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Volume 45 Number 12, May 2, 2015 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

CELEBRATING MAY DAY 2015

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CELEBRATING MAY DAY 2015

Safeguarding the Future of the NHS - Interview with Dr Helen Salisbury, NHA Party

There Is An Alternative - Interview with Nana Asante, TUSC

Speaking Out in Defence of the NHS and Fighting to Safeguard Its Future

Bring Back the NHS

Campaign Groups Join Forces for NHS Day of Action

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CELEBRATING MAY DAY 2015

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General Election 2015

Safeguarding the Future of the NHS

Interview with Dr Helen Salisbury, National Health Action Party candidate, Oxford West and Abingdon


WW: Can you tell us why you decided to stand in the general election as the NHA Party candidate for Oxford West and Abingdon?

HS: I am standing for the National Health Action Party because I am so worried about the direction the NHS is being taken in by governments of all different parties. It is underfunded and being rapidly privatised and fragmented. If we do not act now we will lose this country's most precious asset. I'm standing in Oxford West and Abingdon because that is where I live and have worked as a doctor for 20 years.

WW: Could you explain why the NHA Party formed and what it represents?

HS: The NHA Party was formed by worried doctors, nurses, paramedics and others after the Coalition government proposed the Health and Social Care Act which removed the Secretary of State's duty to provide comprehensive health care and opened up our NHS to the private sector. The NHA Party represents a return to the founding principles of the NHS, a publicly funded, publicly provided, publicly accountable NHS. It is also an anti-austerity party as the economics of austerity are damaging to individuals and the economy.

WW: What has been your personal experience of the changes brought about in the NHS by the current Coalition?

HS: I have many patients really struggling to deal with punitive benefit sanctions and with unjust ATOS assessments of fitness to work. My patients are waiting longer for appointments and not getting the social care they need but cannot afford. They are having operations cancelled and if they do get into hospital are likely get stuck there because of a lack of social care. Contracting out has led to some services just not working – we have had four providers of Drugs and Alcohol services in the last three years. I could go on...

WW: What has been your experience in standing as a candidate so far? How is the campaign going?

HS: Standing as a candidate has been hard work, especially for a small party with no money. I have personally put a lot of leaflets through a lot of letterboxes over many weekends this year. I have enjoyed speaking at the hustings and getting my views across, and there is a surprisingly warm relationship between the candidates of the different parties. I have become more conscious of press and media bias and have to work hard at not shouting at the radio. How is it going? I'll find out next week.

WW: Thank you very much. We wish you every success with your campaign.

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General Election 2015

There Is An Alternative

Interview with Nana Asante, TUSC Candidate for Harrow East



A Councillor in the North London borough of Harrow since 2002, Nana Asante is a candidate of the alternative at the General Election on May 7. Standing for the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) for the Harrow East constituency, Asante a Ghanaian born in Israel was also Deputy Mayor and Mayor between 2012 and 2014. With over 25 years experience working in the voluntary sector, she has lived in the constituency for two decades and is also Chair of the Harrow Fairtrade Campaign.

What are the main elements of your campaign in Harrow East?

NA: As resources are scarce, we have carried out Street Protests at busy junctions during rush hour, held Street Stalls in the town centre and attended Hustings when invited.

How has the campaign been so far and what have been the highlights? What are the issues being raised by people in your area?

NA: The Campaign has been hectic but varied and interesting. As TUSC is a Coalition, it has been interesting working closely with Socialist Party members who are brilliant campaigners able to tailor the campaign to our scarce resources. The early morning Street Protests have been a particularly effective way of raising awareness of the sixth largest political group contesting the General Election in 2015. We have 135 candidates across the country. The Street Stalls have given us an opportunity to interact with potential voters and put forward an alternative to the neo-liberal idea of austerity and cuts. Last but not least, the Hustings, a panel of candidates answering questions from voters, has given voters the opportunity to compare and contrast political positions. Issues raised include housing, the NHS, Syria, Israel and education.

How have the trades unions supported you in your campaign?

NA: The RMT is a founding member of TUSC and has been generous in supporting TUSC candidates at a national level. In addition, the local RMT branch has given a financial contribution to my campaign.

The mainstream parties are all united on an austerity programme of cuts to social spending; in the view of the TUSC what is the alternative to this?

