Tag Archives: North Somerset

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.


NHS: Local campaign success for members and doctors in Bristol

27 Mar

Below is a blog written by Mike, a 38 Degrees member in Bristol. Mike and other local 38 Degrees members, with support from local GPs, have recently convinced the Bristol CCG to adopt some important amendments into their constitution that will protect local NHS services from dangerous privatisation.

Back in November 2012, some fifty local 38 Degrees members met the Board of Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Primary Care Trust (BNSSG). We were there to hand in a petition of over 5000 names urging the trust to do all they can to protect local NHS services by incorporating the suggested 38 Degrees amendments.

Four members of our group had a further meeting with Bristol CCG, to force home our arguments regarding the constitutional amendments, and we felt that we were listened to. Yet, when we saw the first draft of the constitution we discovered that no amendments had been made to the NHS CCG Board model constitution. We know that the CCG was under pressure to proceed with authorisation and felt that it had consulted sufficiently. However, the CCG’s goodwill and apparent wish to acknowledge our petition had not been translated into the written word.

So, in early January we commenced a second level campaign which involved emailing every GP practice in Bristol. This was supported by a number of practices who’d already been contacted by group members and a few GPs who are themselves members of 38 Degrees. A number of GP practices felt, like us, that there’d been insufficient consultation about the constitution. This campaign action had its desired effect, prompting a flurry of correspondence between the CCG and GP practices.

Then, mid-February, with authorisation in its final stages, we received a letter from the CCG providing us with a revised version of the constitution. It included, in full, the very important amendments detailed in Schedule E – success!

A number of the other amendments had not been included though and after further clarification, we received an email from the CCG assuring us that: “we are working on our mission and values again to update them. We will be consulting on them in the Spring”. Our group has decided to attend every CCG meeting from now on to hold them to this.

We’ve come far since our first 38 Degrees get-together in October last year, getting doctors on side and persuading Bristol CCG to accept some important amendments to their commissioning policy. We’ve written to local MPs and councillors, and established links with national groups to rally support against NHS privatisation. We feel that we are halfway there and our impression is that the CCG is listening. We know that many local GPs, like thousands of other health professionals and clinicians, support the 38 Degrees campaign. Regarding the amendments that have not yet been included in the revised constitution, we have been promised a response at the CCG’s next meeting in April. Let’s see what happens.

If you’d like to get involved in the campaign in the Bristol area, please get in touch – protectournhs@gmail.com

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,


South-West GPs threaten to quit over rising workloads

15 Feb

This from:

Site Logo

9:00am Tuesday 12th February 2013

By Phil Hill

SEVERAL disillusioned GPs are considering a career change due to increased workloads and Government targets, it has been claimed.

A leading Somerset doctor says many are frustrated at increasing emphasis on targets rather than face-to-face patient care, meaning it will be harder to see your chosen doctor when you want to.

A Local Medical Committee survey in the South-West attracted responses from 2,700 out of 6,000 GPs and showed:

  • 67% said their practices would struggle to remain viable;
  • 93% said working days are getting longer;
  • 96% believe the intensity of their work has increased;
  • 94% reckon their work is more complex;
  • 48% are considering switching careers or some form of retirement;
  • 84% say their workload won’t be sustainable with reductions in resources to practices from April.

Somerset LMC chairman Dr Sue Roberts said the problem has been created by a Govern-ment “tick box culture” where targets reduce patient contact.

She said: “They’re asking us to do lots more work in addition to what we’re already doing.

“GPs are already at capacity and our workload has increased year-on- year.

“Introducing targets and measurements ignores the personal care practices give patients.

“I’m not dealing with virtual patients – I want to deal with a patient sitting with me in the consulting room.

“Patients are waiting longer to see their chosen GP and it’s going to get worse.

“Some GPs are looking to go early, maybe doing some locum work or leaving GP practice and working in a completely different area.”

The Department of Health denies that patient care will suffer.

A spokesman said: “In the new health and care system people will have more say about the care they receive, and doctors, nurses and other health and care professionals will have more freedom to shape services to meet people’s needs.”


