Tag Archives: Lib Dems

Correcting a Local in MP in the Local Press – We Keep Fighting

27 Mar

This was our response to a local MP’s attempt to push her party’s agenda in a newspaper article in the Bristol Evening Post.  Her original article is below our letter to the Post published on Monday 25th March.  It may sound trivial, but we need to get our views out there in every possible outlet in order to counter the drip drip of lies and half truths from the coalition government on the radical and deeply destructive changes they are making to our NHS.

CONSERVATIVE MP, Charlotte Leslie, (On The House The Post March 15) should be slightly less disingenuous.

While we are delighted to see her using your paper to inform us of how active she is as a local MP – tabling a motion “calling on NHS Executives to resign” and securing an all day debate on “transparency and accountability in the NHS” -we should not be blind to the fact that she is pushing her party’s health agenda. The truth is that whatever mistakes the Labour government made, it rescued a desperately run down NHS from a decade of underfunding and turned it round.

It wasn’t Labour who brought in managers, but the previous administration.

Labour created targets in order to bring down waiting times and by 2007 patient satisfaction was at its highest.

No one denies that standards of care in some wards at Mid Stafford were abysmal, but headlines screaming wildly varying mortality statistics do not help especially as their accuracy has been disputed by statistical analysts and health academics.

The new start she calls on for ‘our’ NHS is Andrew Lansley’s convoluted mess supported by a tiny minority of GPs and which leaves the door wide open to private operators whose motive is profit not patients.

Protect Our NHS recognises the need for continual reform of the NHS but, like thousands of health professionals, rejects the current attempts to privatise it.

From April 1 we will see changes that will lead to the end of the current NHS system. We will witness the creation of a two-tier structure with the poor and needy being forced to pay for essential services and those who can afford it taking out US style health insurance.

Mike Campbell

Protect Our NHS

And now the article from Charlotte Leslie, Conservative MP for Bristol North West

SELDOM has the phrase “deadly silence” been more apt. In Bristol, we know about things going wrong. With the baby heart scandal, years of inaction and suppression of those who voiced concern led to the most heartbreaking of tragedies.

Then there was Mid-Staffs. A few weeks ago, I tabled a motion for David Nicholson, chief executive of the NHS, and anyone else found negligent of patient care across the Department of Health or the NHS to go.

Last week I secured an all-day debate on transparency and accountability in the NHS, which I led yesterday.

My father has been a surgeon in the NHS for 30 years. His dedication and those of his fellow medics has always been an inspiration to me.

The vast majority of our doctors and nurses are excellent, dedicated professionals, who are in the job not to meet Government targets or please managers, but to treat patients.

But the revelation earlier this month in the Francis Report of what happened at Mid-Staffs forced the political class to face some uncomfortable truths about the reality of some aspects of our NHS. Until that point, it had been almost taboo to suggest that the NHS was anything but “The envy of the World”.

Even campaigners like Julie Bailey, who led the group who uncovered what was going on at Mid-Staffs were dismissed by David Nicholson as “simply a lobbying group”.

This is the “deadly silence”.

But the Francis report was tragic for yet another reason. It wasn’t news. Many of the elements of Mid-Staffs had been warned about before, and many doctors and nurses had been trying to voice their concerns at the effects a target and management culture was having on patient care.

Back in 2008, the then Labour government commissioned three reports to celebrate the NHS’s 60th birthday.

They made uncomfortable reading. They said, among other things: “The NHS has developed a widespread culture more of fear and compliance,” which put targets above patient care; “Far too many managers and policy leaders in the NHS are incompetent, unethical, or worse.”

But instead of publishing and acting upon these reports with all urgency, The Labour government buried them. They were only dug up through a Freedom of Information Request in 2010.

Now no one can be precise about how many lives might have been saved had these reports been acted upon but the excess mortality numbers across 15 trusts under investigation is 2,800 from the time the report was presented to ministers, and when it came to light in 2010.

So who was responsible for ignoring these warnings, with grave consequences? David Nicholson? Labour ministers? Whoever it is should be held accountable.

