EVERY PICTURE TELLS A STORY

Here’s a shameless plug for the campaign to stop the Americanisation of the NHS. When I told my new-found relative and Blondie keyboard player Matt Katz-Bohen about this just before their Brighton gig last Wednesday night his baffled response was “They (the healthcare corporations) just want to make loads of money and kill everybody!” He was happy for me to publish this photo and his comment.

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I’ve become closely involved with raising CrowdJustice crowdfunding for a legal action on the US-originated Accountable Care Organisations (ACOs) now being introduced and contracted by NHS England. The action against Health Minister Jeremy Hunt is by a group of eminent campaigners led by Professor Allyson Pollock, co-author of the NHS Reinstatement Bill and a mainstay of the Save Our NHS campaign for over 25 years.

They are calling for a judicial review into the lack of the Parliamentary scrutiny and legislation required for the kind of radical restructuring of the NHS that the ACOs involve and also into the lack of proper public information and consultation on them.

Last Friday we raised the £23,000 needed for the legal fees in just 16 hours! What was touching was that the majority of the donations were in the £5 to £25 range, pointing to support from across the social spectrum including many with small means.

999 Call For The NHS are also pursuing a judicial review that challenges the legality of NHS England’s ACO contract which could threaten patient safety and access to comprehensive treatment. They successfully launched a CrowdJustice crowdfunding appeal for their legal action which similarly showed wide-ranging popular support, a testament to their very real ‘street’ origins. It’s a big step in the remarkable journey of this truly indie grassroots campaign group started by working mum Joanna Adams from her Darlington living room.

The twin forces of darkness – the Government and its self-confessedly pro-US Health Minister Jeremy Hunt and NHS England under its former US health insurance corporation senior exec Simon Stevens – now face a triple-barrelled challenge from campaigners (the Guardian ran a substantial piece on its potential impact). This represents a notable step-up in the NHS campaign, a matter of urgency as the contracting of ACOs by NHSE is under way (for an explanation of the NHS Americanisation/ACO threat see my August blog ‘American Pie’).

Apart from helping draft the CrowdJustice appeal my main contribution was to get the legendary Time Out graphic designer Pearce Marchbank to design a great badge logo. “If it needs words to explain it it’s not doing its job,” the maestro pronounced. “It should be like a road sign!” Might it become another of his iconic works? http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/sep/04/london-greatest-design-icons-regents-park-brick-lane-m25.

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GROUNDSWELL: WHOSE NHS? A GRASSROOTS JOURNEY – Part 14 (15 mins) – Will Labour Really Save The NHS?

New episode GROUNDSWELL: WHOSE NHS? A GRASSROOTS JOURNEY – Part 14 (15 mins) Will Labour Really Save The NHS? Hopes rise during the September 24th-27th 2017 Labour Party conference in Brighton. With another General Election possible at any time the conference was a watershed moment under the newly invigorated Corbyn leadership, with an NHS motion described by its proposer Dr Alex Scott-Samuel as “the most important motion on the NHS since 1948”. See why what happened could prove a significant moment in Labour’s commitment to saving the NHS. And wonder yet again at why this went totally unreported in the media.

At one point in filming I found myself having to forsake my filmmaker’s duties to help promote the NHS Reinstatement Bill’s inclusion in the motion using a leaflet I’d composed with 999’s Steve Carne. Having brought the leaflets down to Brighton I was the only available pair of hands on the day to distribute them amongst the voting delegates. With more hands subsequently we managed to get one to almost every voter. It was gratifying to know that they played a part in the outcome of the vote. Watch the viddie!

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GROUNDSWELL: WHOSE NHS? A GRASSROOTS JOURNEY – Part 13 (8 mins) – Turning Points?

New episode of GROUNDSWELL: Turning Points? (8 mins) covering the General Election and the recent Professor Stephen Hawking event. Both were boosts for campaigners but “Will the Labour Party see sense?” asks 999-er Steve (Carne).

Apparently the Guardian likes to keep their letter writers as occasional contributors and rarely allows follow-ups. So I was surprised to have another letter published last week again prompted by the Hawking v Hunt spat.