NA: Unfortunately, the neo-liberal agenda of cuts, austerity seems to be accepted wisdom. TUSC does not accept austerity as necessary or desirable. In our view, it is time to provide a massive injection in the economy through council house building to tackle the housing crisis, removal of privatisation from the NHS and stop all cuts so we can have quality public services. Whilst there is currently a focus on the £1.2 billion benefit fraud, little attention is paid to the £120 billion lost through tax evasion and tax avoidance. TUSC would change the focus of the debate and narrative if elected.

As a candidate of the alternative to the mainstream parties how do you organise the people to take control of the situation?

NA: I have been holding regular Community Meetings on topics the people I meet say are of importance. The last meeting was on Saturday, April 25, and the discussion was on the NHS, how to save it from creeping privatisation and keep it relevant to the needs of the people. In organising people, the main problem is apathy and the hopelessness and thinking our actions are futile. I have also been involved in the campaign to save four Harrow libraries from closure. In Edgware, the ward I used to represent as Councillor, we managed to get over 5,000 signatures between January and March on a petition asking that Bob Lawrence Library remain open.

How can the experience of the election campaign be used on a day to day basis to unite and organise the people?

NA: The election campaign has not brought any really new experiences. It has highlighted that people are fed up but feel powerless to make a change so can’t be bothered to use the tools at their disposal. Flawed as the Parliamentary system may be, it is the system we have which controls our lives. If the people who don’t usually vote, turned up to vote on May 7 and voted for the progressive small parties like TUSC or the Greens, we would have an earthquake of massive proportions on May 8, 2015, and the beginning of change. It is therefore imperative that those who believe that there is an alternative have the courage to push the boulder uphill until the campaign for change captures the public imagination. As the late Bob Crow said: “If you fight you might lose, but if you don’t fight you will always lose.”

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The Battle for the Future Direction of the NHS

Speaking Out in Defence of the NHS and Fighting to Safeguard Its Future

Interview with Charlotte Monro (see WWIE No.8, April 4, 2015 for the background to this interview)


Charlotte Monro
WW: What was the climate behind your dismissal from Whipps Cross Hospital?

At the time of my dismissal, Whipps Cross Hospital was part of a newly merged NHS Trust. The management seemed to have no accountability to our local population served by my hospital Whipps Cross, or our patient organisations and other “stakeholders”. At the time, many people suspected an agenda to run down Whipps Cross hospital and centralise services in order to fund the massive PFI debt from the new buildings at the Royal London and Barts hospitals.

The disciplinary process was initiated against me two weeks ahead of the Trust’s being placed into financial turnaround with management consultants brought in to address a £77.5m deficit. As a senior union rep I found myself suspended from attending the meetings at which joint staff side union business was done with the Trust. A key plank for financial savings was the mass scale downbanding of nursing and other staff, and loss of posts, which has now proved so disastrous for the services at the hospital.

I was one of the senior union reps, from an active branch of UNISON, who would challenge issues with the Trust quite strongly and was vocal in raising concerns. I also had chaired the successful 2006-2008 campaign to save Whipps Cross Hospital.

WW: What do you think is the significance of your fight for staff in the health service and for the workers’ movement overall?

I think one of the most significant things is that it will help health workers and other trade union reps speak out. In my particular case, it was to speak out about cuts to health services that I knew were going on within the hospital and that were raised as concerns within the community. I spoke at a local council overview and scrutiny committee (OSC) for health about staff concerns about the impact of planned cuts to our stroke service in the hospital. That seems to have triggered the action against me which was started within six days. A key allegation was that I brought the Trust into disrepute by providing inaccurate information to the OSC, although they could not tell me what it was that was “inaccurate”. I had explained the concerns of the stroke specialist clinical staff. The local Save Our NHS campaign had asked me to address the councillors alongside them as a trade union rep involved with staff in the consultation. That was considered to be beyond the pale by my Trust. In the Tribunal, it became very clear through the evidence that I had given no inaccurate information, but rather I was simply giving a different opinion – the views and opinion of the staff as to the impact of the changes proposed.