The NHS is a huge organisation. In reality it is the case that sometimes things will go wrong. But the crime is that when things did go wrong, instead of the focus being immediately to tackle it, the priority was to cover up any truth that was uncomfortable for ministers and chief execs. Dispatch-box appearance mattered more than the reality of patient lives.

Whistle-blowers and patients groups were left screaming into a vacuum, often at great personal cost. But if responsibility and accountability is to mean anything more than just words, those at the top, like David Nicholson, who oversaw the NHS’s darkest days, must go. We must be brave. There must be a cultural clean-out if we are to have any hope this will never happen again. The culture of silence must end. We need a new start for our NHS.


Public / Patient Participation in the new Structure? Think Again.

15 Mar

Some of us are trying to see what is going on inside the system.  Two of my colleagues attended separate meetings this week.  These are their brief reports, but it’s enough to make you weep and it makes it entirely clear how the government is able to push through so much so fast.  How?  Because (in the words of the great Hollywood scriptwriter, William Goldman, about Hollywood executives): “Nobody knows anything!”

“I attended the final Local Involvement Network meeting this week (it becomes HealthWatch from April) and several members expressed concern that they hadn’t achieved anything over the last 5 years. The funding that should have been available didn’t materialise, 5 volunteers were trained to undertake visits into hospitals and this year only one visit was undertaken. They also complained about not having information or any understanding of the the health reforms which made me prompt the question ‘How can it be that the people who are in the system don’t know anything about it and feel so dis-empowered?  How does Jo public make any sense of what is going on if you don’t know ?'”

And from another colleague who went to a Patient Participation Group meeting at his local surgery – and by the way our local CCG-in-waiting is claiming this is where all the patient involvement will come from:

I attended the PPG last evening. It was an interesting 
experience and somewhat alarming in that the entire 
meeting agenda was focused on very local patient 
surgery issues. These ranged from redecoration of 
waiting rooms, the removal of toys for H&S reasons, 
to some patient feedback on service provision 
from the practice. The only time any mention was 
made about the forthcoming legislation was a 
comment about Specsavers being given a National 
remit to provide hearing aids and the possible 
on-costs for GPs. The meeting itself was well 
chaired but the 15 or so members seemed to 
have no questions about the future. I came 
away wondering if they were naive, ill-informed 
or not wanting to raise the spectre of 

What Some MPs Really Think of 38 Degrees

11 Mar

Below is an exchange between the office of a Conservative MP and a concerned patient.  Well I say Conservative, but of course the views of this MP were made very clear today in his speech to the IEA where he advocated a freeze on all government spending.  While this hapless government staggers on leaving a trail of wreckage behind it, its own right wing vultures circle above desperately hoping to benefit either personally through privatisation or through preferment following a lurch to the right on behalf of its frightened Parliamentary members.

—–Original Message—–
Sent: 04 March 2013 17:45
Subject: Sign the motion to stop back door NHS privatisation

Dear Rt Hon. Dr Liam Fox MP,

I’m concerned about the current plans for the NHS which could force doctors to privatise more of our NHS. Last year the government said it would leave these decisions in the hands of doctors. Please sign up to EDM 1104 to block these plans.

38 Degrees members have paid for legal advice which sets out how the new NHS plans break promises the government made last year:

Our National Health Service is valuable especially to the people of North Somerset and the older population of people who vote.

My own daughter.s life was saved by her own doctor responding to an out of hours call and recognising meningitis – she is your age.!

Yours sincerely,

—– Original Message —–

Sent: Saturday, March 09, 2013 4:15 PM
Subject: RE: Sign the motion to stop back door NHS privatisation

Dear Mrs

Thank you for  your email about NHS procurement, patient choice and competition regulations.

I recognise that there have been a number of concerns over the precise wording of these regulations. On 5 March 2013 the Care Services Minister Norman Lamb announced that the regulations would be amended to ensure that they could not be open to misinterpretation and that they faithfully implement the assurances given to Parliament during the passage of the Health and Social Care Bill.

