the NHS and the worst winter crisis on record. Events are taking place in Liverpool, Manchester, Derby, Amber Valley, Nottingham, Newcastle, Stockport, Southport, Leeds, Brighton, Ormskirk, Southport, and in London at Ealing, Islington, Lewisham, Tower Hamlets, Hammersmith, UCLH hospital, Moorfields hospital, and Whittington hospital. (See KONP website: www.keepournhspublic.com).
On Saturday, February 15, the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign (SHLC) will be holding its Winter Crisis Day of Action. In the years since it won its court case in 2013 against the then Coalition government's attempt to close Lewisham Hospital, the SLHC has been fighting to safeguard the future of the health service not just in Lewisham but nationally. It has become a by-word for its successes and non-sectarian mobilisation.
Activists write: "The Lewisham Day of Action will condemn the massive underfunding and mismanagement of the NHS by the government and publicise the massive cuts in funding to the NHS over the years, as well as expose the false promises, lies and deception about the NHS given out by the government, such as the Conservative government's claim to be providing 40 new hospitals and 50,000 more nurses in the recent General Election campaign. It will highlight, through puppet street theatre and music, the horrifying statistics over the past 10 years through government underfunding and mismanagement: 17,000 beds cut, the growing shortage of beds resulting in 88,923 trolley waits, which caused 5,449 deaths between 2016 and 2018 and 88,923 trolley waits in October 2019 alone; £8 billion cuts in social care; 20% cuts in A&Es; 6,000 GP shortages with long waits for appointments; unsafe workloads; and an increase in A&E visits. There are 40,000 nurse vacancies, 10,000 hospital doctor vacancies. Mental health beds have been cut by 30%, causing relatives to have to travel long distances to visit patients. There are ever-growing waiting times for major operations and appointments. The Lewisham Day of Action will also support the fantastic work done, day in day out, by all NHS staff, and their dedication and commitment in the face of their huge and ever-increasing workloads and long working hours."
SLHC encourages everyone to come along and participate!
12.00 noon - 2.00pm outside main entrance to Lewisham Shopping Centre near the market and Marks & Spencer
Opposing the government's "hostile environment"
In recent years, the SLHC has been very active in opposing the government's attack on immigrants by forcing them to pay huge charges for NHS treatment. On April 6, 2015, the Conservative government under David Cameron imposed an NHS immigration health surcharge for "temporary migrants and students".
The SLHC says on its website: "Since the law changed in 2015, many people are no longer deemed 'ordinarily resident' in the UK and are charged for all NHS care at 150% of cost price except for emergency care. This has put many lives at risk and caused great hardship for many of our local residents. Since 2017, this policy has been further ramped up by the Government with more and more pressure being put on Trusts to collect money from those deemed as 'non-resident'."
The SLHC has been very active in opposing charging migrants for healthcare and have been widely distributing their leaflet headed "End the Government's 'hostile environment' in our NHS". On October 23 last year the SLHC organised a vigil outside Lewisham Hospital with the theme of "Docs Not Cops!" in collaboration with doctors and the Lewisham refugee and migrant network. Many local organisations took part in the vigil including people from the SLHC, NHS staff and Lewisham Pensioners Forum.
The SLHC, in explaining why it opposes charging migrants for healthcare, points out: "The issue is not about 'health tourists' visiting the UK getting 'free' medical care, it is about vulnerable migrants - frequently people who are resident but have been wrongly assessed - being charged when they have no means to pay, as in the case of the Windrush generation. People are being pursued by debt collectors and reported to the Home Office if they cannot pay." The SLHC leaflet on migrant charges states that "patients who can't prove their immigration status now face upfront charges of up to 150% of the cost" and that hospital trusts, including Lewisham, "are told to check patient details with the Home Office and report anyone who owes £500 or more".
Following reports published in The Guardian and the South London Press, the SLHC condemned the Lewisham and Greenwich Trust, along with many other trusts, for actively pursuing migrants who had been charged for medical treatment and who had been unable to pay, by using debt collection agencies. SLHC pointed out: "One of the most vulnerable groups are women denied free NHS maternity care, endangering the lives of mothers and children"; it condemned the fact that "our Lewisham and Greenwich Trust partnered credit check agency Experian to target patients likely to be charged for NHS care".
The SLHC explains: "It is part of the Government's cruel 'hostile environment' and the beginning of the end of the principles of the NHS - including universal access to healthcare, free at the point of need." This point is crucial and addresses the fundamental principle - which the government, in all its attacks on the NHS over the years opposes - that Healthcare is a Right!