I think this is a very important principle. I have often heard about campaigns at other hospitals where staff have been told that they are not allowed to talk to people or to campaigns from outside their trusts about what is going on in their hospital. I remember that last year when the 999 NHS march from Jarrow arrived in London, a number of midwives from Mid Staffs had planned to come and address the march, but, we heard, they were told by their Trust that they were not allowed to speak about the closure of their services at Mid Staffs. My case has clearly established that we have a right to speak about cuts to services and that is a matter of public interest. Barts NHS Health Trust eventually accepted in my case that my speaking at Scrutiny Committee amounted to a “protected disclosure”, and that speaking about cuts to health services would be in the public interest.

Behind that principle is that the health service is everybody’s business. I think it is very significant that I have been re-instated into my job because that is a very rare thing to happen. I have been told that out of 40,000 cases in a year only about five to ten people actually achieve re-instatement. In the recent Francis review “Freedom to speak up” in the NHS, which specifically dealt with problems of raising concerns, and the treatment of staff who have, one of the recommendations is that people dismissed where whistleblowing is involved should be re-instated if practical, i.e. if the person is capable of doing their job. It could be said therefore that my case is in a sense an early positive example and could set a precedent for others to follow as there are still many, many people whose lives have been destroyed by the attacks against them for having raised concerns about their health service. Those injustices need to be addressed from the point of view of whistleblowing and also from the point of view of health unions and health staff wanting to save services.

Another significant issue in my case was the attack on trade union rights. All of the allegations but one were related to my trade union work. The Trust was very aware that to dismiss an employee for trade union activity was illegal. So the Trust in making these allegations simply asserted that it was not about my trade union activities but that I was acting in a personal capacity. That a Trust, or other employer for that matter, can simply assert that what you are doing in your trade union work is not trade union activity but being carried out as an individual employee rides roughshod over the collective rights we have fought to establish as trade unions and the right to organise and represent the voice of staff without suffering a detriment as an individual for doing that. This is another issue that has been really important to have established in my case, and that came out clearly during the Tribunal. Another lesson coming from this is to use the legal fight. The trade union and employment rights that have been won must not be lost de facto through employers taking no notice of them and this going unchallenged.

I hope this case will be a block to this steam-roller climate of diktat that is going on throughout the public services and the NHS in particular, where employers think that if someone stands in the way of some agenda they can just remove them.

WW: Did Barts want to pre-empt the judgment of the Tribunal do you think?

We can only speculate. What is a fact is that the decision to invite me to return to work came after the hearing was concluded. As the evidence came out in the hearing, from the discussions between the judge and the barristers during their closing submissions on the final day, and the questions the judge was putting and points he was making, it seemed pretty clear to all present that any judgment was likely to be highly critical of the Trust.

That is one factor. But another is that on the penultimate day of my tribunal hearing the Care Quality Commission issued a damning report into my hospital Whipps Cross, and Barts NHS Health Trust itself was put into special measures. The report highlighted bullying against staff, and low staff morale as key findings, alongside shortage of staff, over-reliance on agency workers, and loss of experienced staff. These are key problems that have to be addressed in order to prepare and protect our services within the hospital. In the statement the Trust issued on my return to work, which had been jointly agreed, they did acknowledge that I am an energetic campaigner for patient issues and anticipated I would make a contribution to the improvement work now embarked on at Whipps Cross.

Through the campaigns calling for my reinstatement, articles in the press, the statement from my union general secretary, and so many letters from individuals and organisations, the issues were brought out into the light of day. Public opinion was strong that such unjust action against a health worker and union rep, the growing diktat it reflects, and attempt to create a climate of fear, this is incompatible with health care. I don’t think that can be underestimated.

WW: What do you think are the lessons for the way forward in safeguarding the future of the health service?

One of the lessons is that of standing up for the right to health care and the rights of health workers and not to back down but to see things through. Don’t just believe they have the all-embracing power to push through things that are wrong. Since I have been back at Whipps Cross after being re-instated, people have repeatedly said to me that it is so good that you saw it through. It is tough but if you know you are right it is so important to take this stand because that is the only way you are going to get change.

