Excellent local election results in west London

As Friday 4th May dawned, hospitals campaigners in west London were celebrating the excellent results in the local elections in west London boroughs. We achieved what we set out to do, and all the hard work of the previous months and years had come to fruition.

First results came from Hammersmith and Fulham: the majority of Labour Councillors over Conservative Councillors was increased by 9, all gained directly from Labour. Final results: Labour 35; Conservative 11. Two key wards were captured: Sands End in Fulham on the boundary with Kensington and Chelsea, and Ravenscourt Park on the boundary with Hounslow.

In Ealing the Labour majority was increased by 4 councillors, to give 57 Labour, 8 Conservative and 4 Liberal Democrat Councillors.

And in Hounslow the final tally was: 51 Labour and 9 Conservative Councillors. The only pocket of Conservative councillors left is in the wards of Chiswick Riverside and Chiswick Homefields, and Turnham Green - which campaigners had hoped to win for Labour.

Overall, the intense campaigning by leaflets in letter boxes, at stations, at schools and outside Charing Cross and Ealing Hospitals paid off on the day.

Campaigners line up to bring Judicial Reviews to court

NHS England faces first legal challenge to plans for health shake-up

by Denis Campbell - The Guardian - 23rd April 2018

Judicial review on Tuesday one of two examining legality of accountable care organisations

NHS England faces a legal challenge to its plans to overhaul how the health service operates, which critics say are unlawful and could lead to patients being denied treatment.

Campaigners on Tuesday will try to derail plans to introduce of “ accountable care organisations” (ACOs), which they say could force doctors to decide what care a patient needs based on how much money is available rather than how sick someone is.

If the changes go through then individual hospital trusts and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) will no longer each receive an annual budget of their own. Instead NHS bosses would give a joint budget to pay for healthcare in whole areas of England to an ACO that would be made up of all the acute, mental health and other providers of NHS care locally.

A judicial review has been secured by the campaign group 999 Call for the NHS. The group says the new contracts for the first wave of ACOs are unlawful under the Health and Social Care Act 2012 and could threaten patient safety by forcing hospitals and doctors to ration patients’ access to treatment.

The case, which will be heard by the high court sitting in Leeds, is the first of two judicial reviews which judges have granted to explore the legality of ACOs. The other, which has been brought by a group including the late cosmologist Prof Stephen Hawking, will be heard in London on 23 and 24 May.

Joanne Land, of 999 Call for the NHS, said: “As well as being undemocratic, NHS England’s proposed changes to how NHS services are priced and paid for would undermine the NHS as a comprehensive health service for all who have a clinical need for it.

“They are about enabling moves to a cut-price, bargain basement NHS that uses the same business model as the USA’s limited state-funded health insurance system that provides a restricted range of healthcare for people who are too poor or too old to pay for private health insurance.”

Rowan Smith of Leigh Day, the lawyer firm representing the campaign group, said the fixed pooled budgets of ACOS would end the system of “payment by results”, under which hospitals are paid for episodes, and lead to a “race to the bottom” in prices charged for care, which would hit patients.

Asked about the judicial review, an NHS England spokesperson said: “This is a mistaken effort which would frustrate the move to more integrated care between hospitals, mental health and community services. The effect would be to fragment care and drive apart the very people who are now rightly trying to work more closely together on behalf of the patients they jointly serve.”

Simon Stevens, its chief executive, said last month: “Our view is that it is possible to fund primary care, health and hospital services in a combined way, in a way that is consistent with the statutory legal framework. If the courts say it is lawful, that clears the issue up once and for all, and if the courts say it isn’t, that’s obviously not an approach we will be doing.”

The NHS is also facing a number of other legal actions that seek to block planned changes to local health services. Campaigners fighting Dorset CCG’s plans to move A&E and maternity services from Poole hospital to Bournemouth have secured a judicial review, which will take place on 17 and 18 July.

Corby CCG in Lincolnshire is also facing a lawsuit over its plans to downgrade the town’s urgent care centre. Instead of patients being able to walk in and been seen within four hours, in future they would undergo a telephone triage with someone with no medical qualifications and then given an appointment – but the four-hour A&E target would no longer apply.

Campaigners called Hands Off Lydney and Dike Hospitals are also taking legal action to try and halt Gloucestershire CCG’s plans to shut two community hospitals and replace them with one, and cut the number of beds available from 47 to 24.

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said: “There is considerable concern and suspicion that because of both the Lansley reforms and Tory underfunding, so called Accountable Care Organisations will lead to privatisation and cuts to local NHS services.

“There remain many unanswered questions about how an ACO will be accountable to the public, what the levels of private sector involvement will be, and what the implications will be for NHS staff.

“There ought to be a full debate and vote in parliament before any changes are introduced.”



