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Volume 45 Number 7, March 28, 2015 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Rally and Protest in Jarrow to Save Walk-In Centre

Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index :

Rally and Protest in Jarrow to Save Walk-In Centre

General Election 2015:
The Fraud of David Cameron’s 24/7 NHS Pledge
The Right to Housing Is an Election Issue
Human Rights Is an Election Issue

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Rally and Protest in Jarrow to Save Walk-In Centre

On Saturday, March 28, over 300 people took part in a rally and protest to oppose the closure of Palmers Hospital Walk-In Centre in Jarrow. The protest at the Town Hall in Jarrow was organised by the South Tyneside Public Service Alliance (STPSA) as part of an ongoing campaign against a move by the local Clinical Commissioning Group (STCCG) to take the Walk-In Centre away and relocate it at an “Urgent Care Acute Hub” at the General Hospital in South Shields several miles away. This is in spite of the fact that, even according to the CCGs own figures, there were 27,000 patient contacts at the Walk-In Centre in the previous year. The rally was chaired by Merv Butler of the STPSA, with speakers Northern Regional Secretary Beth Farhat, MP for Jarrow and Hebburn Stephen Hepburn, Jude Kirton-Darling MEP, Chair of Unison Regional Health Linda Hobson, Joanne Land of 999 Call for the NHS, Unison Branch Secretary of South Tyneside Health Marion Langley, President of South Tyneside TUC Joan Lewis, Jan Shortt of the National Pensioners Convention and Roz Slater, a service user and campaigner.

The Jarrow Walk-In Centre was commissioned because of reduced access to GP surgeries in South Tyneside as GP surgeries had closed over recent years as availability of GPs reduced. Also a major factor was access locally because of the difficulty of transport access to the District Hospital several miles away. At the same time, it was also designed to relieve the A&E service at the District Hospital which has over the last winter been under severe pressure. All of those arguments have now been arrogantly turned on their head by the South Tyneside CCG with the new mantra from the government and NHS England. The Chief Officer David Hambleton ridiculously now claims those attendances at the Walk-In Centre no longer relieve the A&E and that “all 27,000” attendances will “disappear” as many of those patients in future “self-care” instead, or “visit pharmacies”. In fact under the Health and Social Care Act 2012 the Coalition government and NHS England have a deliberate policy of closing down walk-in centres in every area and in most parts of the country. By November 2013 a quarter of walk-in centres had closed the last time figures were compiled. Even the NHS regulator Monitor said “closures of the 53 walk-in centres could leave vulnerable people unable to access GP care”. In other words, they are doing this without addressing the crisis of local patient access to GPs which was
why they were set up in the first place. Furthermore, the creation of “Urgent Care Acute Hubs” is being driven by another agenda and seems to indicate a back door attempt to supplant Accident and Emergency Services at District Hospitals with “Urgent Care Acute Hubs” without any discussion as to what these centres are providing when they are being driven behind closed doors by Sir Bruce Keogh’s “proposals for significant changes to the emergency care system”.

During the campaign to save the Jarrow Walk-In Centre thousands have signed a petition and local people have continued to oppose the closure over the last six months and through the formal three month “consultation”. At the end of last year the closure was also referred by the Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) which then conveniently refused a review by the secretary of state in January and before the election. Meanwhile the Shadow Secretary of State for Health Andy Burnham issued a statement, which was read out at the rally, that reiterates his pledge in Parliament in January that “if he (MP Stephen Hepburn) and his community can keep the campaign going and keep the Jarrow NHS Walk-In Centre open, and if I am Secretary of State in May, it will stay open for good”.

The people of South Tyneside are fighting to save the Walk-In Centre as part of the overall movement of the people to safeguard the future of the NHS. The struggle, as do many other struggles up and down the country, reflects the issues in the overall movement to guarantee health care as a right and oppose the fragmentation, downgrading and privatisation of the health service. A victory is possible now people are in motion in their struggle to save the NHS and also take their struggle into the General Election to defeat the Coalition government and back genuine anti-austerity candidates that defend the rights of all.