The Government has always said that it should be commissioners, not Monitor or Ministers, who decide when and how competition should be used to serve patients’ interests.

Concerns have been raised that Monitor would use the regulations to force commissioners to tender competitively. The regulations will make clear that this is not the case. Concerns have also been raised that competition would be put before integration and co-operation. I want to assure you that the Government was very clear, during the passage of the Health and Social Care Bill, that competition can only be a means to improve services for patients, not an end in itself. What is important is what is in patients’ best interests. Integration is key to improving services for patients, and commissioners will be under a duty to use this approach. The Government will amend the regulations very shortly to make that point absolutely clear.

It is wrong to suggest these regulations will result in “enforced privatisation.” What they would actually do, in line with the principles adopted by the previous government, is ensure that it is doctors and nurses who decide on the best providers to deliver services to their patients, taking decisions on when and how to use competition so they can improve services for patients, with appropriate safeguards to protect patients from conflicts of interest, discrimination and anticompetitive conduct.  There will be no privatisation of the NHS under this Government.

I know that this interpretation has been circulated by 38 Degrees through its own legal advice. I thought you may be interested to know that the author of the 38 Degrees “independent” legal advice is former Labour MP, David Lock QC, who was the MP for Wyre Forest until losing to Dr Richard Taylor, the Independent Kidderminster Hospital and Health Concern candidate who ran to oppose the last Labour Government’s NHS policies. Mr Lock remains active in Labour politics as Chair of the West Midlands Labour Finance and Industry Group. Indeed, while I fully appreciate your strong views on this particular issue, I did want to make you aware of the very close links that exist between 38 Degrees and the Labour Party. One Co-founder contributes significantly to the Labour Party, its leader and its unofficial website ‘Left Foot Forward’ while another put himself forward as General Secretary of the Labour Party last year, and a director described himself as “dedicated to the Labour cause’.

I am sorry to have to send you rather a long email but I wanted you to have all the information about this issue that is available.

Yours sincerely

Parliamentary Office of  the Rt Hon Dr Liam Fox MP

—– Original Message —–

Sent: Saturday, March 09, 2013 11:08 PM
Subject: Re: Sign the motion to stop back door NHS privatisation

Dear Dr. Fox,

Thank you for your comprehensive email and I sincerely hope that monitor will not force commissioners to tender competitively.  However, I do have concerns about the independence of commissioning groups.  Having attended part of two recent commissioning group meetings, many of the questions put by the public were fielded off to other organisations.  I cannot find any record of the minutes of meetings published.

I joined my local Patient Participation Group, as I wanted to know how my local practice felt about the changes.  You say that Doctors and nurses will have the say. I quote from the minutes of this meeting:

X advised she has attended several CCG committee meetings and understands that the constitution for N Somerset has gone ahead although none of the amendments put forward by lay members (including a need for more transparency) were accepted. X asked how the Practice felt about the changes.  Practice Manager stated that as the directives are coming from the top down, it does not feel there is currently much scope to influence how things are moving.  However she hoped that, in future, practices will have more of a say in what services are commissioned and that services will be more tailored to the area’s needs.

Let us hope that our practice manager  is correct about the future.

I do not see the relevance of your comments about 38 Degrees.  I contribute in a very minor way to their organisation and I have no attachment to the Labour Party.  I am just grateful that someone cares enough to finance an ability for concerned constituents to contact their MP.

Yours sincerely,


NHS 1948 – 2013 RIP.

11 Mar


38 Degrees Successes in Changing Clinical Commissioning Group Constitutions

5 Mar

It is worth fighting the battle against government diktats.  Too many Clinical Commissioning Groups (including mine) have been supine in their acceptance of central authority.  This article demonstrates that local democracy can begin to make an impact.  It is vital to keep this fight going as, once local CCGs realise that patient and public intervention is going to continue, they will have to step out from behind the reams of paper filled with mangled managerial jargon, which they build into protective walls around them, and face the fact that it is OUR NHS and not theirs.

