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Hands Off Our NHS


The Crimes Of Jeremy Hunt  – Criminal & Social Saboteur 

Jeremy Hunt and The Murdoch Scandal
As Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt hid an Ofcom report recommending that Murdoch’s £7.5bn takeover of BSkyB be referred to the monopolies commission. Following an investigation by MP Tom Watson, Hunt was later found to have misled parliament when he denied having formal meetings with Murdoch’s News Corp executives.

Later In 2010, ‘The Hunt’ managed to wriggle out of trouble again when it was found that he failed to declare thousands of pounds of donations from BskyB, media and arts companies the previous year.

The ‘Hunt’ faced demands for his resignation in 2012, when documents submitted to the Levingson enquiry in to telephone hacking, revealed that his office was secretly passing information to Murdoch during his bid to take over BskyB.  It was described by one MP as “a strait forward criminal offence”.

Jeremy Hunt and The Abortion Debate
After only a month as Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt told the Times in October 2012 that he backs halving the legal time limit for women to have abortions, from 24 weeks to 12. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said it was “insulting to women” and they were “speechless”.

Selling the NHS – The Crime Of The Century
The Hunt’s views on the NHS were exposed  in the Guardian last September, when it reported that Hunt attempted to have scenes celebrating the National Health Service removed from the Olympics opening ceremony. MP Andy Burnham told the commons “it proved Hunt didn’t support the core values of the NHS”. In the run up to privatisation, hospitals across the country have already been forced to save £20bn.

Jeremy Hunt’s Health and Social Care Act is set to reorganise the NHS so that it is little more than a logo on contracted out services. The regulations – made under Section 75 of the Health & Social Care Act 2012 – puts competition at the heart of the NHS and brings in privatisation on an unprecedented scale. Regulations will force commissioners to open up to private sector competition any part of the NHS that companies are interested in.

Local health decision makers will be able to do little or nothing to protect local NHS hospitals which will be starved of funds as a result of losing out to private providers. The regulations require all NHS services to be put out to competition “unless the commissioners can prove there is only one provider”.

Lord Philip Hunt, in the House of Lords said: “Parliament was assured that clinicians would be under no legal obligation to create new markets; however these regulations being debated in Parliament provide no such re-assurance”.

Clare Gerada, Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said recently: “The NHS has delivered what no other health service has managed: universal, accessible, high quality care at a cost far less than comparable health services. These regulations remove the legal framework for a universal, publically provided and managed, democratically accountable health service.”

Crimes Against Surrey
Meanwhile here in Surrey two hospitals out of four are set to close their A&E and maternity departments. The Sutton Guardian reported in January that either St Helier, Epsom, Kingston or Croydon University Hospital will lose key departments. Kingston has already seen A&E waiting times increase following spending cuts last year, the Surrey Comet reported in February.

Lewisham Hospital, a hospital that makes a surplus is to Cut A&E, maternity, children’s and intensive care services. Patients will have to be transported to other hospitals because there will no longer be acute provision

The Surrey Advertiser reported in February that although the hospital was not in debt and had been making a surplus over the last few years, “a 100 jobs are about to go at the Royal Surrey Hospital”.  Who remembers the facical 2005 general election? When Ann Milton, our local MP stood as “Conservatives: Stop The Hospital Cuts”. One wonders where she is now.

Jeremy Hunt has nothing but contempt for us all – even fellow Tories. It was reported that he endorsed Conservative co-chairman Lord Feldman’s characterisation of Tory ‘grass roots’ activists as “Swivel-eyed loons”, describing Lord Feldman as a man of great honour.

Even on the roads Hunt thinks there’s one rule for us and another rule for him. As the Daily Mail found when it snapped Hunt riding through red lights and one way streets last year.

On Friday 24th May, The VOAG, together with the Surrey United Anti-Capitalists and the Kingston branch of the GMB union, hunted “the Hunt” down at Surrey University. He was there to deliver a speech to students. Unfortunately for him, the welcome he received was not quite the one he had expected. More people came to protest than came to hear his bull-shit.


Friday’s Hunt the Hunt was just a warm up for the main event. On Saturday June 15th, we’ll be hunting the Hunt again, this time in Farnham, his own constituency. There are coaches arranged from London. Hospital campaigns at Ealing, Hammersmith & Charing Cross, Kingston, and Whittington hospitals are all arranging coaches. Campaigners from Hackney, King George and Central Middlesex will also be attending the event, together with campaigners from around Surrey and Hampshire. Join the Facebook event page for more info and details: https://www.facebook.com/events/500290676696673/

Call 07846008703 or email: huntforhunt2013@gmail.comVoice Of Anti-Capitalism In Guildford

Workfare – The Facts & The Figures: Another Voice Of Anti-Capitalism in Guildford Investigation.

See bottom of the post for a list of events and demonstrations in London. 
It must be the ultimate dream of capitalists. You get free workers. After all, as Tesco is fond of saying ‘every little helps’. But people have finally begun to rebel over the stigmatisation and demonisation of people on the dole. The new Tory Work Program has a core underlying philosophy. The unemployed are to blame for their own predicament.

Was it the unemployed who dealt in derivatives and financial instruments based on fraudulent risk assessments? Did the unemployed gamble with billions of pounds of other peoples’ money? Have unemployed people caused the recession?

Working for your £67.00 a week dole in a climate of no jobs simply means exploitation. And if someone gets a job at the end, then it means someone else doesn’t. All it teaches people to do is to compete more effectively against each other.

The government claims that “Work Experience”, “Community Action Programmes”, and other slave labour schemes are helping people “back to work”. But the truth is, companies availing themselves of these slave labour schemes are replacing paid staff with unemployed forced labour, creating more unemployment. Why would companies pay for staff when they are being provided free at the taxpayers’ expense?

Furthermore, there is a large body of research that indicates that shelf-stacking work only leads to more low paid shelf stacking work. Even highly qualified graduates, once they embark on low paid, low skilled jobs, find it much harder to gain skilled employment.

We need to get the message across that unemployment is endemic to capitalism. That demonisation and finding scapegoats is essential to a system that is desperate to blame any and everyone, except those who are most responsible.