Tribute to Prof Stephen Hawking and his campaign for the NHS

Stephen Hawking joined a lawsuit against Jeremy Hunt's destruction of the NHS before he died – remember that when you hear Tory tributes today

Hawking would not want us to forget about his opinions and his final, highly political crusade

The Independent "Voices"   14th March 2018  - by Sean O'Grady


One of the many joys of Professor Stephen Hawking (1942-2018) is that he was a brilliant scientist who was never some sort of stereotypical, other-worldly academic, content with his research and his Cambridge college. No. Hawking was up for a political scrap, and in Jeremy Hunt he found a worthy, or at least suitable, opponent.

Perhaps in context of the row about Hawking’s views on the NHS, Hunt’s modest tribute to him appears unseemly. Hunt proclaimed that he “was sad that we didn’t agree on everything”, which is an understatement at the very least.

Hawking and Hunt spent quite some time arguing over the NHS, which escalated when Hawking joined a judicial review against the Health Secretary. The Department of Health labelled this as “irresponsible scaremongering”.

Theresa May also paid tribute to Hawking, praising him for his “courage, humour and determination”. 

Hawking would not want us to forget about his opinions and his final, highly political crusade. He was, as we have all been reminded, a man of strong passions. When Jeremy Corbyn quoted Hawking at Prime Minister’s Questions, it was a powerful moment and Hawking (though not always a fan of Corbyn) most definitely would have enjoyed it.

The creeping privatisation of the NHS, the not-so-creeping underfunding of it and Hunt’s general arrogance infuriated Hawking, and understandably so. Hawking resented the Government’s massaging of statistics to suit their case, and, in particular the setting up of “Accountable Care Organisations” (ACOs) which contain within them the germ of future privatisation. Creating such entities open up the option of hiving off another significant NHS care sector to private concerns. While this might not necessarily happen and while those private companies might – theoretically – behave with higher standards than some other high-profile recent privatisation failures, none of that was assured.

As Hawking said last year: “Speaking as a scientist, cherry-picking evidence is unacceptable. When public figures abuse scientific argument, citing some studies but suppressing others, to justify policies that they want to implement for other reasons, it debases scientific culture.” It was probably not a wise idea for Hunt to accuse Hawking of “pernicious falsehoods”.

What is more, the changes were being driven through with little public consultation or debate. They were contrary to statute and were, thus, politically, legally and morally illegitimate. It was that hard logic that Hawking believed in, and why he was prepared to take his case to court. It was all he could do.

Usually, “slebs” attaching their names to a good cause or political campaign get slated for perceived hypocrisy. Hawking was such a powerful ally of the NHS, as well as a public Labour Party supporter, because he was no hypocrite, and understood intimately the issues he spoke out about. He didn’t have to do it – he garnered no additional fame or celebrity as a result – and he didn’t use private health provision for himself rather than the services provided by the NHS (some of which no doubt were either privatised or being privatised). Like many, he simply felt disquiet about the depth of the Conservative commitment to the NHS, and Hunt wearing an NHS badge on his jacket lapel wasn’t going to be sufficient to persuade Hawking of the sincerity of the Government’s intentions.

Hawking was a dangerous opponent, and it is a great shame that he did not live long enough to fight and win this battle to its conclusion. 



H & F and Ealing leaders at meeting to Save CX - 28th Feb 2018


On a bitterly cold evening about 150 campaigners and supporters came to listen to a panel of speakers at Hammersmith Town Hall.

Hammersmith Council Leader, Stephen Cowan reiterated that the propaganda from Imperial Trust and the NW London Collaboration of CCGs continues to be deeply misleading: the 2012 plan ironically called "Shaping a Healthier Future" has not been withdrawn and it is the core of all later documents, such as the 2016 "Sustainability and Transformation Plan" and the 2017 business plan to downgrade and close Ealing hospital ("Strategic Outline Case 1").  Mr Cowan said that the NHS are playing "fast and loose" with the English language when they pretend that "there never was a plan to close Charing Cross". Replacing the current hospital of 360 beds with a "local hospital" with 40-50 beds (13%) is, as any normal person would agree, the same as closing it.

The Leader of Ealing Council, Julian Bell, the co-chair of Keep Our NHS Public, Dr Tony O'Sullivan,  Merril Hammer and Anne Drinkell of "Save Our Hospital" campaign also contributed.

From the floor a new member of the audience asked: "Am I missing something? What happens when they close Charing Cross Hospital? Where will everyone go for A&E?" Una-Jane Winfield, of the "Save Our Hospital" campaign, said: "This is a partial answer: they want you to go on line and self-diagnose". She went on to give an update of the status of the two outstanding Judicial Reviews, the first brought by 999CallfortheNHS about the lack of universal and equitable coverage which STPs and Accountable Care Organisations would usher in and the second by Professors Allyson Pollock and Stephen Hawking against the lack of consultation and the need for primary legislation to bring in Accountable Care Organisations. Both JRs have court dates and are substantially funded.