Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

READERS’ COMMENTS: Did we go wrong? The campaign to keep Gloucestershire’s NHS public

In C.Spiby, Editorial, Readers on March 19, 2012 at 1:16 pm

Carl Spiby’s article (Clarion number 96) is very disappointing, considering that the campaign to halt the wholesale transfer of 3,000 staff out of the NHS into a private company (Gloucestershire Care Services) is ongoing.

It is doubly disappointing because Carl is supposed to be a member of of the Forest of Dean Against the Cuts group who have spearheaded this campaign. It’s a bit like having the postmortem conducted by a member of the family before the patient is dead.

Carl starts by saying that the campaign has failed and that we must learn where we went wrong. Well, considering the small number of active members of this group, I consider that we have achieved a lot in such a small amount of time, and it would be more productive to eliminate the negative and accentuate the positives.

(Is this a feature of the Hard Left – always looking on the dark side of life?)

Such campaigns as this need to have modest objectives in order to maintain the sanity of the protagonists. Did Carl really expect that presenting a petition to Harper and arguing with him at the time would persuade him to abandon the Health & Social care Bill and instruct the PCT to abandon plans to transfer all NHS community services to a private company? This is what the petition asked.

This suggests to me a scale of naivety which is hard to comprehend.

The petition was very successful in directly informing well over 2,000 people in the Forest of the details of what was being proposed. And therefpre it was a vital part of raising awareness which is the first objective of any such campaign.

As for Carl’s silly conclusion that we were late in starting the campaign, we were campaigning long before he came along. And, really, it’s the outcome that matters.

It is quite conceivable that we could succeed in the legal challenge that the PCT acted illegally in handing over a £100 million contract without following the proper procedures. And then we can truly rejoice, rather than arguing how we could have had a better campaign.

PETE STANWAY (member of the Forest of Dean Against the Cuts, but written in a personal capacity).

RIGHT TO REPLY

(author of said article responds to PS’s letter)…

Pete Stanway’s response is to my article is unfortunate, but welcome. I will not, however, rise to the points which are personally-directed – ill-founded as they are – I suspect they are of no interest to readers of The Clarion. But in the interests of accuracy on some important details, I feel, I will exercise my right to reply.

First though, may I repeat that the SOSAgain campaign is indeed creditable and that I sought to include many of its gains in my article. Also I never stated the FoD Against the Cuts had folded or implied anything like that about the SOSAgain campaign either.

But when Pete says he prefers not to consider the reality of the situation and instead “eliminate the negative”, I would counter that it is not for us to pick and choose the terms of the debate.

Pete will recall that the root of the article’s argument lay with a question asked by a member of the public at our own public meeting. In that question was all the worry and desperation of why hadn’t something been done before? And that is what I sought to answer.

The reality is that it was under New Labour’s 2008 document ‘NHS Next Stage Review: Our vision for primary and community care’ (published by the Department of Health), PCT’s were given the prod – not as Government policy – but as ‘guidance’ expected to be taken, that the decision on how to deliver local health services should be made locally by PCT’s (the responsible statutory authority, as overseen by the Strategic Health Authority).

Wrapped up in the follow-on document – the 2009 Department of Health ‘Transforming Community Services: Enabling new patterns of provision’ – which is still under Labour’s tenure in government you will notice – is the next death-knell, pushing the ‘guidance’ now as ‘best practice’ with the split between service provider and commissioner of services now seemingly a given among policy-makers as the means to build local health services for the future. Our campaign should have been in full swing come 2008; by 2009 it still could have pushed the PCT in a different direction.

Indeed, even GCS’s own Business Plan (of 2011) admits that staff were ‘unanimously against’ the changes, but by this point the guidance had been endorsed by the PCT and had become local policy consistent with the national operating framework which had been in place from 2008 onward.

Cited in the same plan is the revealing wisdom that successive guidance reinforced these issues: ‘The Department of Health’s Transforming Community Services programme…did not change them. The County Council’s Cabinet and the Trust’s Board endorsed the plan for integration in July 2010.’

