Health Campaigns Together "Health Summit" 4th Nov 2017

Over 420 delegates from all over England and Wales attended the "Health Campaign Together" one-day conference on Saturday 4th November, filling the main hall of Hammersmith Town Hall.

The morning started at 11am with rousing speeches from the Leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council, Stephen Cowan and the Leader of Ealing Council, Julian Bell, recalling the support which their councils have given to resident-led campaigns to retain respectively Charing Cross and Ealing Hospitals. They have supported the campaign since before the publication in 2012 of the NHS report called "Shaping a Healthier Future" which paradoxically advocated closures of acute hospitals. There was a change of control in Hammersmith Council to Labour in May 2014, due in large part to the widespread distrust of the previous administration's handling of the threat to Charing Cross. In 2015 Hammersmith Council convened the Mansfield Commission, which heard evidence from expert witnesses and produced a report in December condemning the hospital closures in west London. Recently there has been a "war of words" over the precise meaning of the undertakings by Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust (guided by the NHS). Imperial say: "No closure of Charing Cross before 2021", but these are weasel words. The people of Hammersmith deserve a better, longer-lasting assurance that their hospital will stay open as long as it is needed.

They were followed by Sarah Gorton, Head of Health at Unison, north Devon campaigner Annette Pearson, and a speaker from Save South Tyneside Hospital. Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the Chair of the BMA's Council, spoke particularly about the pressures on GPs (he was a GP for 27 years). The morning finished with the director of "Kes" and "I, Daniel Blake",  Mr Ken Loach in typical fiery form.

There were workshops based on topics, such as "Safe Staffing" with Dr Aislinn Macklin-Doherty and Dr Ben White (two campaigning Junior Doctors), "Naylor review, estates sell-off and PFI" with Prof Sue Richards from KeepOurNHSPublic and Vivek Kotecha from Centre for Health and the Public Interest. Jacqui Berry, NHS nurse and member of Unison's national executive (and star of very funny YouTube videos including one giving a clear explanation of "STP"s) led "Busting the pay cap" and there were others such as "fighting for mental health".  So many participants were instantly recognisable faces, active for years in NHS campaigning.

After a delicious light lunch, we were straight into more workshops, of which "setting up new regional networks" were very important to helping campaigners connect up and achieve "footprint"-wide results.

At the final plenary session Sam Fairbairn from "The People's Assembly" gave a speech against austerity and Sarah Cook from Unite the union reminded us of her members' work day and night for the NHS. There was a short video recorded especially for this conference by Jon Ashworth, shadow Sec of State for Health. Natalie Mehra of the Ontario Health Coalition gave an interesting comparison between Canadian and British health systems, Dr Gurj Sandhu, consultant in A&E at Ealing Hospital and Jacqui Berry, NHS nurse, gave accounts of their recent professional experience. John Lister, veteran founder of "Health Emergency" and co-chair of Health Campaigns Together closed the day with a call for non-affiliated groups to join HCT.