Having forced Gloucestershire health bosses to scrap previous outsourcing plans, through six months of campaigning and Judicial Review proceedings(1), anti-cuts groups across the county have achieved another highly significant breakthrough. Local NHS bosses have finally accepted that the county`s 9 community hospitals and 9 health clinics can remain in the NHS (2). The option of creating a standalone NHS trust is now “exceptionally” back on the table, having previously been ruled out by the Department of Health. In a battle with national repercussions for those fighting NHS privatisation, campaigners are now calling for this and other NHS options to be pursued, without a tender, as has happened in most of the rest of the country.
On Thursday 17th May, campaigners took their calls for genuine consideration of NHS options to the first public meeting of the shadow Clinical Commissioning Group, the organisation created by the Health and Social Care Act, made up of local GPs, which will take over the role of choosing which organisations provide local healthcare services from the PCT in 2013. The Keep Gloucestershire`s NHS Public campaign are asking for anti-privatisation campaigners locally and nationally to rally behind their campaign, and will hold rallies on 16 June across the county (3).
On Wednesday 16th May Jan Stubbings wrote to campaigners admitting that they have a choice regarding whether or not local NHS services are handed to an NHS organisation, or put out to tender (see 3). This latest twist follows a court order reached in February 2012 which forced the PCT to withdraw its plans to outsource hospitals and services to a Community Interest Company outside the NHS (4). Campaigners, who have criticised secrecy and confusion surrounding NHS Gloucestershire‟s plans, are calling for further clarity about which NHS options are being pursued and more commitment to them. They also want a democratic choice on keeping services in the NHS. James Beecher, Chair of local campaign group Stroud Against the Cuts (SATC) said:
“There is no reason why services must be auctioned off. While services remain within the NHS, local health bosses always have a choice to keep them publicly owned and accountable. We can avoid wasting up to half a million pounds on an unnecessary tendering process, exposing our NHS to EU laws and the damaging effects of privatisation.”
Jan Stubbings, Chief Executive of NHS Gloucestershire has written to “stakeholders” that: “We want to make sure that local people have an opportunity to express their views.” Chris Moore of Stroud Against the Cuts responded: “A few booklets and stage managed drop-in sessions with the very people who have pushed the outsourcing so strongly hardly constitutes reasonable public & staff consultation. The people of Gloucestershire, and local NHS staff, deserve a fair, transparent and democratic decision-making process, with a clear choice to keep our local health services in the NHS. We urge people to make their voices heard now”
Chris added: “More private companies in the NHS means huge sums are wasted administering contracts and paying dividends. All private companies, including so-called “social enterprises”, make decisions secretively, divert money to new layers of management and bureaucracy, and away from patient care, which are already suffering from government cuts (5). In Gloucestershire staff numbers have dropped by a quarter, and waiting times are rising. They fragment our NHS and damage the care that patients receive. In Nottingham community health services taken over by a “social enterprise” now provide factsheets instead of hands-on physiotherapy. These are the kind of cuts and worsening care we can expect more of as private companies takeover our NHS.”
Caroline Molloy of SATC said “The support of the people of Gloucestershire and NHS staff for this campaign has forced NHS Gloucestershire management to think again. We will continue to both fight any attempts to privatise our local services, and to join with the national movement to defend our NHS, that has been burgeoning since the passage of the Health and Social Care Act as the strongest assault on our health services yet.”
1. The Judicial Review proceedings led to a court order, a briefing on which is available here: http://keepglosnhspublic.posterous.com/briefing-for-keep-gloucestershires-nhs-public.
2. The recent letters from Jan Stubbings, Chief Executive of NHS Gloucestershire, are available in full here: http://keepglosnhspublic.posterous.com/communication-from-the-board-of-nhs-glouceste. Jan Stubbings also writes that “We need to ensure that whoever runs these community health services in the future can meet the needs of local people, can provide safe, high quality care and treatment and can make the most of the money and resources available”. The overwhelming majority of the public – 4 out of every 5 people nationwide– want health services to remain in the NHS (http://cdn.yougov.com/cumulus_uploads/document/ly9ei68uye/YG-Archives-Pol-ST-results-10-120212.pdf), not go out to private companies. A local survey of doctors showed 83% want services to stay in the NHS, with only 17% wanting a social enterprise and none at all wanting private companies to take over our community health services.
3. Further details of the rallies to be held in Stroud, Gloucester and the Forest of Dean will be announced shortly.
4. Without the Judicial Review legal challenge launched by Michael Lloyd and Leigh Day & Co, and backed by local anti-cuts groups, nine Gloucestershire community hospitals, nine health clinics, and services across Gloucestershire would have been transferred to a private limited company outside the NHS on 1 October 2011, which would have been the largest NHS “spinout” to a “Community Interest Company” in the country. The services that would have been affected included District Nursing, Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy, Specialist Nursing, Out-of-hours medical and nursing services, Pharmacy, Sexual Health and Chlamydia screening, Podiatry, Dental services, Wheelchair services, Musculo-skeletal services, Telehealth and Specialist Domiciliary care were also to be transferred to Gloucestershire Care Services Community Interest Company. Nine community hospitals (Tewkesbury, Stroud, Cirencester, Dilke, Fairford, Lydney, Bourton (Moore Cottage), Moreton, and the new Vale Hospital in Dursley) and nine health clinics (Hesters Way Healthy Living Centre, Beeches Green Stroud, Stonehouse Health Clinic, Cinderford Health Centre, Coleford Health Centre, Lydney Health Centre, Holts Health Centre Newent, Lydbrook Health Centre, Symn Lane Clinic (Wotton-under-Edge) were also part of the plans.
5. In Plymouth, where Australian multinational Serco took on a £140million, 10-year contract to provide helpdesk, ward housekeeping, patient and staff catering, portering and cleaning in September 2009, The GMB union is considering strike action following “drastic” pay cuts, making them “the lowest paid workers” in the city, and a refusal by the company to negotiate with the union