From the journal Pulse

CCGs attempt to limit use of AQP in their constitutions

28 February 2013 | By Jaimie Kaffash

Exclusive Two CCGs have incorporated a clause in their constitutions that requires them to consider alternatives to Any Qualified Provider and look at the ethical behaviour of providers before making commissioning decisions.

Bristol and Hackney CCGs have included a clause in their contract that calls on decision makers to consider ‘whether the use of approved lists is the most appropriate means of appointing providers’.

Rebecca Haynes, a barrister at Monckton Chambers who advised 38 Degrees, said that AQP was not the only route open to CCGs.

She said: ‘If European procurement rules apply, AQP might be one route they choose to go down. But they are not required to go down that route and it is not unlawful if they decide not to.’

The constitutions also compel them to take the ethical behaviour into account when appointing providers, saying all providers should be ‘good employers’, ‘respect the environment’ and not be involved in tax avoidance schemes.

The clauses have been developed by lawyers working with the NHS pressure group 38 Degrees. They state: ‘[The CCG] shall, wherever possible and where it is consistent with legal requirements, ensure that contractual provisions, procurement procedures and selection and award criteria are designed to ensure that contractors and providers are…reputable in their standards of business conduct.’

This comes as the Government has been forced to review controversial regulations that the GPC says will force CCGs to use competition ‘as a default’ when commissioning new services.

What the clauses say

‘We will, in relation to each purchasing decision concerning health care and social services…give consideration to whether the use of a framework agreement, including the use of approved lists, is the most appropriate means of appointing providers.’

‘[The CCG] shall, wherever possible and where it is consistent with legal requirements, ensure that contractual provisions, procurement procedures and selection and award criteria are designed to ensure that contractors and providers are…reputable in their standards of business conduct.’

Dr Anna Livingstone, a GP in East London, said the clauses would help address fears over the pressure to open up services to competition

She told Pulse: ‘GPs locally have bought in to the idea of why CCGs should adopt this clause. We are extremely worried that competitive commercial pressures will interfere with the quality of healthcare. This is the standard that should be taken locally.

‘There are concerns that private providers may appear to offer cheaper options  and when those cheaper options come along, because there is a profit involved, there is not money available for services available for patients. The CCGs are entirely right to have this commitment to these provisions.’

Finally! Exposed! The Deficit Myth! So, David Cameron When Are You Going to Apologise?

4 Mar
I have just seen this as a tweet.  Although it’s off subject and out of date I think it says a great deal about the behaviour of the present government in relation to where it is trying to take the country.  And this from a Conservative too…
HuffPost Social Reading
Ramesh Patel

Economist, worked in media and the financial sector

“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on”
– Winston Churchill

As a Conservative I have no pleasure in exposing David Cameron’s deficit claims. However, as long as the party continues to talk down the economy via the blame game, confidence will not be given an opportunity to return. For it is an undeniable and inescapable economic fact: without confidence and certainty there can be no real growth.

Below are the three deficit claims – the mess. The evidence comes from the IMF, OECD, OBR, HM Treasury, ONS and even George Osborne. The claims put into context are:

The last government left the biggest debt in the developed world.

After continuously stating the UK had the biggest debt in the world George Osborne admits to the Treasury Select Committee that he did not know the UK had the lowest debt in the G7? Watch: Also, confirmed by the OECD Those who use cash terms (instead of percentages) do so to scare, mislead and give half the story.

Its common sense, in cash terms a millionaire’s debt would be greater than most people. Therefore, the UK would have a higher debt and deficit than most countries because, we are the sixth largest economy. Hence, its laughable to compare UK’s debt and deficit with Tuvalu’s who only have a GDP/Income of £24 million whilst, the UK’s income is £1.7 Trillion.

Finally, Labour in 1997 inherited a debt of 42% of GDP. By the start of the global banking crises 2008 the debt had fallen to 35% – a near 22% reduction page 6 ONS Surprisingly, a debt of 42% was not seen as a major problem and yet at 35% the sky was falling down?