Tesco, Burger King, Poundland and many other businesses are pulling out of the “Workfare” programme, as well as the other slave labour schemes. These schemes are in crisis. Now is the time to pile on the pressure.

March 3rd will see the next day of action against Workfare, and it promises to be the biggest yet. Workfare and the other slave labour schemes affect us all. They increase unemployment and reduce wages for the rest of us. Companies such as Poundland are paying their workers less and less whilst making huge profits because they know there is an ever-increasing pool of unemployed labour threatened with doing the same work for nothing.

Before pulling out of the scheme, Tesco reported that over the past four months some 1,400 people have worked for them without pay. Meanwhile, its profits for the first half of 2011 were £1.9 billion. And Tesco CEO Philip Clarke is on target for £6.9 million this year.

Steve Short, from the Boycott Workfare Campaign http://www.boycottworkfare.org told The VOAG; “It is staggering that while unemployment continues to rise, the government is replacing paid work by pushing out workfare on a massive scale. The organisations profiting from free labour can afford to pay a wage but are choosing not to. Actions this weekend will show that they risk their reputation if they do not withdraw from workfare.”

It is our duty – as trades unionists, activists, workers and youth to join in the day of action on March 3rd. These schemes are teetering on the edge. One more push and we can close them down for good. Below is a list of demonstrations in London on Saturday March 3rd. Please consider joining one near you or come to the main demonstration in Oxford Street. Details below. 

There are several government forced labour schemes – and no matter what the government says there is an element of compulsion to all of them.The Work Experience Scheme –
This scheme is designed for 16 to 24 year olds. The government admits that young people who refuse to go on the eight-week placements will loose benefits. It intends to create 250,000 Work Experience placements. Once the placement is completed, benefit claimants can be forced to go strait on to another scheme. The placements can be never ending.

The Mandatory Work Activity Scheme –
This scheme is for claimants aged 18 or over. The scheme mandates four weeks’ work unpaid for 30 hours a week. Although the government claims it is “community work”, its definition of this includes private companies. 24,010 people were mandated to take part in MWA between May and November last year.

Community Action Programme
Jobseekers are referred for up to 30 hours unpaid work per week for six months. They can be stacking shelves or tossing your burgers. The government says the Community Action Programme is designed for the benefit of the community. It is a clear sign that the government intends to use forced labour to replace the gaps left in public service delivery in the wake of service cuts. Provider guidelines suggest that a community placement would be appropriate at Local Authorities and Councils, Government Departments and Agencies, Charities and third sector organisations, Social Enterprises, and Environmental Agencies.

The Work Programme
370,000 people were referred to the Work Programme between June and November 2011. 850,000 people are expected to be forced on to the programme by the end of the year. Ingeus, which administers Mandatory Work Assignments in the East Midlands and the North-East (owned by city financiers Deloitte) force people to do six month workfare placements. The Work Programme, is expected to cost the taxpayer £5 billion pounds. Claimants loose all benefits if they refuse to go on the scheme or drop out before its completion. Once the six month programme is concluded, job seekers can be required to immediately start another work placement. For more information on these schemes and for tips on how to avoid them visit: http://www.boycottworkfare.org

Workfare Doesn’t Work
On the 1st of April 2011, the Social Security Advisory Committee advised the government not to introduce Mandatory Work Activity. Its report said there was “no evidence that workfare increases the likelihood of finding work”. It continued: “there is evidence to suggest that by limiting the time available for job search activities, Mandatory Work Activity can in fact reduce the participants’ chances of finding employment.

The Committee stated “it appears to us to signal that being mandated to mandatory work activity is regarded as a punishment rather than an opportunity to learn and develop new behaviors and skills”. The report continued: “there is a risk that the presence of Mandatory Work Activity on a jobseeker’s CV could stigmatise a jobseeker when applying for a job in the future.
The report went on to say that the Committee is “very concerned that this is an exploitation of people who have no choice” and there is no provision to “monitor employers or to end their involvement should they be found exploiting participants or requiring them to undertake inappropriate work.

There is no requirement for “employers” to provide equipment, for example clothing. There is no provision for job seekers to take time off for illness or to attend medical appointments, or to look after a child if it falls sick. There is no requirement for the employer or placement administrator to reimburse expenses for travel or childcare. The lack of childcare costs will make it impossible for one-parent families to participate in the programmes, leaving them vulnerable to benefit sanctions.

This 18 page report by the governments own Social Security Advisory Committee ends in big bold letters in a text box, copied and pasted from the report below:A4E and Emma Harrison
These schemes don’t come cheap. They are administered by private companies. A4E is one such company. Emma Harrison, the chair of A4E has had to step down from the company she founded, together with her government post as “Back to Work Czar”, after being caught with her hands in the till. Ruling-class scum like Harrison preach about benefit scroungers, whilst they take home millions. Whilst her company is mired in fraud and corruption scandals, Harrison paid herself £8.6m last year.

The only revenue A4E earns comes from our taxes. It is paid by the government according to the numbers of job seekers it manages to force on to government schemes. The Guardian reported on 22nd February that A4E was under police investigation. It had been forcing job seekers to work unpaid in its own offices in order to get the “placement” commissions. Jobseekers were forced to work in their offices in Woolwich, Camden and Holloway or have their benefits stopped. The investigation, reported the Guardian, also revealed that from the 12 months to late June 2011 the company sent people to work unpaid in Asda, Sainsbury’s, Oxfam and a host of other businesses.

A “company official, who did not want to be named” was quoted in the Guardian, as saying; “that in addition to the revenue from the commissions and the free labour, sending jobseekers to work in its offices helped A4e cut down on its overheads as it didn’t have to spend time on organising placements”.

So far four A4E employees have been arrested, and the head of the Commons Public Spending Watchdog has demanded the government stops working with A4E until the police investigation is completed. The Public Spending watchdog has highlighted that A4E has been named preferred bidder for a £15 million contract with the Skills Funding Agency to provide education to prisoners in London.