What was said at the rally

Joan Lewis, President of South Tyneside Trades Union Council, said that in 1986 they had campaigned for nine weeks to get the minor injuries unit opened at Palmer Hospital. However, she said, “The CCG had taken it away without a by-your-leave because they are a quango from this rotten Coalition government.” She said, “We have now got Palmer Hospital and Primrose Hospital on a life support machine ready for these people to turn it off.” But, she concluded, “if something is well used and worth having it is worth fighting for”.

Marion Langley speaking at the rally
Marion Langley, Secretary of Unison South Tyneside Health Branch, said that not only will it affect the people of Jarrow and Hebburn but also the 27,000 attendances which are being referred to in the closure of Jarrow Walk-In Centre are only going to add to this pressure at South Tyneside District Hospital. She pointed out the lack of access to any relocated service at the district hospital compared with the existing one at Jarrow. She highlighted the fact that the CCG had no intention of addressing the lack of GPs in the area and said, “Please keep the support going and fight to keep this vital service open for the community of Jarrow and Hebburn.” She concluded by calling for everyone to oppose the privatisation of the NHS and defeat the Conservative government on May 7 and urged everyone to “register their vote and use it!”.

Roz Slater, a service user and campaigner, said that the CCG had only attempted to tackle one of the six points that they had been asked to make “robust plans” for as a result of formal consultation. The CCG had asked Health Watch which had “spoken to GP practice managers”. The rest, including concerns about access to GPs, transport access and parking and “educating the public had not yet been even addressed”. She urged people to monitor these developments and make the CCG accountable.

Jan Shortt of the National Pensioners Convention said that in terms of the Jarrow Walk-In Centre older pensioners know the history of the NHS and they know what it was like before the NHS when your health depended on how much money you had in your pocket. She said now they are the generation which is seeing it dismantled before their very eyes. She asked what had happened to the CCG’s promise of “nothing about us without us”. She said that today the NHS is being sold off without people’s knowledge. She concluded by urging everyone do everything possible to save the Walk-In Centre.

Beth Farhat, Northern TUC Regional Secretary, spoke about the rally in Nottingham of the People’s Vote for the NHS which is continuing the campaign of the Darlo mums, and she sent greetings of solidarity to them as they travel through the country. She said that we should fight for a society at the election “where we have an alternative, where we protect our NHS, where we get tough on greed and inequality and where we start building an economy that works for all the people. Good jobs, fair pay, with decent welfare at its heart.” She said, “Today the NHS has never been less certain in the hands of this current government as it passes legislation through Parliament to privatise NHS services.” If we have one message, she concluded, it is: “Our NHS is not for sale and we need to save our local Jarrow Walk-In Centre!”

Labour MP for Jarrow and Hebburn Stephen Hepburn said that in Jarrow since the Coalition came to power in 2010, they have closed three elderly persons’ wards, they have closed the minor injuries clinic and now they are going to close our Walk-In Centre. “Cuts that have been brought about to pay for the government’s £3 billion re-organisation of the NHS management that nobody asked for, nobody knew anything about, nobody had seen and – what is more important – nobody voted for,” he said.

Labour MEP Jude Kirton-Darling spoke about the People’s March for the NHS, and supported the fight to keep the Walk-In Centre open.

Joanne Land of the “999 Call for NHS” said that 999 Call for the NHS is about policies and not parties. She said that when the People’s March for the NHS reached London the Labour Party leadership said that they would repeal the Health and Social Care Act, they would protect the NHS from TTIP and they would make the NHS the preferred provider. However, she said that unless NHS was renationalised it cannot be excluded from TTIP. She added that “preferred provider status will not stop the private companies’ encroachment on our NHS and while the repeal of the Health and Social Care Act will help it will not stop private health companies from fragmenting our NHS”. She concluded by calling on all to back the NHS Reinstatement Bill, for the NHS to be put back in public ownership, to be publicly run and publicly funded and she called on people to demand their NHS as our NHS and to demand that the Jarrow Walk-In Centre stays open.