Labour created the biggest deficit in the developed world by overspending.

Firstly, the much banded about 2010 deficit of over 11% is false. This is the PSNB (total borrowings) and not the actual budget deficit which was -7.7% – OBR Economic and Fiscal Outlook March 2012 page 19 table 1.2

Secondly, in 1997 Labour inherited a deficit of 3.9% of GDP (not a balanced budget ) and by 2008 it had fallen to 2.1% – a reduction of a near 50% – Impressive! Hence, it’s implausible and ludicrous to claim there was overspending. The deficit was then exacerbated by the global banking crises after 2008. See HM Treasury. Note, the 1994 deficit of near 8% haaaaaah!

Thirdly, the IMF have also concluded the same. They reveal the UK experienced an increase in the deficit as result of a large loss in output/GDP caused by the global banking crisis and not even as result of the bank bailouts, fiscal stimulus and bringing forward of capital spending. It’s basic economics: when output falls the deficit increases.

Finally, the large loss in output occurred because the UK like the US have the biggest financial centres and as this was a global banking crises we suffered the most. Hence, the UK had the 2nd highest deficit in the G7 (Not The World) after the US and not as a result of overspending prior to and after 2008- as the IMF concur.

Our borrowing costs are low because the markets have confidence in George Osborne’s austerity plan and without it the UK will end up like Greece.

Yes, the markets have confidence in our austerity plan and that’s why PIMCO the worlds largest bond holder have been warning against buying UK debt.

The real reason why our borrowing costs have fallen and remained low since 2008 is because, savings have increased. As a result, the demand and price for bonds have increased and as there is inverse relationship between the price of bonds and its yield (interest rate) the rates have fallen. Also, the markets expect the economy to remain stagnate. Which means the price for bonds will remain high and hence, our borrowing costs will also remain low.

Secondly, the UK is considered a safe heaven because, investors are reassured the Bank of England will buy up bonds in an event of any sell off – which increases the price of bonds and reduces the effective rate. Note, how rates fell across the EU recently when the ECB announced its bond buying program. Thirdly, because, we are not in the Euro we can devalue our currency to increase exports. Moreover, UK bonds are attractive because, we haven’t defaulted on its debt for over 300 years.

David Cameron would like people to believe the markets lend in the same way as retail banks lend to you and I.

Overall, when the facts and figures are put into context these juvenile deficit narratives and sound bites (“mere words and no evidence”) simply fail to stand up to the actual facts. The deficit myth is the grosses lie ever enforced upon the people and it has been sold by exploiting people’s economic illiteracy.

So, David Cameron when are you going to apologise?

Cameron is playing the blame game to depress confidence and growth to justify austerity. Secondly, to use austerity as justification for a smaller state to gain lower taxes. Thirdly, to paint Labour as a party that can not be trusted with the country’s finances again. Therefore, we Conservatives will win a second term because, people vote out of fear. The latter strategy worked the last time in office (18 years) and will work again because, in the end, elections are won and lost on economic credibility. Hence, as people believe Labour created the mess they won’t be trusted again.

Finally, as the truth is the greatest enemy of the a lie I urge you to share this on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, text and email etc etc. So the truth can be discovered by all. Finally, have no doubt, people have been mislead by the use of the following strategy:

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it” Joseph Goebbels

The Lib Dems must not stand for any more lies over the NHS

25 Feb

The Tories have misled their coalition partners – and us – repeatedly over the true extent of their health service vandalism

Joe Magee illo for polly toynbee

‘At first patients may not notice … But the change will be irreversible when NHS services atrophy once contracts are let out.’ Illustration by Joe Magee

It remains a shock when a government lies through its teeth – deliberately and outrageously. I resist the idea that politicians are liars by nature: the art of politics and persuasion is difficult and more honourable than it gets credit for. But over the Conservatives’ true intentions for the NHS, right from the start David Cameron and his team set out to mislead the public, the clinicians and their own coalition partners.

