Saturday, 15 March 2014

The Complicity of Cameron and Clegg

They've done it again.

The Tories and LibDems have once more voted together to push through a law that dramatically affects our English NHS. The 'hospital closure clause' - Clause 119 of the Care Bill - has been voted through Parliament. The law was only passed because of the Parliamentary arithmetic of the LibDems voting with the Tories to bring about a majority against the opposition. Clause 119 allows any hospital that is near a struggling one to be closed with just 40 days consultation period - yes that's right just 40 days! Any talk by the LibDems of extricating important amendments from the Tories can be dismissed as hubris. They only say this to justify their voting habits.

It beggars belief that Liberals can vote for something that diminishes the power of a citizen to have their say. The same goes for the Gagging Bill the Liberals voted for recently which removes the right to free speech for many citizens who feel passionately about a subject. The dictionary definition of a Liberal is 'someone willing to accept opinions different from one's own'. Perhaps a name change is due soon for the Liberal Democrats...

There is also no electoral mandate for any of these laws being passed now. No party won the General Election in 2010 and the coalition agreement did not mention any of these changes to the English NHS. This means the government of the day are undemocratically changing the society we live in.

The NHS is much worse off again because of this coalition. The damage done to it since 2010 is immense and there is real concern much of it may not be reversible. We will have to hope it is. We must keep campaigning and keep highlighting all that is bad about current political ideology.

As Tony Benn said 'If we have enough money to kill people, then we have enough money to help people'. This coalition should take heed of these wise words.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Window Dressing - Clause 119

You may have noticed Clause 118 has morphed into Clause 119.

This is just window dressing. As so often happens in Parliament amendments are made as legislation moves through both Houses and clauses are re-numbered. This has happened here and the changes are superficial but play their role because politicians can say 'we have listened to you and made some vital changes so please vote for this now'. NHS campaigners have studied the amendments and believe they make no real difference to this 'hospital closure clause'.

The reason hospitals are in financial trouble are twofold. One is due to the completely unnecessary £20bn cuts to the NHS budget we are seeing between 2010-2015 - the so called 'Nicholson Challenge'. Secondly hospitals are crippled by PFI debt - in effect huge mortgage payments that they have to pay to private developers sometimes for periods of 30 years. This PFI debt needs to be removed from the hospitals so they can concentrate on patients and not spreadsheets. Strong political will is needed here.

The process will be that special NHS administrators move in to financially troubled hospitals and will use the new Clause 119 to bring about the closure quickly and with very little meaningful consultation with commissioners, clinicians and local patients. It allows politicians to shrink the NHS and use financial reasons to do so - when these reasons are not due to the hospital failing as I explained above.

Many thanks to those who signed my open letter on Clause 119. It was published in the Guardian last week and you can read it here. Further pressure is needed on MPs who will vote in the next few days - a quick message to them can make a difference as they realise their constituents are angry about something. Contact your MP now with a quick message by clicking this link.