We had a very successful NHS 75th birthday celebration and protest on 1st July – a big thanks to every one who supported it. On 5th July we also took our giant birthday card packed out with messages of public support for NHS staff to Ealing Hospital, to share with them and patients too.
When the NHS was launched by then Minister of Health, Aneurin Bevan, on 5th July 1948, it was based on three core principles. These were; that the NHS should be comprehensive and meet the needs of everyone; that it should be universal and free to all at point of delivery and based on clinical need, not ability to pay.
Whilst these core principles have been undermined by Government underfunding and privatisation, we believe they are just as relevant and necessary in 2023 as they were in 1948 and well worth fighting to restore.
GIANT BIRTHDAY CARD – A BIG HIT WITH STAFF AND PATIENTS
On Wednesday 5th July, the actual 75th birthday, we took our Giant Birthday Card to Ealing Hospital. As you can see it looks really impressive with all the supportive messages for staff which we had collected at our street stalls.
We also gave out leaflets and chocolates (not very healthy I know) and chatted to staff who really seemed to appreciate the support. Our photos have also been shared widely on Social Media and are now on the ‘Keep Our NHS Public’ website too.
EALING MENTAL HEALTH BEDS – NOT GONE QUITE YET!
As our readers will know ALL of Ealing’s Acute Adult Mental Health beds are threatened with permanent closure. The 31 beds in Hope & Horizon Wards were ‘temporarily’ closed during the pandemic and replaced with just 18 beds at the Lakeside Ward in Hounslow. This means seriously ill patients and their families have to travel to wards based in Charing Cross and West Middlesex hospitals.
Most of the £2.6 million of revenue spending on the two closed wards is no longer being spent within the Borough and the Trust has diverted the monies to fund services like the Health Based Places of Safety in Hounslow and Hammersmith.
The West London NHS Trust had hoped to slip these bed cuts through under the radar, with a low key public engagement exercise, but Ealing Save Our NHS launched a campaign around it, including detailed objections and a 1000 strong petition and our sister campaign Hammersmith and Fulham Save Our NHS pitched in too.
Thanks go to Ealing MPs Virendra Sharma and Rupa Huq, who also registered their objections, as did Hammersmith and Fulham Council (but not Ealing Council – we don’t understand why).
Campaigners have now raised our concerns with the North West London Integrated Care Board, which holds the purse strings for the NHS in North West London. We pointed out that there was no overall Mental Health Strategy for North West London, and yet dozens of beds were being axed in both Ealing and at the Gordon Hospital in Westminster (by Central & North West London Trust), which were also ‘temporarily’ closed during the pandemic.
Both of the NW London Trusts responsible for these closure plans implausibly claim that it’s not a money saving exercise and that the beds are not needed – but it’s been revealed that mental health beds in North West London are currently at 99-105% occupancy (the standard is 85%) and that 12 hour waits in A&E for mental health patients have increased.
So where are we now? The Integrated Care Board have told West London Trust to put their Ealing bed closure plans on hold, whilst a Mental Health Strategy is drawn up. Meanwhile a full public consultation will take place on the planned closure of Gordon Hospital, which campaigners are preparing for, especially in the inner London Boroughs most directly affected.
Thanks to everyone who’s supported this campaign – it’s far from over of course as we believe both Trusts have every intention of pressing ahead with their closure plans, if they can.
HEALTH SECRETARY STEVE BARCLAY GOES ON TOUR WITH ‘VIRTUAL HOSPITALS’
In their 2019 election manifesto the Tories promised they would build “40 new hospitals” by 2030. We now know only eleven were actually brand new and a number would just involve refurbishment or alteration of existing buildings.
Following a recent report by the National Audit Office, the Government has been forced to admit that eight of the original group will not be completed by the 2030 deadline, which includes an urgently needed rebuild of St Mary’s Hospital and refurbishment of Charing X and Hammersmith Hospitals.
MPs have been invited to a “drop-in information event” hosting by Health Secretary, Steve Barclay in Parliament In his letter to MPs, he says – “Using the virtual reality headsets, videos and model, you will be able to see the proposed design concepts for new hospitals.”
The virtual tours will also include a “walk-through of the typical patient journey from clinical area to recovery”.
He added: “We will also be commencing a roadshow of events across England over the summer to bring these resources to staff, patients and other local stakeholders so that they can see the plans for themselves.”
Presumably the big brains in the Department of Health have decided that seeing pictures of hospitals are as good as the real thing – what a waste of money and an insult to the public’s intelligence!
You can read The Daily Mirror’s article here
THE SCANDAL OF CHILDREN DENIED DENTAL TREATMENT
Shocking new figures have revealed that in some parts of England children are waiting on average 18 months for dental procedures under general anaesthetic, primarily tooth extractions. In some cases they are waiting years in agony and delays in treatment mean many are unnecessarily losing teeth.
In a recent survey more than three quarters of School Nurses and Dentists reported seeing an increase in children’s tooth decay or damage.
About 27,000 children were on waiting lists in January 2023 for specialist dental care assessments procedures. This includes children with special needs, children with physical or learning disabilities, children living in foster homes, children who are homeless, and children who are on “at risk” registers.
Eddie Crouch, the chair of the British Dental Association, said: “Children are waiting in agony thanks to the indifference successive governments have shown to dentistry”.
Of course it’s not just children that are struggling to access a dentist – DIY dentistry has become a norm in some areas as people struggle to find a NHS dentist. A recent House of Commons report revealed that 90% of dental practices were not accepting new NHS patients!
There are many reasons for this crisis , the main one being the Dentists Contract which means they are grossly underpaid for carrying out NHS work.
As more and more people turn up at A&Es its also an issue for the NHS as a whole. And, dentists don’t just fix our teeth but also spot cancers, diabetes and other oral health problems.
Following our recent discussion on the Crisis in Dentistry, ESON has raised the lack of access to NHS dentists with NW London NHS, who have agreed to discuss Dentistry at their next meeting – a start at least.
MIGRANT WORKERS TO FACE A BIG HIKE IN NHS CHARGES:
After months of refusing to negotiate with junior doctors over pay, Rishi Sunak’s government has made another ‘final offer’ of 6 per cent with a one off lump sum – still well under the rate of inflation. They propose to partly fund this pay rise and that of other public sector workers by significantly increasing the cost of migrant visa charges and migrants’ access to the NHS.
The ‘Immigration Health Surcharge’ that many migrants , including some NHS workers, are required to pay before submitting a visa application – will rise from £624 to £1,035 a year for each person, a 417% increase compared with five years ago. The fee for international students and children will rise from £470 to £776 a year.
However, this fee hike seems to be more about playing politics than raising large amounts of money. Some Tories would like the NHS to charge everyone, so they regard charges for workers from abroad as a step in the right direction.
With migrants required to pay the surcharge up front, the increase means a person coming for five years will face paying £5,175 in health fees alone. These fees are often paid by sponsoring employers, so many are also opposed to the increase.
The BMA has not accepted the Governments final pay offer for doctors and its Chair, Phillip Bamfield said –
“The Immigration Health Surcharge is an additional punitive tax on much needed overseas colleagues. The NHS should be funded from general taxation, not charges that unfairly target individual groups – that’s why we called for abolishing this tax completely.
“Claiming to use it to fund an inadequate pay offer is especially insulting. The Government are pitting the public against each other, targeting one group to fund below-inflation offers for another when this country needs them desperately to help get the NHS back on its feet.