A4E admitted that the present police investigation was only one out of a total of ten cases of corruption that had been referred to the Dpt of Work and Pensions. As a result, the company has been forced to repay public funds on five separate occasions due to “irregularities”.

The  Dept of Work and Pensions has also criticised A4e for paying £11 million in dividends last year, 87% to Ms Harrison, despite all its £180 million UK turnover resulting from Government welfare to work contracts. In addition to these incredible sums of public money, Emma Harrison also received nearly £2 million from leasing properties she owned or controlled back to her business.

The allegations against A4e are unending. Jobseekers report being made to sign blank time sheets, and of government vouchers—intended to help the jobless buy adequate clothing for interviews—being stolen by advisers. Its also been accused of claiming that jobseekers have found full-time work placements, when their jobs lasted less than 24 hours.

According to the Mail On Sunday, A4E receives a fee of £400 for every jobseeker referred to it. When that person finds work for 26 weeks—whether it is continuous or in breaks—it receives £1,200, followed by a monthly “sustainment fee”. It is estimated that A4E earns approximately £13,000 for every successful placement.

A dossier compiled on A4E includes the complaint that the firm was “nothing short of a gravy train”, in which fraud was “systemic” and “common practice”. In response, an unamed Labour MP contacted the Guardian to say Labour MPs were concerned that the MWA programme had not been scrutinised by the Commons and had passed into law with the “tick of a minister’s pen” last year.

Other Workfare providers include REED, SERCO and Atos – and they are being subsidised by the taxpayer to the tune of billions. It is they who depend on state handouts not the unemployed. Seetec made £53 million last year from its involvement in the Work Programme, while Ingenus was awarded contracts worth £727 million.
Social Security Advisory Committee Report, April 2011: Condemming the Workfare programmes. Read Here.

Where to go on the March 3rd Day Of Action Against Workfare
Islington            10am         Outside Angel Islington Tube

Brixton              12pm         Outside Tesco, 13 Acre Lane, Brixton

Brixton              12pm         Outside Brixton Job Centre

Kingston              1pm         Outside Starbucks, Kingston

Oxford Street    11.30am      Outside BHS

Ealing                 1pm          The Arcadia Center, 50/52 Broadway

Lewisham            1pm         Outside McDonalds, Lewisham High Street

Walthamstow     12pm         Outside Nat West bank, Walthamstow Town Square

Hackney             12pm         By St Augustines Tower, Mare Street

Stratford             12pm         Westfield Center
For a comprehensive list of Workfare demos and actions around the country visit: http://www.boycottworkfare.org

5 Things You Need To Know About The NHS Bill

1 The bill will cost at least £2 billion
Estimates of the cost of implementing the Health and Social Care Bill range from the government’s £1.3 billion to Labour’s £3.5 billion, but most independent analysts estimate at least £2 billion. The government claims the bill will save money in the long run but even the Conservative-led parliamentary health committee says this is unlikely unless standards of care are cut. £1 billion is being spent on redundancy for managers, only for many to be rehired as consultants.

2 The bill will create more bureaucracy
The NHS bill replaces three levels of management (Department of Health, Strategic Health Authorities, Primary Care Trusts) with seven (Department of Health, NHS Commissioning Board, Strategic Health Authority clusters, Commissioning Support Organisations, Clinical Commissioning Groups, Clinical Senates, HealthWatch), and creates two unaccountable super-quangos (Monitor and the NHS Board).

3 Waiting times will grow – unless you go private
The bill allows hospitals to fill up to half of their beds with private patients, and waters down guarantees on NHS waiting times. NHS patients will increasingly find themselves at the back of the queue, even for their own local hospital.

4 Care will depend on a postcode lottery
The bill will break up the NHS and create a postcode lottery on a scale not seen before. With no national standards, there will be widespread variation in the treatments available on the NHS. In some areas, people may have to go private to get services available for free elsewhere. Scotland and Wales, which are not covered by the bill, will continue to provide services denied to patients in England.

5 Private companies, not GPs, will be in control
The bill says GPs will plan and commission healthcare. But this complex role cannot be done on the side while providing the same level of care to patients. We expect pilots to have excellent flying skills – not to design and purchase their own planes. In fact leaked papers show the government expects private companies called Commissioning Support Organisations to take over this role. CSOs will decide how care is delivered but there will be no democratic control over them.

A Betrayal Of Trust: Watch this video to find out why we must stop Lansley’s bill

Further information on the Health and Social Reform Bill is available at Keep Our NHS Public www.keepournhspublic.com/index.php and Health Emergency: www.healthemergency.org.ukHands Off Our NHS

More than £1bn of NHS services are to be opened to competition from private companies and charities.

The government will open up more than £1bn of NHS services to competition from private companies and charities, reported the Guardian on 17th July. It will lead to the “privatisation of the entire health service” it said.

In the first wave, beginning in April, eight NHS areas – including services for back pain, adult hearing services and wheelchair services for children – will be open for competition. If successful, “any qualified provider” will be allowed, from 2013, to deliver more complicated clinical services in maternity and chemotherapy.

Even Labour’s shadow health secretary, John Healey said it was “not about giving more control to patients, but setting up a full-scale market”.The Tory-led government is pushing ahead with its wasteful and unnecessary NHS reorganisation, rather than focusing on improving patient care. Their policies were just a step towards privatisation. The government insists the NHS must save £20bn over the next four years”.

Writing in Labour Briefing, John Healey said: “In its original form the NHS bill was more than three times longer than the 1946 Act that set up the NHS and it has already been subjected to hundreds of amendments”. “Furthermore, the revised Health And Social Care bill is to be put before Parliament the day after the Summer recess, leaving MPs no chance to read the details of the bill before they vote on it”.   

A Unison spokesman added: “Patients will be little more than consumers, as the NHS becomes a market-driven service, with profits first and patients second, and they will be left without the services they need as forward planning in the NHS becomes impossible.”

A spokesman for the British Medical Association questioned the assumption that increasing competition will mean improving choice, and said: “The Government is misleading the public by repeatedly stating that there will be no privatisation of the NHS”.