Linda Hobson, Chair Northern Unison Regional Health, pointed to the shambolic record of the Cameron government in its handling of the NHS. Among other things she said they have cut 7,000 NHS beds. Instead of winter pressures they have created a “Vivaldi four seasons” of pressures on the NHS. The massive cuts in nurses and other staff have created a climb in the use of expensive agency staff by 50% in two years. She said the government does not understand the value of the NHS to our communities but they only understand the value of the NHS to themselves in terms of financial gains and profits, so that £12 billion of our services are now in private hands, including vital clinical services such as cancer care, blood services and mental health services. She said it is estimated there are about £1.5 billion in health contracts with links to Conservative MPs. She called on people to #Vote4NHS and for our public services.

Merv Butler, Public Service Alliance Chair, concluded by saying that the rally sends the message that people do care about their services and that they are not going to allow them to be taken away. They are going to fight for them!

Article Index


General Election 2015

The Fraud of David Cameron’s 24/7 NHS Pledge

Statement from Dr Louise Irvine of the National Health Action Party, March 28, 2015

This a rather desperate attempt by David Cameron to bribe voters with a policy that’s already in place, money that doesn’t exist and misleading information.

Patients already receive weekend emergency care and have access to whatever diagnostic tests are needed. It’s nonsense to suggest that hospitals don’t properly treat people having a heart attack or a baby at the weekend. The only hospitals that don’t are the ones that David Cameron has closed down.

The Prime Minister says people are more likely to die if they turn up at hospital at the weekend. This is very misleading. Weekend death rates are in fact lower than weekdays. What the data actually shows is that death rates within 30 days of admission are higher in people admitted over the weekend. This is a phenomenon seen also in the USA and Europe, which have very different healthcare systems to the UK’s. The reason for this is poorly understood and there is some evidence that people admitted at weekends are sicker than those admitted on weekdays. In as much as it could be attributed to lower levels of service provision at weekends, then of course this should be addressed, but that requires proper funding. The evidence from the winter AE crisis is that emergency services are stretched all through the week and desperately need proper funding to sustain quality care on weekdays and weekends, day and night.

Mr Cameron seems to be using rather inconclusive evidence about mortality rates at weekends to justify a move to 24/7 day non-emergency NHS services. But trying to implement what would be a 40% service increase to cover weekends without adequate funding for extra staff and support would just mean existing services would be spread even more thinly and this could result in a decline in quality of services throughout the week and we could end up with higher mortality rates every day of the week.

This government’s underfunding of our NHS has already pushed it to the cliff edge. It’s reckless of David Cameron to pledge to extend NHS care so that scheduled operations and appointments can happen at weekends unless he backs that up with money that isn’t recycled or previously committed.

Article Index


The Right to Housing Is an Election Issue

Part 1 – A Public Housing System Is a Requisite of a Modern Society

An important issue in the coming general election is the right to housing, to which all parties are having to respond. The price of housing has been frequently making the headlines recently, with prices reaching absurd levels in some areas. In Oxford, for example, average house prices have now surpassed 16 times average salaries according to research earlier this year by Prof Danny Dorling of Oxford University. Rents are similarly high. This makes for a massively inefficient situation, with some 45,000 commuters per day travelling to the city for work, according to figures published in The Guardian. Even in the cheapest cities, houses are around six times local earnings.

Soaring prices are an issue particularly for young workers, who make up the bulk of first-time buyers. Many in high-price areas are abandoning the idea of buying and are instead renting, often shared with a number of others, and often on a temporary basis, which is a real block on young people finding the stability they need to build a life and family. Furthermore, combined with the ongoing economic crisis, high house prices and rents have resulted in rising homelessness and growing waiting lists for council houses.

Out of this situation have come calls for more social housing and affordable housing (defined as 80% of the market rate). In general, it is claimed that there is a shortage of housing, with high prices a result of increased demand with reduced supply. Missing from this is any discussion of the monopolisation of the housing market and the results of actions by big property investors and developers, mortgage lenders and the financial oligarchy as a whole, with its demand for ever-higher prices, and deliberate policy decisions by governments acting in these interests, especially over the past 35 years.

