Latest NHS news and stories hot off the press – ESON newsletter 29/11/20

At last there has been some good news with at least one vaccine on the horizon. It may not be the panacea that is being hyped by the Government, but it is certainly a big part of any solution to the Covid Crisis.

The pandemic has placed an incredible burden on our overstretched and under-resourced NHS. It has been changing the character of our NHS services, largely replacing face to face consultations in GP surgeries and hospitals with telephone & online consultations – as well as being used as a smokescreen to justify long desired cuts, reconfigurations and of course to accelerate privatisation. Also it’s allowed NHS bosses to make decisions behind closed doors and become even more secretive and less accountable. There are certainly lots to keep NHS campaigners busy!

At least the threat to our NHS from a US Trade Deal may have diminished a bit following the election of Joe Biden. Maybe he will stay well away from the NHS after seeing reports of our excellent protest last month outside Ealing Hospital!!

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National Day of Action 24th October 2020
A bit more news on Ealing Hospital:

The Trust has told local MPs and ESON that ‘most services’ which were suspended at Ealing Hospital have been reinstated. This includes imaging services and elective general surgery. Critical care & respiratory beds have been increased. Some ambulatory trauma surgery – i.e. for those able to go home, is also now taking place 3 days a week.

The Specialist Foot service (Diabetes) still remains at Central Middlesex, but the Trust say they would like to return it to Ealing once they find a safe location.

However, it remains of deep concern to us that night time General Emergency Surgery, is still only provided at Ealing on a ‘treat and transfer’ basis and Emergency Orthopaedics & Trauma cases are still on an ambulance divert to Northwick Park or St Mary’s. Despite this ‘divert’ people still walk in to Ealing A&E suffering with trauma and have to be referred on. The delays in getting urgent surgery are potentially placing patients at risk and we will continue to press for these vital services to be reinstated.

When the Trust is asked who is responsible for taking the decisions on what services are provided we never get a straight answer – nor is anything minuted or public. All they say is it’s down to ‘Gold Command’ or it’s ‘sector wide’ or ‘across London’. Along the way the particular needs of local communities get lost – as does any kind of accountability.
Working together across London makes a difference:
Over the last few months Keep our NHS Public (KONP) groups in London, like Ealing Save Our NHS, have been liaising to share information and experiences. We all face the loss of what limited democracy and transparency existed, with the move towards Single regional CCGs and the takeover of decision-making by regional Integrated Care Systems (ICS). Other London areas have also faced cuts hidden behind Covid, as we have in Ealing.
The joint London KONP groups wrote to Mayor Sadiq Khan asking him to champion the NHS and were invited to meet with his health adviser, Dr Tom Caffey. A very useful meeting took place this week, which I attended on behalf of North West London KONP groups.
Dr Coffey has asked for a follow-up discussion on how the Integrated Care Systems could be democratised and for concrete examples of significant service changes services like at Ealing Hospital that should be consulted on before becoming permanent.
The London KONP letter and Sadiq Khan’s response are here.
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Raking in the cash – Failure no problem, for private providers!

Despite the devastating new figures on how poorly the Test & Trace service is doing, Serco has been given another extension to its contract of up to £400 million. A pretty good result for a company overseeing a system where just 15% of tests are returned in 24 hours and only 46% of close contacts are being reached. And of course if you want to fix a broken system it is best to get in management consultants such as ‘Boston Consulting Group’ and pay them £7000 a day!!

It seems the Government didn’t include any penalty clauses in any of its Test & Trace contracts -so Serco and US Company SITEL, who run the call centres, can operate without fear of reprisals. Absolutely incredible! Yet when it comes to the NHS, there are financial penalties if NHS Trusts fail to reach their performance targets.

You can read more on this in the excellent Open Democracy article by Caroline Molloy and in the

Damning report criticises Government over £18bn Covid contracts:
The UK’s public spending watchdog, the National Audit Office, has slapped the government on the wrist for failures of transparency when awarding lucrative private contracts worth around £18bn to companies during the coronavirus crisis, highlighting errors and potential conflicts of interest.
The National Audit Office’s (NAO) report comes amid ‘claims ’that the government has awarded contracts to businesses with links to ministers and advisers without due scrutiny (No surprise to any of us of course!)
We recognise that these were exceptional circumstances,” said NAO boss Gareth Davies.
But he said it “remains essential that decisions are properly documented and made transparent if government is to maintain public trust that taxpayers’ money is being spent appropriately and fairly”.
The evidence set out in our report shows that these standards of transparency and documentation were not consistently met in the first phase of the pandemic.”
The NAO said more than 8,600 coronavirus contracts were awarded by 31 July. But it said £10.5 billion contracts were just given out without a competitive tender process!
You can read the report here –
And if you need any evidence of cronyism here is a great illustration, seen via our Facebook page by over 6000 people.
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You might also like to read about the legal challenge by the Good Law Project to end cronyism, which could also do with some financial support – read it here
Secret No 10 Task Force planning a radical shake-up:
There’s a new, highly secretive Number 10 NHS Taskforce and it’s planning a “radical shake-up” of the NHS. It took a Freedom of Information request from the excellent Open Democracy to get it confirmed but what they are planning they won’t say.
Who’s leading on it? – A pretty alarming crew. None of the key members have a background in NHS provision, so no change there then. Boris Johnson’s controversial policy chief, Munira Mirza is in charge, and it includes a former McKinsey management consultant who played a key role in shaping the 2012 NHS reform which allowed big parts of our NHS to be sold off to the public sector.
More on this story here –
Why not join us to hear some great speakers?
The various lockdowns and restrictions have not stopped Ealing Save Our NHS from campaigning or from having regular meetings. Every month we have had online Meetings via ZOOM with guest speakers including; local MP James Murray, Dr Onkar Sahota, Tom Gardiner (junior doctor) and national campaigners, Tony O’ Sullivan and Dr Louise Irvine.
We meet online every third Tuesday at 7.30pm and any ESON supporters are very welcome to join us to hear our speakers and join the discussion.
If you would like to be informed of our meetings please let me know.
We also produce a weekly Bulletin and would be very happy to add more people to our list…
SOME INTERESTING READING FOR THE LONG NIGHTS:
Health Campaigns Together Newspaper:
The Government’s handling of the pandemic; mental health scandals, local campaigns around the country and the latest news on privatisation are some of the excellent stories in the November Issue of the HCT Bulletin.
You can read it here
NHS Staff Voices Newsletter:
A very key part of national campaign ‘Keep Our NHS Public’ is ‘NHS Staff Voices’. It is well worth reading their latest Newsletter which features pieces from health workers speaking about the things that affect them most, like the recent pay rise demand , the government’s failure to prepare for a second surge and the importance of joining unions –
You can read a copy here
Their recent Public Meeting “What’s going on – we aren’t ready for a Winter Crisis”, featuring Allyson Pollock can also be watched here –
Doreen Lawrence Review on ‘the impact of Covid-19 on BAME Communities’
A very interesting summary of the findings of the Doreen Lawrence Review which was commissioned by the Labour Party.

Get ‘the Lowdown’
This week’s the Lowdown has a host of interesting stories. You can sign up to receive a copy for free – well worth doing – but if you can afford a donation they would welcome it.
How the Government spent £12 billion and still lost control of the virus’
If you missed the Channel 4 Dispatches programme last week – ‘How the Government spent £12 billion and still lost control of the virus’ you can read very good account by Dr Jacky Davis on the Keep Our NHS Public website here –