 From April 2012 eight types of health services will be opened to competition:
• Services for back and neck pain.
• Adult hearing services in the community.
• Continence services (adults and children).
• Diagnostic tests closer to home.
• Wheelchair services (children).
• Podiatry (feet) services.
• Leg ulcer and wound healing.
• Talking Therapies (primary care psychological therapies, adults).

Max Pemberton commented in The Telegraph on July 26th: “There are 15 clauses that will allow private companies to buy and asset-strip NHS facilities. This means that in these areas the NHS will no longer exist. Sure, the logo will still be there, but the NHS will no longer be national, any more than British Telecom is”. “The health secretary and the Prime Minister assure us the NHS will not be privatised when the legislation they are pushing through explicitly suggests otherwise”.

 

Labour Briefing – The Privatisation of NHS
https://suacs.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/labour-briefing-the-privatisation-of-nhs.pdf

 

 

British Medical Journal: The Privatisation of NHS
https://suacs.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/bmj-the-privatisation-of-nhs.pdf

The latest in a series of Save Our Services in Surrey meetings was held at Staines Community Centre on 3rd March.

The meeting was considerably smaller than previous meetings, but a very positive one. Although it was called at short notice, people still braved the mid-week freezing conditions. Most people were new faces, which was especially welcome.

Five of those attending the meeting, came from the newly constituted West Surrey branch of the Revolution Socialist Youth group. Revolution has been growing throughout the country with several new groups springing up. ‘Revo’s increasing popularity stems from its principled response to the cuts in education and rises to tuition fees. Revo were the main organisers of the Days Of Action against fees and cuts last year. It was Revo members in the Campaign Against Fees And Cuts that initially called for them.http://www.socialistrevolution.org/

Protest with REVO on the March 26th TUC march against cuts. Join the student feeder march outside the University of London Union, Mallet Street. (Nearest tube Goodge Street)

Unfortunately The VOAG was late for the meeting, but arrived in time to catch Craig from the Royal Holloway Anti-Cuts Alliance in Egham, give a report on their latest developments.  The Royal Holloway Anti-Cuts Alliance is one of several anti-cuts groups affiliated to Save Our Services in Surrey. Craig, who is the SOSiS Youth Officer, spoke about the violent eviction of an occupation staged in the Central London campus of the Royal Holloway University.

Craig went on to speak about the University’s clamp down on the anti-cuts movement on his own campus in Egham. The Anti-Cuts group is being intimidated and slurred by the University authorities. Police and security have entered their meetings; and the university has even tried to label them as racists. The University recently banned a meeting of theirs about the conflicts in Palestine. It featured eye witnesses who had recently been volunteering on social and economic projects in the West Bank.

Craig announced his candidature for the NUS Executive Officer for Campaigns; and went on to tell the meeting that Daniel, another member of Royal Holloway Anti-Cuts Alliance, had been elected to be their next Union President. The VOAG wishes both of them every success!

Paul, a SOSiS and Surrey Unison officer, spoke to the meeting about the coaches he had booked for the 26th March TUC demonstration against the cuts in London.

Coaches have been booked and subsidised by Surrey Unison. They will leave from Guildford, Woking, Redhill, and Staines. Tickets are only £2.00 Rtn. Buy a ticket on-line at www.saveourservic.es through the secure paypal, or email:guildfordagainstfeesandcuts@yahoo.co.uk

The VOAG doesn’t need to emphasise how important this demonstration is. It will be truly historic. There are more than two hundred Unison coaches coming from the South East region alone. http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000336574245#!/event.php?eid=165255660190758

Chris from Save Our Services introduced the idea of distributing a pledge to all Labour Council candidates in the forthcoming election. The VOAG thinks this is an excellent idea. The candidates will be invited to sign the pledge, and join an on-line list of candidates who have signed.

A member of the PCS announced her members at the DWP were balloting in Surrey for strike action.

A Save Our Services street stall was arranged for 19th March at Staines High Street. And the meeting was told about a rally due to take place in Redhill, March 24th. This is being organised by Redhill Against Cuts, another group affiliated to Save Our Services in Surrey.

For a list of Save Our Services in Surrey events go to the events tab on the Guildford Against Fees and Cuts Facebook page. http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000336574245#!/pages/Guildford-Against-Fees-Cuts/167151436659040 
Or for a diary of activists’ events in Surrey and the surrounding counties, click the Events Calendar on the right hand column on this page.

“The unions should no longer criticise from the sidelines but recall their membership in special conferences and discuss how to mobilise to defend every single hospital and NHS unit, and make sure this Health Bill cannot be implemented”. 

Or go down to the summary

The publication of the Health and Social Care Bill last month heralds dramatic changes for the NHS, which will affect the way public health and social care are provided in the UK. Those changes alone will have huge impact, but it is the formation of an NHS Commissioning Board, and GP commissioning consortia, that will once and for all remove the word “national” from the health service in England. The result, due to come into force in 2013, will be the catastrophic break up of the NHS.

Out go strategic health authorities and 152 primary care trusts and in come several hundred general practitioner consortiums, responsible for commissioning £80bn of NHS care from “any willing provider.” This means Privatisation!

Putting general practitioners (GPs) in charge of commissioning health services for their patients is similar, in some respects, to the fundholding experiment in the 1990s. The principle then was that GPs controlled the budgets to buy the specialist care their patients needed. Fundholding took years to implement, but evidence on short-term or long-term benefits for patients is lacking. In the current Bill, health outcomes, including prevention of premature death, will be the responsibility of the NHS Commissioning Board, which has been asked to publish a business plan and annual reports on progress. That business plan is urgently needed to allow transparent appraisal of how the Board plans to monitor patients’ outcomes.

The UK coalition Government has now been in power for about 8 months. Neither the Conservatives nor the Liberal Democrats included the formation of an NHS Commissioning Board, or GPs’ commissioning consortia, in their health manifestos. There was no mention of their health plans in either of the parties pledges and the plans were not mentioned in the coalition agreement. However, less than eight weeks after the election, an outline emerged in the white paper “Equity and excellence: liberating the NHS.