Housing is important for any economy, any social system. Housing is a basic necessity for the population, just as health care, education, and social rights. The work and materials required for building and maintenance also forms an important sector of industry. For contemporary capitalism in particular, property is a key asset, where rising prices and rents provide a safe investment for
accumulated wealth, as well as an opportunity for big scores. The resulting growth and inevitable bursting of housing bubbles is an ever-present threat to the economy; we need only recall that mortgage-lending was a big factor in the present crisis.

Meanwhile, the real issue for the ordinary population is the need for a decent quality of housing. The people's need for security and stability, particularly later in life, requires them also to enter into the property market in the present conditions. This is an additional pressure on the price of housing, and creates contradictions within the population as to who benefits from higher prices and who suffers at any particular time.

What is required is a modern system of public housing, in line with a modern definition of a human standard of living, learning the lessons of the past, as a basic right. At the same time, the right to a standard of life from birth to death needs to be recognised through a pension system that removes the reliance on individual investments. A modern system of housing would itself be a factor in developing the economy, part of changing the direction of the economy to a pro-social direction. It would provide work and help rebalance the economy through the development of industry, removing its dependence on house prices, and provide an impetus towards lifting the economy out of its current quagmire in that new direction.

A look at the history of public housing in Britain reveals how it developed between the 19th century and the middle of the 20th century, to its heyday in the welfare state era following the Second World War. The history also shows how it was abandoned, particularly in the Thatcher era with the dismantling of the welfare state arrangements and the launching of the anti-social offensive, and how it went into crisis, with council housing becoming run down. Council housing estates have become the new urban slums in some cases, areas of deprivation and poverty. Both the history and the experience of the present reveal the need for an alternative.

This alternative is a modern public housing system, so that public housing is brought to the levels required by society and can become the new norm. This is in opposition to the ongoing monopolisation of the housing system, which is creating havoc in the economy and with people's lives.

(To be continued: Part 2, A brief history of public housing; Part 3, An investigation into the monopolisation of the housing market by big property developers and investors.)

Article Index


Human Rights Is an Election Issue

Included in RCPB(ML)’s call for the May 7 General Election is that the electorate should vote for candidates who stand for the rights of all.

This is a very serious issue. Rights can not be given or taken away. They belong to the holder by virtue of their being. Does a government recognise these rights; does it provide them with a guarantee? The debate is not being framed in these words. Consequently it is of prime importance that the electorate evaluate candidates who stand for the affirmation and defence of the rights of all, as a component of the people’s struggle to combat the violation of the rights of all.

The defence of rights is at the centre of the struggles of the people, and the future and dignity of the working class and people depends on the defence of the rights of all.

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So far is the defence of rights off the agenda of the Coalition government that they have been speaking of repealing the Human Rights Act. Every struggle of the people to affirm their rights is treated with contempt, diversion and outright suppression. Anti-terrorism laws have been utilised to attempt to deprive individuals of basic human rights under the guise of a balance between the exercise of rights and the prevention of terrorism and extremism. The rights of immigrants and those seeking asylum have been likewise violated, and every attempt has been made to pose immigration as a problem in society.

Constant battles have been waged between Westminster and the judiciary, so that it is almost impossible to enumerate all the pieces of legislation on “counter-terrorism”, “the prevention of terrorism” and “security”. The latest of these pieces of legislation is the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, which received the Royal Assent in February. Under the guise of countering terrorism and extremism, it authorises retention of communications data by the security services, amongst other provisions. In other words, it legalises the violation of rights which has been ongoing by the state authorities.

These regressive moves by Westminster, it may be said, are in contrast to developments in Scotland, in which a National Action Plan for Human Rights is in place.

The youth, women, workers and other sections of the people are in motion to affirm and defend their rights, which include the right of the peoples of Scotland and Wales to their nation-building projects. The right to health care, education, food and shelter are being fought for in struggles which are only intensifying as the election approaches.

It is essential that this fight intensifies and the rights of all, and public right, are put front and centre of the election campaign. The people have their right to their way of life, their right to their culture, language, their right to participate in politics and decision-making, their right to be. A modern government must give the rights of the people a guarantee.

Vote for Candidates Who Oppose Austerity and Stand for the Rights of All!

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