A private company could share the running of Weston-super-Mare’s debt-ridden General Hospital in the future

8 Feb

Here we go!  Out in the sticks (as we are)this is an issue that can easily be ignored by anyone, but Weston General is important!

In the light of the fact that seven GPs on the board of the South London CCG are considering their position following the proposed closure of the Lewisham A&E Department, could the GPs on the board of the North Somerset confirm that they would consider their positions if Weston General Hospital is threatened with being taken over by a private company without proper public and patient consultation and input?

This From the BBC in Bristol

A private company could share the running of Weston-super-Mare’s debt-ridden General Hospital in the future.

It is one of a number of options being considered by the Weston Area Health NHS Trust, as it tries to comply with new government health reforms.

The complex is £5m in debt and must cut losses ahead of new government rules.

A statement from Weston Area Health NHS Trust said discussions about its future were “progressing well”, and stressed NHS services will continue in the town.

New government rules say all NHS trusts must become foundation trusts by April 2014, thereby proving they can run their services without going into debt and function independently of the Department of Health.

As well possibly entering into a partnership with an external organisation, merging with a foundation trust is another option.

Financial deficit

“We announced in November that as the trust was one of the smallest in the country, it did not have the critical mass of services sufficient to become a standalone NHS Foundation Trust,” the trust statement continued.


Nigel Dando Chief reporter, BBC Radio Bristol

It’s a big problem in the case of the hospital trust here in Weston.

There are two options which the trust is now considering – they can be acquired by another NHS Foundation Trust or they can find a partner to run the hospital’s services.

That partner could be from the private sector. It could be a voluntary organisation or it could be a charity.

My understanding is that the trust has been looking at the private sector model, although nothing has yet been decided.

The high-profile example of this approach is at Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire. Last February it became the first NHS hospital to be operated by a private partner, when the Circle Partnership took over its running.

“Whichever route we end up taking, it is clear that the trust must, and will, continue to provide NHS services for NHS patients. Whatever option is selected, all staff and assets will remain within the NHS.”

The financial deficit at Weston General Hospital has, until now, been covered by the NHS North Somerset Primary Care Trust (PCT).

That arrangement will end shortly when the PCT is disbanded and replaced by what is called a clinical commissioning group, which will not have the money to bail out the hospital.

Weston Area Health NHS Trust was one of three trusts in England highlighted recently by the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee as not having a proper financial plan for its future.

Christina Cook from the Unison trade union said: “Unison is totally opposed to the privatisation of Weston General Hospital as its members wish to continue working for the NHS.

“Unison members feel very strongly about this subject and are prepared to campaign against privatisation.”

A National Campaign?

6 Feb

I’ve had a lot of people asking how it is possible to make the local 38 Degrees campaigns work on a national basis.  One colleague from the South West writes:

We may need to structure the campaign into National, Regional and then Local Authority – with 38 Degrees driving the campaign nationally. Within England there are 9 regions  that have common and specific issues relating to the NHS and the reforms. If you look at the SW and Eastern regions we cover predominantly rural areas where access to services, transport and establishing effective communication presents many challenges. The more urban regions e.g London Boroughs have closer proximity to services although they may have other issues that we don’t experience. The South West has 16 Local Authorities that cover an area the size of Norway so how do we communicate effectively across our region. I suggest that we need a regional contact point/organisation that communicates with 38Degrees at a National level and then disseminates out to each of the 16 local authority campaign groups or leads. We could host regional virtual and physical conferences or events that link to the other 8 regions through 38 Degrees nationally. Or 38 Degrees could compile and establish a national and regional network, although I personally think it is better to have someone based in the region who understands the specific issues.
 In the SW there are the following Authorities: Bristol; North Somerset; Dorset: Poole; Bournemouth, S. Glos; Somerset; BANES; Cornwall;Devon; Plymouth; Wiltshire; Torbay; Gloucestershire; Swindon; Isles Of Scilly; Do we have a contact in each of these authorities and is there a regional organisation that could coordinate the SW network and campaigns ? Or perhaps this is a bit over the top!

Two Questions We Want Answering

23 Jan

How can the adverse effects of the Act be independently monitored?

Are there mechanisms by which these effects can be exposed so that the public can understand the reality of the changes and something can be done to protect the NHS?

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