The speed of the introduction of the Health and Social Care Bill is surprising, especially given the absence of relevant detail in the health manifestos. The Conservatives promised, if elected, to scrap “politically motivated targets that have no clinical justification” and called themselves the “party of the NHS” — a commitment that seems particularly hollow now.

The NHS was unsurprisingly absent from the 2010 election campaign because satisfaction levels with the NHS were at an all time high, and for most of the electorate the NHS was a non-issue. In the words of Simon Stevens, president of global health at United Health Group, a company that stands to benefit from the reforms,“The inconvenient truth is that on most indicators the English NHS is probably performing better than ever.”

The House of Commons Health Committee’s report, “Commissioning 2011” points out that the proposed changes are to be implemented at the same time as annual efficiency savings of 4% over four years. The report says,“The scale of changes is without precedent in NHS history; and there is no known example of such a feat being achieved by any other healthcare system in the world. ”To pull off either of these challenges would therefore be breathtaking; to believe that you could manage both of them at once is deluded. Since its establishment in July, 1948, the aim of the NHS has been to offer a comprehensive service to improve health and prevent illness. Health care for all, for free, has been the common ethos and philosophy throughout the NHS. On July 3, 1948, in an editorial entitled “Our Service”, The Lancet commented: “Now that everyone is entitled to full medical care, the doctor can provide that care without thinking of his own profit or his patient’s loss, and can allocate his efforts more according to medical priority. The money barrier has of course protected him against people who do not really require help, but it has also separated him from people who really do.”

Now, GPs will return to the market place and will decide what care they can afford to provide for their patients, and who will be the provider. The emphasis will move from clinical need (GPs’ forte) back to cost (not what GPs were trained to evaluate). The ethos will become that of the individual providers, and will differ accordingly throughout England, replacing the philosophy of a genuinely national health service.  As it stands, the UK Government’s new Bill spells the end of the NHS.

Moving to consortiums will incur the costs of transition in addition to their recurring costs. On the basis of past National Audit Office data, the government has put the cost of the NHS reorganisation at £2-3bn. The white paper’s key financial pledge was to reduce the NHS’s management costs by more than 45%. GP consortiums would replace primary care trusts, which have administrative costs of over a billion pounds a year (for a population of 51 million) The potential consortiums have learnt that their running costs will be capped at between £25 and £35 per head of population which equals around 1.5billion a year (based on a £30 cap). So where’s the saving?

The government’s recent “bonfire of the quangos” provides an instructive example of how a rush job doesn’t necessarily guarantee the best outcome. Earlier this month, the parliamentary select committee on public administration criticised the axing of 192 public bodies and the merging of 118 more as poorly managed. It also said that the government’s NHS plans would not deliver significant cost savings or better accountability—two of the government’s key aims. The committee’s chairman said that,“The whole process was rushed and poorly handled and should have been thought through a lot more.”

Rationalising a few hundred arm’s length bodies hardly compares with turning the NHS upside down, yet the proposed timescale for the health reforms is dizzying. The bill promises that all general practices will be part of consortiums by April 2012, yet it took six years for 56% of general practices to become fundholders after the introduction of the internal market.

The health secretary has made much of these changes being evolutionary rather than revolutionary. People “woefully overestimate the scale of the change,” he said. After all, practice based commissioning, choice of provider, an NHS price list, and foundation trusts already exist. But a week later came the revelation that hospitals would be allowed to undercut the NHS tariff to increase their business. Health economists queued up to say what a terrible idea this was, citing evidence that it would lead to a race to the bottom on price, which would threaten quality. Taken with the opening up of NHS contracts to European competition law, it was the last piece of evidence needed to convince critics that the government was unleashing a storm of creative destruction onto the NHS, with the imperative: compete or die.

Regardless of the true motivation behind the governments plans, such radical reorganisations always adversely affect service performance. They are a huge distraction from the real mission of the NHS, “to deliver and improve the quality of healthcare” that can absorb a massive amount of managerial and clinical time.

With an estimated one billion pounds of redundancy money in their pockets, many of those made redundant in the reorganisation and “efficiency savings” of the NHS are likely to be employed by the new GP consortiums in much their same roles. It raises the question: if GP commissioning turns out to be simply primary care trust commissioning done by GPs, aren’t there less disruptive routes to this destination?

Meanwhile, government cuts haven’t gone away. Although the impact assessment of the new bill calculates that savings will have covered the costs of transition by 2012-13, the reorganisation will not have made any savings to contribute to the £15-£20bn efficiency savings the government requires from the NHS by 2014-15.

 East Sussex GPs Oppose Consotia
A recent survey of East Sussex GPs, conducted by the BMA found that more than 70 per cent of them fear patient care will suffer when changes to the NHS are given the go-ahead. The vast majority of GPs surveyed slammed government plans to put GP consortia in charge of health care. Just 7.7 per cent of respondents were convinced that GP consortia will be up to the task.

Although 58 per cent of the GPs believe too much money is wasted on bureaucracy in the NHS, just one in ten GPs approved government proposals to hand purchasing power to GPs. Under government plans, GP consortia will replace the East Sussex Downs and Weald Primary Care Trust by 2013 and will be responsible for buying 80 per cent of health services.

Dr Michael von Fraunhofer, of the Eastbourne consortium steering committee, said local consortia could be hamstrung with more than £30 million in debt from the outgoing PCT. He warned: ‘This will cripple patient care and the blame will fall on GPs unfairly. No matter how good, dynamic or inventive we are, we will be making massive cuts in choice and services just to stay afloat.’
Private Health Care Company, Care UK 
Meanwhile, private health firm, Care UK has won a £53m prison hospitals contract, despite an NHS bid offering a better service. The company has won the contract to run health services at eight jails in north east England, with its cheaper, lower quality bid. About 200 nurses’ jobs and pay could be under threat. Glenn Turp, of the Royal College of Nursing, said he was worried about infection control as Care UK ‘had no plans in place’.