Meanwhile staff themselves outlined their opposition to a social enterprise, (in a letter to the NHSG PCT  Board of 14th October 2010) with ‘the preferred option of remaining within the NHS and therefore are proposing a vertical integration with 2gether NHS Foundation Trust.’ The fact that this avenue has failed to materialise as a creditable alternative suggests that the PCT’s decision to adopt New Labour’s guidance is irreversible.

A legal challenge which can prove that THAT avenue was not fully explored could be fruitful but on what basis it might be made, I do not know. Certainly the current case presented by our friends in Stroud cannot insist 2gether submit a tender. Besides, it also assumes that 2gether NHS Foundation Trust themselves wish to opt to take-over these services, which I am not entirely sure – as a separate body already  – they will be able to do, especially since their focus is in mental health provision. So that avenue remains suspiciously quiet, and I certainly haven’t see any literature or letters from my fellow campaigners (and do not remember supporting that avenue at any of the meetings I attended) to support that action.

It is exactly these changes, however, which are being replicated and worsened by the Tories in their dreadful NHS reform bill.

Meanwhile we distracting ourselves with the semantics of a local issue when the decision to push the service provider/commissioning split was made by a previous government some four years prior is – in my mind – fighting the wrong battle.

The national issue is still in the debate stage (in the House of Lords). As I see it we are given a second-chance to oppose the changes, and this time bodies like the BMA and RCN are definitely on board. So, let’s learn from the mistakes of the local campaign and focus now on saving the NHS for us all.

While I support debate in The Clarion on this issue, I’d rather readers wrote against the national NHS reform bill to the Lords and their MP. See the 48degrees for tips for starters. I hope on that alone Pete and I might be of one mind.

EDITORIAL COMMITTEE COMMENT:

The Stroud Against the Cuts case settled with Gloucestershire NHS PCT out-of-court. Advertising for ‘Expressions of Interest’ were immediately posted by the PCT but the Forest and Stroud groups remain committed to keeping local NHS services public.

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  1. LEFT INSIDE by CARL SPIBY-CLARION No.99.
    I UNDERSTAND WHERE CARL SPIBY IS COMING FROM WITH HIS ARTICLE BUT MUST POINT OUT THAT THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A GREATER NEED FOR AN INDEPENDANT VOICE IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS THAN NOW. WITH THE EXCEPTION OF DENIS SKINNER THERE ARE FEW LABOUR MEMBERS PREPARED TO DEPART FROM THE PART LINE IN OTHER WORDS BLINDLY OBEDIENT.NEVER FORGET THAT MANY LABOUR MPs IN THE PAST HAD THE PARTY WHIP REMOVED BY BEING CRITICAL
    OF THE PARTY LINE,NYE BEVAN AND HAROLD WILSON TO MENTION JUST A FEW.
    THE PARTY CONFERENCE IS STAGE MANAGED TO STIFFLE CRITICISM AND I,M OLD ENOUGH TO REMEMBER THE GREAT CONFERENCE DEBATES OF THE 40s 50s and 60s. YES THERE WAS RANCOUR BUT THAT,S HOW WE BROUGHT ABOUT THE MAJOR RADICAL CHANGES OF THE 1950s NHS, WELFARE STATE ETC.
    THE GALLOWAY EFFECT AT BRADFORD WAS A DIRECT RESULT OF THE LABOUR PARTY DIVORCING ITSELF FROM THE WORKING CLASS,JUST LOOK AT THE MPs WHO
    ARE MOSTLY ACADEMICS.BRING BACK BESSIE BRADDOCK AND MORE LIKE HER,SHE
    WAS,NT THE BEST LOOKING OF WOMEN BUT BY GOD SHE PUT HER CONSTITUENTS AND LIVERPOOL FIRST.
    GRAHAM WILLIAMS
    4 CEFN ROAD
    WATTSTOWN
    PORTH
    RHONDDA-CYNON-TAF
    CF39 0PL

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