There were other strong letters from Professor Allyson Pollock and many medics on that page and an articulate demand to the Labour Party on another.

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I WROTE A LETTER – on Stephen Hawking

Professor Stephen Hawking’s recent coming out in The Guardian on the privatisation and Americanisation of the NHS has clearly touched the privatisers’ nerve judging by the speed and vitriol of Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s response. That a figure of Hawking’s standing has publicly raised the ‘Americanisation’ question is a notable moment in the campaign to save the NHS.

A letter I wrote following my filming for GROUNDSWELL at Hawking’s Royal College of Medicine address last Saturday has been published today in The Guardian.

AMERICAN PIE: NHS Privatisation US-style

The more one learns about the plans to ‘transform’ the NHS the more the whole NHS ‘crisis’ appears a gigantic scam for which most of us are going to pay a heavy price. I don’t say it so bluntly in our just completed submissions to TV commissioners for funding of my GROUNDSWELL documentary project. Here’s how I’ve put it to them.

A Brief History Of NHS Privatisation:  Tory grandee Nicholas Ridley’s 1977 report to his party’s Economic Reconstruction Group declared that “A frontal attack (on nationalised industries) is not recommended. Instead the group recommends preparing the industries for partial return to the private sector, more or less by stealth. First we should destroy the statutory monopolies; second we should break them up into smaller units; and third we should apply a whole series of techniques to try and edge them back into the private sector.”

For the NHS this process was started in 1986 with the privatisation of hospital cleaning services. Under Labour as well as Tory governments competition was then introduced into the NHS in the 1990’s with the development of the ‘internal market’ and establishment of hospital ‘trusts’ to operate as commercial entities. The trusts in turn entered into partnerships with private sector operators who undertook responsibility for the building and maintenance of hospitals as Private Finance Initiatives (PFI’s).

The floodgates for finally converting the tax-funded NHS to a public/private US-style enterprise were opened by the 2012 Health and Social Care Act. This lifted the cap on private earnings for NHS Hospital Trusts to 49% of their budget income. Hospitals could use the public’s ‘brand loyalty’ to the NHS to attract patients to their private services. Swindon’s Great Western Hospital could advertise; “We are in the unique position of being able to offer high quality healthcare in a premium environment, alongside the safety of the specialist services associated with the NHS.” Patients at the private facility would enjoy shorter waiting times.

In 2014 NHS England’s new CEO Simon Stevens (a former CEO of US healthcare provider/health insurance giant United Health) launched plans, drawn up with mega US business consultants like McKinsey and United Health subsidiary Optum, to ‘reconfigure’ the NHS by 2020.

Reducing the public’s hospital usage is the plans’ central aim. This underlies the planned reductions of 144 Accident & Emergency units to just 40-70, the substantial reductions in hospital beds for public patients, and the promotion of family and community-dependent homecare and at-home online consultations.

GP services, with their long-term, personal doctor/patient relationships, are being reduced and replaced by cheaper, semi-qualified, impersonal US-style ‘physician assistants’ and pharmacists. Rationing GP and publicly available services adds to the increasing delays and accessibility in treatment for public patients and creates an NHS ‘crisis’ such as the much-publicised ‘bed blocking’.

All this pressures the public to accept privatisation and to use expensive private providers and private health insurance companies.

Hi-tech ‘solutions’ using apps and online appointments services are now offered to provide speedy but costly medical attention and treatment from private sector GP’s. GP family practices are merging into business federations to be taken over by large private groups like Virgin Healthcare. GPs will move from the family practice model to a system of commercially-driven super-clinics called Multi-Speciality Community Providers (a US import).

The running and provision of public health services will be undertaken by private companies selected by Accountable Care Organisations (also a US import) comprised of NHS and public bodies partnered with the private sector.

The NHS’ fragmentation, as envisaged by Ridley, and the deliberate underfunding and squeezing of NHS and GP services – by 2020 the cuts will amount to over £30 billion – makes the NHS appear ‘unworkable’. This is central to justifying the dismantling of what was once the cheapest and most cost-effective public healthcare system in the developed world.

And it’s central to the drive for then ‘reconfiguring’ our public healthcare as a US-style 2-tier public/private system – an accessible one for the better off and another less accessible one for the worse off.