When people speak out in the interest of patient care, or in the interest of staff organising in their defence through trade unions, this is in fact everyone’s concern because it is everyone’s health service. It is also about a democratic environment and how decisions should be made as well as about our rights as human beings. The point is that it should not suddenly be a matter for the individual when it has an impact on the whole community and on society. There is a drive to prevent health workers and health reps talking to communities about potential changes and the potential impact of those changes because health workers have far more of a grasp of the reality of those changes which is different from the glossy picture that may be presented by those that are trying to justify the changes to services. The community heath campaign in Waltham Forest actually wrote a letter and got signatures of over 1,000 people and local organisations that went to the Trust to oppose my dismissal for standing up for the health services that they were concerned about.

The decisive question here is that the community and hospital staff stood together. Whenever that happens it is far, far easier to achieve success in safeguarding our health service. This campaign, the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign, as well as campaigns in the past at Whipps Cross, are good examples. This was certainly very much the case in my campaign. It was a fight for what is just and by relying on a collective this outcome was possible.

WW: Could you sum up the significance of the victory to the fight to get organised and turn things around?

What I found is that there is a strength of common values amongst people of different walks of life and opinions. There is a very, very strong sense that what happened to me was totally unjust, reflects the experience of many others, and that we must take a stand on it and these values of the people who are committed to the health service and the right to health care should be cherished. What happened to me and the support I have had reflected and strengthened people's beliefs in these values and since I have been back so many staff have come up to me made it clear just how important my case has been to them saying that it reflected everything that went wrong, which was the general devastation of the staff, their de-stabilisation, de-valuing of the contribution that they had made, not listening. What happened to me was a symptom and an expression of what happened to everybody and the whole hospital, and similarly people felt the fact that I succeeded has become a vital step in beginning to try and turn things around. In this way it shows people can be empowered and organised to fight to defend their health service and speak out for what they need to safeguard its future.

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Bring Back the NHS


An audience of over 1,200 filled the huge Central Hall in Westminster on April 24 to hear doctors, NHS workers, patients, actors, celebrities, researchers and students speak passionately to “Bring back the NHS”. Considering the meeting was organised in only two weeks, such a huge turnout was a telling indication of the importance of the NHS for so many people in the run up to the general election. This meeting was an eloquent contrast to the distortions, half truths and low grade vulgar bartering about how much money the main Westminster parties are going to “give” to the NHS, completely ignoring the real issues such as privatisation and the working conditions of health workers. Instead the 20 or so speakers at this meeting in varying illuminating and sometimes moving ways each gave short speeches tackling the real issues facing the NHS and its relentless destruction by the Coalition government and upholding the founding principles of the NHS. The meeting was ably and warmly chaired by the leading actor Ian McKellen.

Before the meeting Danny Boyle the film director and artistic director of the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games (which highlighted the NHS) dropped in en route travelling to give warm support for the meeting. He said the NHS is “what binds us together”.


Sir Ian McKellen
In his opening remarks, Ian McKellen said that, while he himself was in good health because of the NHS, the NHS itself was not. He said the NHS “defines us as a nation” pointing out that, as a percentage of GDP, the NHS costs less than most other EU countries. Speaking of the present “crippling” of the NHS he spoke of the aim of this meeting being to clarify “actions we can take”.

The speeches were preceded by a stirring performance of Nye Bevan’s NHS address to Parliament by actor Hywel Morgan. The 20 or so speeches were frequently interrupted with loud cheers and applause.

The first speaker, Dr Gurjinder Sandu, a consultant in infectious diseases, spoke of the “Dickensian” levels of poverty in our society with huge amounts of money disappearing to tax havens while “poverty, corruption, inequality and darkness prevail”.

Oliver Kirby, an emergency services worker, said that working for the NHS was “a privilege” but was itself in a state of “emergency” with NHS staff facing “dangerous pressure”. He spoke of the “national shame” of the failure to provide proper standards of living and the failure of the government to provide the NHS the organisation that it needs was giving rise to intolerable strain and saying “the strain will snap”. He pointed out that the NHS needs the resources to provide “health care for all who need it”.

Virginia Patania, a General Practice manager in Tower Hamlets, spelled out the deprivation in poor areas such as hers where life expectancy was 18 years less than in affluent areas. She dispelled the media propaganda of “fat cat GPs”, pointing out that in fact wages of £30-40,000 were the norm.


Dr Chidi Ejimofo
Linda Peanberg King, an NHS campaigner for 38 Degrees and KONP (Keep Our NHS Public) spoke of how her son had died through incompetent treatment under a private health organisation. She spoke in total opposition to private health organisations and, by their very nature, the impossibility of their being able to provide adequate health care.