As parliament broke for half term, regulations for the Health and Social Care Act slipped out – a legal document anyway unlikely to make headlines. The act is a spatchcock confusion of quangos that carefully left most details to be laid out in this dense legalese. But read clause by clause, this document shows how far the act does the reverse of what ministers promised. Commercialisation and competition is written into its key section 75, opening up virtually all the NHS to public tender in a market supervised by Monitor. Secondary legislation is rarely challenged – but this is a final chance for parliament to strike out the obligation of clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to advertise almost every service to any bidder under EU competition law. It will pass, unless the Liberal Democrats rebel at having been hoodwinked. And they just might.

When the bill was shipping water, the medical professions and many peers so strongly opposed the threat to commercialise the NHS that David Cameron “paused” the legislation. Expecting the Lib Dems to wreck it, he was reportedly surprised they accepted relatively minor amendments. What swung them were public assurances from ministers that seemed convincingly cast-iron.

From the start the plan was misrepresented to the public “as putting GPs in the driving seat”, free to commission best services for their patients. The health department was at it again this week, announcing more commissioning groups approved: “All 8,000 GP practices in England will be members of a CCG, putting the majority of the NHS budget in the control of frontline clinicians for the first time.”

Clare Gerada, head of the Royal College of GPs, calls that “disingenuous”, since all GPs are legally forced to join, yet only a minority of CCGs are led by GPs. Most are not involved, she says, with “barely time to do their day job”. She is shocked by the section 75 requirement for every service to be tendered out and advertised on a national NHS website. However satisfied GPs may be with local NHS services, if anything is not put out for tender Monitor can step in to enforce it. As the bill went through parliament, Monitor’s role was amended from “promoting competition” to “preventing anti-competitive behaviour” – a change in grammar, not in law, repeated in regulations. That’s what the act is for.

Let’s reprise the reassurances that soothed Lib Dem fears. The Tory health minister Earl Howe, steering the bill through a rebellious Lords, promised: “Clinicians will be free to commission services in the way they consider best … they will be under no legal obligation to create new markets … this will be made absolutely clear through secondary legislation.” But now that legislation makes the opposite crystal clear.

Andrew Lansley wrote to all CCGs: “I know many of you may have read that you will be forced to fragment services, or to put services out to tender. This is absolutely not the case … The healthcare regulator Monitor would not have the power to force you to … You will have the freedom to work with whoever you want to in commissioning services … You will be free from top-down interference.” None of that is true, but ministers promised anything, including an “integration” that was never compatible with competition.

Labour will “pray against” the regulations next week to try to strike them out. Andy Burnham says: “The wording is very explicit. It writes EU competition law into the NHS.” But also uncomfortably clear in the small print is how many legal foundations were laid by Tony Blair and his health ministers – many now employed in private health. Burnham has clean hands: as health minister he stemmed the slide by returning the NHS as “preferred provider”, and would do so again. For decades the private sector has usefully provided the NHS with some services, but compulsory marketising of everything regardless of local need is ideologically propelled vandalism. Jeremy Hunt has barely mentioned the act, speaking only of care, but in this debate he will need to praise raw competition – or lie about it.

Campaigners from Keep Our NHS Public, 38 Degrees, Open Democracy and others urge the Lib Dems to block the regulations. Remember the reassuring letter Nick Clegg and Shirley Williams wrote to their MPs and peers: “We will introduce measures to protect the NHS from any threat of takeover from US-style healthcare providers by insulating the NHS from the full force of competition law.” On Monday Lib Dem leaders in the Lords meet Howe: how firm will they be? Baroness Jolly, Lib Dem health spokeswoman, says: “The regulations fail to reflect the assurances or the spirit of the debate on the act.” Lord Clement Jones tells Open Democracy: “Earl Howe’s statements in the House of Lords appear completely at odds with these regulations.” Surely they will not be so easily soothed again?

At first patients may not notice who profits from their services, as private companies hide under the NHS logo. But the change will be irreversible when NHS services atrophy once contracts are let out. The Lib Dems still have a chance to stop this becoming the most indelible legacy of their time in government.

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