The Ridley report said that privatisation had to be enacted ‘by stealth’ because of the strong opposition it would face. It was delivered privately to Tory colleagues and only came to light by being leaked to The Economist. Hidden behind its cherished logo the NHS’ privatisation continues to be enacted with considerable stealth, obfuscation and lack of transparency.

This is aided by the national media who mouthpiece the privateers’ patter about an ‘unworkable’ and ‘unaffordable’ NHS in irretrievable ‘crisis’ and who conspicuously fail to properly question it.

Why is it happening? The NHS is the 5th largest ‘business’ in the world and healthcare is a dream business. Patients are never in short supply and the government will act as the back stop when it comes to payment for the least well off, or will pick up services which the private sector drops if the profits don’t match expectations.

Who stands to profit? Major private stakeholders in the $7.6 trillion global healthcare sector, including US healthcare services/health insurance behemoth Kaiser Permanente (originator of the Accountable Care Organisations model), are looking to expand in global markets through massive trade agreements, like the mooted Trump/UK one, which remove protections from public services and open them to market predators. Only 10% of the UK population have private health insurance, leaving a lucrative market to be tapped.

Who stands to lose? Most of us are dependent on the tax-funded, publicly-provided, publicly-accountable NHS. But the true costs of its increasingly privatised sectors are impossible to obtain as the implicated private companies are protected by commercial confidentiality laws. Informed guesstimates suggest that the public are already paying some £8 billion a year for the costs involved in privatisation.

Privately-provided services, with their bank loan costs, dividend payments and ‘management fees’, cost far more than State-funded ones. And the administration of privatisation, with all the consultants, lawyers, accountants, billing agents etc involved in franchising NHS services, is hugely expensive.

Getting rid of privatisation would actually cover the lion’s share of the costs of the extra demands facing the NHS (eg the ageing population) which are blamed for making the NHS ‘unaffordable’.

Instead the public are being confronted with having to pay the substantial additional costs of privately-provided services out of their own pockets and/or by resorting to ever increasing private health insurance premiums as they get older or suffer illness – in addition to the taxes they are already paying.

Health insurance involves all kinds of exclusions and limitations leading to patients having to make substantial additional payments for their healthcare – healthcare costs are the biggest cause of personal bankruptcy in the US.

Denial of treatment, unnecessary operations and serious misconduct – United Health is currently the subject of a multi-million dollar lawsuit from the Justice Department for defrauding the US healthcare system – are a feature of the US profits-driven system.

In my film GROUNDSWELL: THE GRASSROOTS BATTLE FOR THE NHS doctors testify how the Government’s drive to complete the major steps of converting our tax-based model to a public/private enterprise by 2020 is already seeing the development of a US-style 2-tier system and a further widening of the gap between rich and poor produced by the unfettered free market.

The June 2017 General Election marked a turning point in public revulsion at the free marketeers who have dominated our lives over the last 30+ years. The NHS Reinstatement Bill provides the key practical and legislative means for getting rid of their hold over the NHS. But the Labour Party remains way off committing itself to the Bill because of the bulk of its MPs’ continued swallowing of the privateers’ patter.

It took me a long time to get my head around the idea that the NHS might be being taken down the notorious American way of public health. But the elucidations of very well-informed researchers like Professor Allyson Pollock (see her powerful 18-minute TED talk) and Deborah Harrington (to whom this blog owes a great deal – see The Americanisation Of The NHS in her incisive new blog Public Matters) have made the unthinkable thinkable.

Campaigners feel that there is a limited window of opportunity to save the NHS. Seize the time!

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MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE

It was the failure of the liberals, centre/rightists and social democrats to address popular disaffection with the old economic and political order in Germany after the 1929 Crash that left an open goal for Hitler and the far right.

It will be the same parties here, chief among them the MandelBlairson brigade and the LibDems, who will be held responsible for the right wing’s continuing ascendancy – and the demise of the NHS – despite a similar open goal left for Labour by the 2008 Crash.