Dr Chidi Ejimofo, a consultant in Emergency Medicine, talked about the injustice of the attempts to close Lewisham Hospital. He said that “splintering” in the NHS was a “worrying factor” and asked concerning the Coalition government’s Health and Social Care Act, “What the hell were they thinking?” and asked despairingly, “What will they come up with next?” He opposed the HSCA’s absolving the secretary of state of the responsibility to provide health care.

Allyson Pollock, Professor of Public Health Research and Policy, in a hard hitting and informative speech pointed out in no uncertain terms that the Health and Social Care Act was designed to abolish the NHS, also pointing out that the Act absolves the secretary of state of the responsibility to provide universal health care, a responsibility held since the founding of the NHS in 1948. She explained that Foundation Trusts were only 51% public and 49% private which were already shrinking health services and paving the way to a US style “medi-care” provided by private corporations. She spoke of the “30% erosion” in health services, especially mental health, due to growing privatisation. Allyson Pollock concluded by calling on all to support the 2015 NHS Reinstatement Bill.


Prof Allyson Pollock
Sally Stephenson, the mother of severely disabled Deion, who was unable to be at the meeting because of ill health, spoke of the “amazing care” he had received at Lewisham Hospital and his dependency on such care which only the NHS can provide. She quoted Deion branding David Cameron “a hypocrite” in using his own disabled son as a ploy in an attempt to make out how much he “cared” about the NHS. “Shame on him,” Deion said. Sally Stephenson said she was “sick” of the continuous government talk of “money coming before our kids”.

Stephanie Cole, the well known TV actress, performed an amusing extract from the Save the NHS play “This May Hurt a Bit”.

Professor Sue Richards, a patient’s relative and NHS campaigner, spoke movingly of the all-round dedicated and personalised care her mother had received before her death in an NHS hospital and how such dedicated humanitarian care would be unthinkable under private health care. She spoke of the necessity of “cradle to grave” health care under the NHS pointing out that it is new born babies and the very elderly who are most vulnerable.

Keith Venables, an NHS campaigner, aptly spoke of the principles of the NHS as being “the seed of a better society”. He denounced the outsourcing of cancer care in Staffs to private health companies such as Virgin and Care UK pointing out that “profit has no place” in health care. He spoke of “social solidarity” in the fight to save the NHS and invited everyone to join the three-day Walk for Life at Staffs over the May bank holiday.

Laura Parry, an NHS midwife, spoke of the importance of her work within the NHS and her dedication to it in the context of “working together as a team, not for personal gain”.

Toyin Adeyinka, a mother and NHS campaigner, spoke of her dependency on the care she received from Lewisham Hospital with respect to the severe complications over the birth of her son and of the hugely adverse effects the proposed downgrading of Lewisham Hospital would have had. Toyin spoke passionately for the values of the NHS and the need to fight for them.

Jim Sikorski, a Lewisham GP with a special interest in mental health, spoke tellingly of the massive cuts in mental health care and their devastating effect in the community with suicide rates rising, pointing out that 1 in 4 people suffer from mental health problems during their life time. He said that in the past there were flourishing community services. Now, with the services decimated, young people with mental health problems have nowhere to go for help. He condemned the fact that money was found to bail out the banks while now community services have been decimated.

Charlotte Church, the well known singer and an NHS user, in a heartfelt speech said that without the NHS she would have lost two members of her family. She spoke of the NHS as being “non-judgemental” in providing health care for everyone. She pointed out that the NHS costs less than healthcare in the rest of the EU and condemned the “global elite” making out that “we can’t afford it”. She spoke of the “sickness in society” with inequality rising, and that our “representatives” do not represent us over TTIP. She finished by saying that the values of the NHS should be those of society as a whole.


Charlotte Monro
Cam Stocks, a medical student, spoke of the fight to save the NHS in the context of the overall struggle against low wages, tuition fees, and so on.

Charlotte Monro, Senior Occupational Therapist at Whipps Cross Hospital, who won her case for wrongful dismissal said she welcomed the opportunity that her return to work provided in contributing to the Trust, the biggest in the country, to improve health care. She spoke of the trust being “destabilised” as it had lost many experienced people. She spoke of the NHS being “human centred”, built by commitment and dedication. She spoke about her dismissal and to loud applause declared that she was now re-instated and back at work. She finished by saying that with health workers and the community together “we are strong”.