An NHS executive who lost the contract, Les Morgan, sent an angry email to the Health Commissioning Unit which decides who should run healthcare at the eight jails. Morgan wrote: ‘Our bid was judged better on quality, delivery and risk. ‘We are keen to understand the large difference in scoring on price.’ Care UK’s then boss John Nash and wife Caroline donated £200,000 to the Tories before the general election, including £21,000 to Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s private office.

BMA Discusses Strike Action
BMA boss, Dr Hajioff said, The British Medical Association will put ‘absolutely everything’ on the table including strike action when members determine their response to the government’s NHS Health and Social Care Bill. His comments come as health unions are planning further protests against plans by Barts and The London NHS Trust to cut 635 posts to save £56m over two years. This includes the loss of 250 nursing jobs and a 100 beds.

Similar plans are taking place all over Britain. The Royal Surrey in Guildford has already seen 400 redundancies and the loss of beds. BMA Council member Anna Athow said in a recent interview: “‘The Health Bill aims to accelerate the plans of the last government to physically close and destroy hospitals and make their staff redundant on a massive scale, in order to privatise the NHS”.

She continued; “The unions should no longer criticise from the sidelines but recall their membership in special conferences and discuss how to mobilise to defend every single hospital and NHS unit, and make sure this Health Bill cannot be implemented”. “The recalled Special Representative Meeting of the BMA on March 15 should discuss all options in this campaign. Hospitals must be occupied by local staff and campaigners in Councils of Action to stop them closing.’

In Summary   
1. Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care Bill will encourage ’any willing provider’ to cherry pick profitable slices of NHS services. It’s the biggest-ever privatisation of health care anywhere in the world,

 2. The Bill will turn the NHS into a free market, cost billions to implement, and be far more unequal in its provision of services than the current system.

 3. GP consortia, with their budgets squeezed to create £20 billion of savings will have to restrict access to hospital care.

 4. GP consortia will have to employ private management consultants, who are the only people to have welcomed Lansley’s plans.

5. Patients will be even less informed as existing public bodies are replaced by local GP consortia, that function in secret sessions, and a remote national NHS Commissioning Board.

6. Health care services are to be privatised, with EU competition laws forcing GPs to put any service out to tender.

7. All limits on the money Foundation Trusts hospitals can earn from private medicine are to be scrapped. Hospitals will then prioritise attracting wealthy private patients.

8. Price competition is to be introduced in clinical services, despite warnings that this will undermine the quality of care.

9. The limited ’scrutiny’ proposals are a fraud: GP consortia and the Commissioning Board will take their decisions in secret, and are not even obliged to go through the motions of consultation.

10. The Bill is opposed by the health unions and the TUC, the majority of GPs, and virtually every organisation of health professionals, including the Royal College of GPs and the BMA.

That’s why Lansley must be stopped. It’s time for urgent political action to Kill Lansley’s Bill.
Read: “Kill Lansley’s Bill 10 good reasons” from the PCS Union. 

Save Our NHS Facebook Group
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Save-Our-NHS/142561392425826?v=wall

Protest To Save The NHS on 9th March          
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Save-Our-NHS/142561392425826?v=wall#!/event.php?eid=176583299053096

Don’t forget: 26th March. THE BIG ONE: TUC DEMO AGAINST THE CUTS.
Coaches leaving Guildford. Only £2.00 Rtn. Click link for details.
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Save-Our-NHS/142561392425826?v=wall#!/event.php?eid=178381258861986
or visit www.saveourservic.es

The Poverty Premium –
It’s not cheap being poor

It is a shocking fact that families on a low income are still paying more for their basic goods and services than better-off families says a Save the Children report published this week. Save the Children has calculated that this annual ‘poverty premium’ can amount to more than £1,280 for a typical low-income family. Moreover, the poverty premium has risen by over £280 since Save the Children’s original research was conducted in 2007.

The poverty premium
The poverty premium is a notional extra cost that people on lower incomes can pay for goods and services, compared with the cost that is paid for the same goods and services by higher-income families.

Their report sets out the scale of the poverty premium and focuses particularly on the extra cost of gas and electricity bills, which account for 20% of the premium. Of all the elements of the poverty premium, the cost of gas and electricity to keep a home warm is an expense that no family can avoid. There is a clear link between living in cold, damp conditions for long periods and significant health risks. Families who cannot afford to pay the cost of heating their home adequately are putting their children’s health at risk says the report.

All children have the right to the best health possible, yet the evidence in Save the Children’s report shows how families on a low income struggle to pay for their gas and electricity and frequently compromise the warmth of their homes to reduce their bills. Of those who are fuel poor, 16.1% are families with children aged under 16, up from 11.8% in 2003. Many of these families will not be eligible for the government’s proposed Warm Home Discount.

The highest charges for gas and electricity are paid by those families who have a prepayment meter or who pay by standard credit. Prepayment meters are often installed for families on a low income who want to budget weekly or have been in debt. If families on a low income who pay the highest tariffs for gas and electricity- because they use payment meters- were charged the same amount as families who pay by direct debit, they would save, on average, over £250 a year. Save the Children is calling for all industries to ensure that the poorest do not pay more.

Low-income families shouldn’t be penalised for being poor. To ensure a fairer system for all vulnerable families, the report calls for all energy companies to provide a fixed rebate under the Warm Home Discount for families on a low income with children, using receipt of Child Tax Credit and income below £16,190 as a proxy for fuel poverty. (£16,190 is the first income threshold for entitlement to Child Tax Credit only.)

Save the Children is calling for The Department for Work and Pensions and the energy suppliers to run a pilot program to assess the feasibility of data-sharing, to allow direct payment of rebates to low-income families; to raise awareness of their rebates by promoting it to all customers; and to provide adequate notification of price increases to prepayment meter customers.The cost of living for low income families
Rising costs for low-income families comes at a time when the government is committed to cutting the welfare budget and public services. Families on low incomes are disproportionately reliant on welfare and public services, and consequently cuts in both areas of government spending will have serious impacts on the poorest. This new financial austerity comes on top of existing difficulties that low-income families have to overcome to make ends meet. It is mainly those on low incomes who tend to be unable to access favourable payment terms, whether for household or personal items they need to buy, fuel they need to purchase or loans they need to secure.