It was the MandelBlairsons who held back ‘Red’ Miliband from taking on the rich, the bankers and the corporate honchos at the last Election. It is they and the still market and media-fearful centre/right Labour MP herd who continue to cramp the Corbyn leadership from committing to full NHS renationalisation – Corbyn and McDonnell were two of only a handful of Labour MPs who backed the NHS Reinstatement Bill at its launch two years ago.

But with the debacle of Theresa May’s ‘dementia tax’ the Tories’ old truncheon of Labour as the tax’n’spend party with which to beat Labourite centrists into line with the financial and corporate sectors’ wishes looks a Mr Punch’s limp prop.

Will Labour now commit to saving its greatest achievement, one that could, if properly argued, be key to its electability? Not if the Party herd continues to be influenced by the mindset displayed by Tony Blair in his appearance in my documentary ‘GROUNDSWELL: THE GRASSROOTS BATTLE FOR THE NHS’, which also features Corbyn’s early commitment to the NHS Reinstatement Bill.

After seeing it veteran TV presenter and producer Jack Pizzey wrote yesterday to Jon Snow urging his and C4’s attention to the film in the run-up to the Election;

“It is news to me that we already have fewer hospital beds per 1000 people than almost any other developed nation. With yet more cuts planned.

And that the man who heads the NHS used to run an American healthcare company. My son lives in LA and says US health care is a catastrophe. Please not here!”

Those like myself with today’s attention-deficit problems can choose just to view the last 10 minutes of the film. This focusses on the Americanisation threat to the NHS and steps that campaigners and the Labour leadership want to take to counter this.

My YouTube Channel contains all the films I’ve done as part of the Groundswell project: https://www.youtube.com/user/JohnFurse1

There’s a compilation of extracts from the series now titled GROUNDSWELL: THE GRASSROOTS BATTLE FOR THE NHS (45 mins):  https://youtu.be/wRyVS-i4zSk

I have also launched a new website I USED TO BE A CONSERVATIVE: https://iusedtobeaconservative.wordpress.com

Inspired by Gloria Guy and Alexandra Veres, the ex-Tories featured in my 2-minute Election video GLORIA & ALEXANDRA: EX-TORIES SPEAK OUT now on the website, it also contains the Election leaflet I’ve put together with 999 Call For The NHS’ Steve Carne titled Ex-CONSERVATIVES SPEAK OUT: https://iusedtobeaconservative.wordpress.com/leaflets.

Alexandra asked me to delete an original quote of her’s that she comes from a family “Conservative to the core”.  She’s converted at least one close relative into a Corbyn supporter!

My £20 bet on a hung Parliament at 5-1 placed at William Hill’s on the day of Theresa May’s Election announcement is getting to look a bit of a runner.

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LET’S SWING IT! Ex-Tories Election Video

See my Groundswell grassroots documentary film project’s General Election video with a difference GLORIA & ALEXANDRA: EX-TORIES SPEAK OUT (2 mins): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxa9zsFAnlo&t=20s

Until recently Gloria and Alexandra were both lifelong Tories. Not any more.  They’re sick of the Old Politics. And they don’t hold back. Gloria is working class and retired. Alexandra is a middle class working mother. To them the NHS, and saving it from the free marketeers and the Tory Party, is the key issue in the Election, a pivotal moment for them and all the other redoubtable NHS campaigners I’ve been working among over the last 2+ years.

Alexandra

Previous bites of Gloria and Alexandra which I’ve put out have been widely circulated and appreciated. Please do the same for this wherever you can. Particularly if you have any soft Tory/swing voters among your social circles and/or other potentially persuadable parties, especially in constituencies where such votes could make a difference. That’s who it’s aimed at.

GLORIA

There are a couple of New Politics sites/organisations which might be useful in helping anyone interested in tactical voting: http://www.progressivealliance.org.uk and http://www.tactical2017.com

For a clear and disturbing picture of what campaigners see as being behind the NHS crisis, and for an insider’s account of the grassroots New Politics movement in action, we have also made a condensed edit of my documentary film project now titled GROUNDSWELL: THE GRASSROOTS BATTLE FOR THE NHS (36 mins).

With my commentary included it takes the NHS campaigners’ story from 2014 right up to Theresa May’s Election announcement just over three weeks ago.

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