Dr John Lister, NHS researcher for London Health Emergency, spoke of Cameron’s lies and duplicity when they said there would be “no top down reorganisation of the NHS” five years ago. He spoke of the huge problems in the NHS caused by the wrecking policies of Cameron’s government, such as the pay freeze for NHS staff causing many to leave leading to widespread staff shortages. He denounced the privatisation programme pointing out the huge cost of tendering – money which should be going to patient care.

Marcus Chown, author, described the NHS as “disappearing down a black hole”, and being dismantled “by stealth”. Along with several other speakers, he pointed out that the health minister no longer had responsibility for public health. He described what the Coalition government had done to the NHS as being the “worst thing any government has done in my life time”. He said, again in common with other speakers, that “the NHS unites us”. He called for everyone to support the NHS Reinstatement Bill.

Dr Aseem Malhotra, a consultant cardiologist, described the NHS as “being on its knees because of corporate greed and dishonesty”. He spoke of problems of the drug industry and the devastating effect caused by dangerous drugs with the failure to regulate them costing thousands of lives each year. He spoke of the need for evidence-based, not corporate-based medical care.

Paul Nurse, 2001 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine, spoke of the importance of “sharing data” to improve health care.

The evening ended with Molly Case, spoken word artist, writer and nurse, reading her vivid poem in defence of the NHS.

In his concluding remarks, Ian McKellen said that it had “been a wonderful evening” and that “we are all on the same side”. He asked significantly, what can be done? He called on everyone to get involved with local organisations to save the NHS and “to hold the next government to account”.

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Campaign Groups Join Forces for NHS Day of Action


Lobby groups from the Save Our NHS campaign against the privatisation of the National Health Service took to the streets last weekend for Save Our NHS Day.

They were trying to draw attention ahead of the general election on May 7 to the problems that they believe are caused by privatisation of the service. They say that privatisation is wrong because:

Jacqui Fergus is a doctor at The Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, Tower Hamlets, one of the hospitals under the Barts Trust. Fergus joined the bus tour because she is concerned that the bulk of the hospital’s funding – over £125 million a year – is being channelled to the private investors who built the hospital at what she described as “extortionate rates”, when staff and facilities are severely under-funded.


Fergus believes the hospital “should have been built with government money with a much, much lower interest rate. This hospital cost about a billion to build and costs seven billion to pay back”.

Charlotte Monro is one of those behind the #BinBartsPFI campaign. She was fired from Whipps Cross University Hospital, where she worked as an occupational therapist for 26 years, in 2013 after speaking out against cuts which resulted in the hospital losing a third of its beds and a specialist physiotherapy gym. Monro recently won her case for unfair dismissal against Whipps Cross and was reinstated.

She was on the bus hoping to make “a big splash with a big red bus” and raise awareness of the issue of PFI.

Monro agrees with Fergus on the problematic situation Barts-funded hospitals are in as a result of PFI. “It’s a very bad, bad deal. It’s a bad arrangement nationally,” she said.

“What we’re saying is whoever is in government has got to deal with it. The local health authorities have got to face this problem and make sure that they get their senior people who run the health service in England to address this problem, because it’s crippling us… it’s the big elephant in the room and the major political parties are just not addressing it,” Monro said.

The extent of the funding and staffing crisis at Whipps Cross University Hospital was highlighted in the Care Quality Commission (CQC) report published last March.

Elsewhere in east London, Save Lewisham Hospital hosted a free film night followed by a Q&A session in New Cross as part of its campaign against NHS privatisation and in support of hospitals and clinics negatively affected by economic austerity in Greece.

The Save Lewisham Hospital campaign was started by Lewisham, Deptford residents, doctors, nurses, therapists and patients in 2012 to challenge Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s decision to close Lewisham Hospital’s A&E department. They won their case in the Court of Appeals in October 2013. Since then, they have led a number of anti-austerity campaigns for the NHS.

(http://www.eastlondonlines.co.uk/2015/04/campaign-groups-join-forces-for-nhs-day-of-action/)

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