For many families on low incomes, the amount they either earn (from low-paid work) or receive in benefits is not enough to cover their basic living costs. A couple working full-time with two children needs £29,731 a year, or £402.83 per week (excluding money for rent and childcare), to afford a basic but acceptable standard of living. The same family on benefits will only receive £235.29 per week, which is 62% of the amount they need. Church Action on Poverty’s recent research report has provided further evidence of the difficulties families are having in meeting basic living costs. The report concludes that families on a low income need to borrow to survive.

Many low-income households choose to manage their budget in cash to ensure they have control over their total spending, which is a rational, safe approach that limits risk and minimises exposure to unexpected costs and outgoings. Many households (690,000 in 2007/8) do not have access to a bank account or other banking facilities that would allow them to pay a range of bills by direct debit, which is often the cheapest payment option for products and services. Some low-income families have a poor credit history, which means they have no access to affordable, low or no interest credit. The credit that they can access is therefore charged at the highest interest rates in the market.

The cost of credit
Households with a low or variable income often have a poor or non-existent credit history and are therefore unable to access reasonably priced credit from mainstream lenders (banks and building societies). Often the only option available is from commercial lenders (rent-to-buy, catalogues, doorstep lenders) who charge high interest rates on goods with a mark-up on retail prices. The annual percentage rate (APR) charged by commercial lenders can vary from 50–1,000%, compared with less than 30% APR charged by a mainstream lender. A basic household cooker can cost a family without access to low-interest credit a total of £669, more than two and a half times the cost of the same cooker bought outright.

The cost of borrowing
Low-income families with a poor credit history who need to borrow cash do not have the option of using a 0% bank overdraft facility or securing a low-interest bank or credit card loan. The only options available are high cost, such as doorstep lenders. A £500 cash loan from a doorstep lender could cost the borrower £750.

The cost of quick money: pawnbrokers, payday lenders and cheque cashing
A household may need to be able to access cash at short notice, but for those without a bank account this could mean using pawnbrokers, payday lenders or buy-back stores. A loan from a pawnbroker of £100 over six months will cost between 5% and 12% per month (equivalent to an APR of 70% to 100%), making the total cost of the loan between £170 and £200. Households without a bank account who need to cash a £200 cheque from a third party quickly will be charged a fixed fee and interest. For example, a £200 cheque would cost £12 to cash at Cash Converters.

The cost of insurance
Those on lower incomes often pay more for insurance. Insurance premiums are calculated in accordance with the risk of an event, and those on low incomes tend to live in areas where there is a higher risk of car crime and property theft. Families on a low income who live in more deprived areas can pay on average 48% more for car insurance and 93% more for home contents insurance.

The cost of gas and electricity
The extra cost of gas and electricity for low-income families accounts for 20% of the poverty premium. This significant additional cost arises because many low-income families pay for their gas and electricity using prepayment meters, which attract one of the highest tariffs. The lowest tariffs are offered by energy suppliers to customers who can either pay by direct debit, online, or who are eligible for the supplier’s social tariff. Low-income families who do not have a bank account cannot make direct debit payments. In addition, the eligibility criteria for the social tariffs of five of the ‘big six’ energy suppliers do not include families with children. In the last six years gas and electricity bills have more than doubled, and it is predicted that these increases will continue. Any across the board percentage increases in the cost of gas or electricity tariffs will have the greatest impact on those paying the highest tariffs – in other words, those using prepayment meters, including many low-income families. It is therefore likely that the poorest will be hardest hit by increases in energy costs.

Families on a low income with children can be affected by a number of difficulties when it comes to paying their energy bills. In addition to having to use payment methods that incur an expensive tariff and not being eligible for the current option for cheaper fuel under the social tariff, they often:
• Accumulate debt because they cannot afford their energy bills
• Are less aware of their energy use and how it is charged
• Lack access to information that would allow them to identify and secure cheaper energy deals.

Fuel poverty
The consequence of high fuel costs for those on a low income is fuel poverty – defined as being where households have to spend more than 10% of their income on fuel. Ofgem estimates that there are 5 million people in fuel poverty in the UK, representing about 18% of all households. In the UK, 7% of lone-parent households and 9.9% of couples with children live in fuel poverty. No parent wants to put their children’s health at risk, but figures for the UK showed that 5% of children were living in accommodation with inadequate heating. Cold living conditions increase children’s susceptibility to illness, compromise healthy weight gain and are detrimental to children’s respiratory health. A recent study has shown that respiratory problems were more than twice as prevalent in children who lived for three years or longer in homes that lack affordable warmth (15%), compared with children who had never lived in homes that were hard to heat during the previous five years (7%). In addition, it has shown that the mental health of adolescents can also suffer if homes are poorly heated. Families who can only afford to heat one room risk reducing their children’s education attainment if there is no warm, peaceful space to do homework. When inadequate heating is improved, research has recorded a marked reduction in the number of days pupils have off school. The government recognised the link between fuel poverty, inadequately heated homes and poor health and introduced the Fuel Poverty Strategy 2001.

The Strategy aims to eradicate fuel poverty by 2016 and “to ensure that by 2010 no older householder, no family with children, and no householder who is disabled or has a long-term illness need risk ill health due to a cold home” (p.10). It is unlikely that the government will hit its targets, largely because of the unprecedented increases in gas and electricity bills between 2003 and 2009. In response to these developments, the government has announced an independent review of the fuel poverty target and definitions. The introduction of a social tariff was one scheme to tackle fuel poverty. It has been partially successful in reducing the cost of gas and electricity for vulnerable groups but its impact has been focused on pensioner households, leaving other vulnerable groups, including low-income families with children, still paying relatively high fuel costs. As stated above, only one of the major six energy suppliers includes families on a low income with children in their eligibility criteria. So, in effect, a family on a low income that is eligible for a social tariff from one energy supplier could be denied the social tariff of another. Save the Children has conducted a qualitative research study that asked a group of families who are affected by the poverty premium about their experiences of paying for their gas and electricity. The research shows that families interviewed were not aware of the existence of social tariffs; had only a limited knowledge of their own tariff and energy costs, and had no appreciation of the information available to help them secure cheaper energy bills. Without the information, or access to the best deal, they are left paying more than they need to and are yet more vulnerable to fuel poverty.
Warm Home Discount

The government’s consultation paper, Warm Home Discount proposes that in England, Scotland and Wales, the social tariff is replaced by a fixed rebate on electricity bills that will be sent directly to a core group of pensioners on pension credit (with the scope of eligibility increasing between 2011 and 2015) using a data-matching system between the energy companies and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The value of the rebate will increase from £130 to £140 by 2015. The consultation paper also proposes that the same fixed rebate should be given to a broad group of consumers who are vulnerable to fuel poverty. Energy companies will be given discretion to decide which of their customers should be included within the broader group.

