7th May 2014 Hackney KONP NHS hustings meeting and
Launch of photographic exhibition: How come we didn’t know?
Around 150 Hackney residents filled Abney Hall in Stoke Newington on 7th May, seeking to learn more about the crisis facing the NHS and hear what candidates for the local elections propose to do about it.
Professor Sue Richard, National chair of Keep Our NHS Public described how massive cuts in funding, PFI debts, rapidly increasing privatisation and constant government put-downs of NHS staff are resulting in impoverished services, delays and increasingly lower standards of care. Dr Gary Marlowe, local GP and vice-chair of City & Hackney Clinical Commissioning Group explained how the Health and Social Care Act 2012 is forcing privatisation of services, how fragmentation destroys co-ordination of care, and highlighted the terrible impact this can have for patients. Virginia Patania practice manager of Jubilee Street GP practice in Tower Hamlets explained how cuts in funding to GPs working in areas of high social deprivation have put 12 GP surgeries in Hackney and 7 in Tower Hamlets at risk. Bronwen Handyside of Hackney Keep Our NHS Public chaired the meeting and set out the background of national and Hackney campaign issues.
In the lead up to the meeting, candidates from political parties contesting seats in local elections were asked to pledge support for the NHS and opposition to privatisation. Candidates from the Labour Party, the Greens and the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition signed the pledge and these parties were invited to speak, and to respond to questions from the floor. Councillor Jonathan McShane, current Chair of the Health & Wellbeing Board represented Labour on the panel, Charlotte George spoke for the Greens, and Diane Swingler for the Trade Union & Socialist Coalition (TUSC). Conservative and Liberal Democrat candidates refused to sign the pledge. The speakers expressed their strong opposition to the Government’s destruction of the NHS, and said they would campaign within their own parties to oppose privatisation.
Candidates were queried about their attitude to working with other areas to renegotiate the disastrously expensive PFI contracts that are bankrupting many trusts, to joining a class action legal challenge to the need to tender NHS services, or human rights challenge based on access to public services; to public ownership of pharmaceutical firms; to ending the purchaser-provider split; to challenging the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) trade treaty that will enforce privatisation of all NHS services; and whether they would support strikes by NHS staff around pay and conditions including staffing levels and working hours; how they would make sure young people and people from all Hackney’s communities could be better informed and engaged in the campaign to save the NHS. Candidates were also asked whether they would step down if they later reneged on pledges made in the run up to the election. Candidates were reminded that their role is to represent the interests of local people, and they will be held to account if they renege on pre-election pledges
Early evening saw the launch of Marion Macalpine’s photographic exhibition How Come We Didn’t Know? in the same venue. Twenty photographs and brief information highlighted some of the major corporations involved in privatisation of the NHS. The exhibition explores the diverse forms that privatisation takes, including PFI contracts; private health companies masquerading as NHS such as many GP clinics and diagnostic centres; private hospitals which cherry-pick ‘low risk’ patients; lucrative contracts for highly specialist treatment; healthcare corporations with a history of fraud or tax avoidance; scandalously poor care practice that is no barrier to winning new contracts; private corporations driving government policy and involved in negotiations such as the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. The exhibition also highlighted some critical links between politicians at all levels and private healthcare corporations.
People attending these linked events were encouraged to join the local Hackney branch of Keep Our NHS Public through
www.hackneykeepournhspublic.org, or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org and to take other action to oppose privatisation.
Dr Gary Marlowe. Local GP and member of City & Hackney Clinical Commissioning Group
Virginia Patania, Practice Manager Jubilee St GP Practice in Tower Hamlets
Cllr Jonathon McShane (Labour Party). Chair of Health & Wellbeing Board
Diane Swingler, Trade Union & Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidate
Charlotte George, Green Party candidate
Shirley Murgraff of Hackney KONP - fundraising for the campaign, and board showing a list of candidates and parties supporting the anti-privatisation pledge
Photographs (most) : Pam Isherwood. http://www.pamisherwood.co.uk/gallery/politics.htm