Under the previous voluntary system, energy companies were given discretion to decide which of their customers would benefit from the social tariff. As already discussed, the outcome was that only one of the largest six energy companies ensured low-income families with children were eligible for their social tariff. The current proposals for Warm Home Discount risk repeating the same inequity. Energy companies could still decide not to include low-income families with children within their broader discretionary group. The result would be that families who struggle to pay their fuel bills will again miss out on financial support. Save the Children’s report calls for the government to ensure that low-income families with children are included within the group that receives the fixed rebate. This would lower the cost of fuel for these families and thereby reduce their poverty premium. Families with lower fuel bills would be able to heat their homes adequately without fear of going into debt. We propose that families with an annual income below £16,190 and in receipt of Child Tax Credit should be eligible for the rebate so that the mistake of leaving children out, made under the social tariff system, is not repeated. A pilot data-sharing project could be undertaken for families in receipt of Child Tax Credit, in the same way that a pilot project was run to establish the feasibility of data-sharing for pensioners on Pension Credit between the DWP and the energy companies.

Prepayment meters
A prepayment meter is a system that requires cash to be paid before energy can be consumed. Some meters take cards or tokens on to which cash can be credited. The tariffs charged for prepayment meters are more expensive than direct debit or online tariffs. Yet despite the relatively high cost, the majority of families on prepayment meters have an annual income less than £17,500. In Britain, 13% of households pay for their gas and/or electricity using prepayment meters, with almost two-thirds of these households using prepayment meters to pay for both gas and electricity. More than half of households on prepayment meters receive a means-tested benefit or benefits for disability. Ofgem’s own investigation found that prepayment meter customers were paying a premium that was greater than the extra costs involved in supplying the energy via the meter.

To ensure that the tariff for prepayment meters was cost-reflective, Ofgem introduced new licensing conditions for energy suppliers. Since September 2009 the new conditions have required energy suppliers to ensure that the price paid by prepayment meter customers reflects the cost of this form of supply, when compared with direct debit and standard credit tariffs. Ofgem have concluded that the new conditions have led to the average premium for prepayment meters compared with direct debit falling to £69 from £111 since October 2007. Nevertheless, Save the Children’s investigation into the cost of the poverty premium based on a real-life example revealed a differential of £253.

The prepayment meter can be an effective debt management system for the energy company because it allows the amount owing (or a portion of it) to be taken from future cash deposits into the meter, before calculating the remaining credit available. In 2007, more than 350,000 pre-payment meters were installed; 63% of these were put in place to recover debt. Some families who have tried to change from a prepayment meter to an alternative cheaper payment method have found their plan effectively blocked because the energy companies charge them a deposit of £250. This additional cost would prohibit many low income families from switching. The high tariffs associated with prepayment meters result in high fuel bills for low-income families and these in turn can lead to debt. Despite trying to budget for fuel costs, many families find themselves in debt, particularly during the winter.

A number of families featured in Save the Children’s report say they put double the amount into the prepayment meter in the winter compared with the summer. Families who try to avoid debt describe a range of approaches to minimise their energy use, many of which amount to self disconnection or self-rationing. These can have a significant negative impact on the health and wellbeing of families.

Some families have to bear the cost of using the ‘emergency‘ facility. In a worst-case scenario, a household may find that it is on a prepayment meter but is not eligible for the social tariff offered by local energy suppliers. The household may then find itself also paying off arrears from a (previously unknown) price increase, as well as paying back debt accrued from previous bills. In addition, it may be paying the charge to use the ‘emergency’ facility. The scale of these costs for families on a low income is significant.

In 2009 there were 502,631 customers repaying electricity debt through prepayment meters and 365,036 customers repaying gas debt through prepayment. Once an energy company has installed a prepayment meter to recoup debt from a family, it can be very difficult for the family to change to another payment method as a way of reducing their energy bills. Paula, mother of one, explained that she had got into arrears of approximately £800 when she was paying quarterly bills and the energy company had installed a prepayment meter to collect the arrears at a rate of £3.50 per week. Lana, her partner and three children had had a prepayment meter installed and reported that, “of every £10 which went on, £3 went towards paying arrears”. Matt explained that he had topped their gas up by £10 the previous day; after their arrears were taken off they were left with £3. This allowed “the four children to have a bath, and us to have the heating on for one and a half hours at tea time to warm the house up”.

Awareness and consumer choice
The current energy market works best for customers who are aware of their energy use and charges and who can navigate the information energy companies provide to minimise their costs. Informed consumers are able to switch between suppliers to get the cheapest deal, and price comparison websites can make this process more straightforward. However, research reveals that lack of awareness stops many families from accessing the best prices.

This lack of awareness is compounded by a lack of access to information, which is primarily through the Internet. Many low-income families do not have Internet access. Although 70% of households in the UK had access to the Internet by the end of March 2009, 50% of households with an income below £11,500 did not have Internet access, compared with 5% of households with an income of over £30,000. A lack of awareness and lack of access to information restricts consumer choice. Price comparison websites show that customers who are able to pay by direct debit from a bank account can secure the lowest cost for their energy. This price difference for families who cannot pay by direct debit amounts to an extra £250 a year.