The crisis in our NHS is continuing and worsening with daily stories of A&Es under severe pressure and some even declaring black alerts. The pressure on A&E means not only that patients end up waiting for hours on trolleys or chairs waiting to be seen but ambulances are unable to handover over patients.
Unfortunately the pressure on A&Es and the growing number of Covid patients in hospitals is only adding to the waiting lists which have now reached 5.8 million. But of course the Government continues to blame everyone but themselves for the ongoing NHS crisis.
This month we have news on what is happening to our local ambulance services, campaigning against the Health & Care Bill (or ‘corporate takeover bill’) and our upcoming campaign meeting with GP, Dr Louise Irvine, who will be answering our questions on GP services.
ESON Campaign Meeting –Tuesday 16th November -7.30pm
Questions & Answers with Dr Louise Irvine
GPs have been big news in the media recently with some newspapers running a pretty nasty campaign claiming GPs are lazy and not seeing patients. It is understandable that patients get frustrated at long delays in seeing their GPs but the blame should be directed at the Government for failing to address the growing number of GP vacancies and to invest properly.
We are delighted that Dr Louise Irvine is joining us again for a Q&A on GP services. Louise is a South London GP, a tireless campaigner and well known from the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign. She is also a member of the Keep Our NHS Public National Steering Group.
The meeting will be on ZOOM
Join the meeting on Tuesday 16th November at 7.30pm
Also on the Agenda will be updates on Ealing Hospital & the Trust, campaigning against the Health & Care Bill, Mental Health services and a roundup of NHS news.
Why are waiting – ambulances queues at A&Es growing:
At our October meeting we were fortunate to have a talk by Malcolm Alexander, Chair of the Patients Forum for the London Ambulance Service (LAS) on the situation in London
They have been doing a great job in monitoring the LAS and mounted a very successful campaign that has halted LAS plans to close 60+ ambulance stations and replace them with ‘hubs’. The cuts would have increased demoralisation among staff and led to even longer ambulance waits.
Malcolm told us about the worsening performance of LAS which is failing to meet target times for ambulances to reach critically ill patients, and the massive number of hours lost due to waits outside A&Es.
The October LAS figures show in London alone 1943 patients waited over an hour in ambulances to be handed over to A&E. Ealing Hospital seems to be doing better than most with 22 patients waiting over an hour that month whereas Northwick Park had 173 patients waiting over an hour!
The most recent figures for England as a whole show that ambulance handover of one hour or more up fourfold with 28,900 ambulance handovers lasting longer than an hour during a four-week period in October. This was almost four times higher than the 7,772 hour-long handovers recorded in October 2020.
This means patients laying in roads or on floors at home, waiting for ambulances that are stuck in queues outside A&E.
A&E waits are not the only factor in increased waiting times for ambulances as like the rest of the NHS there are large numbers of staff vacancies across the ambulance service.
The Governments claims to have a 10 point action plan for the Winter, which includes writing to Trusts and Systems telling them to take immediate action to stop ambulance delays – a magic wand anyone!
Health & Care Bill a threat to the future of our NHS:
On 23rd November the Health & Care Bill comes back to Parliament having gone through the committee stage where it can be amended by MPs. Whilst there has been some useful amendments the fundamental threat remains that the Bill will undermine a comprehensive, national, publically run NHS.
As readers may know the Bill carves up the NHS in to 42 regional integrated care systems with massive budgets and control of decision making for all NHS services in their area – in our case North West London.
This means they have total control over who delivers our services and in particular what treatments they will prioritise and which not to prioritise thus creating a postcode lottery. There is even a threat to national pay and conditions for NHS.
The potential for private health companies to increase their influence has been well publicised and although the Government has amended the Bill so that individuals with ‘significant interests in private health’ can’t sit on the main Integrated Care Boards, there is nothing stopping them from sitting on the myriad of sub committees.
Public accountability will be significantly reduced with no guarantees of meeting taking place in public or papers being publically available although we have been told that this will happen in North West London – how transparent they are will remain to be seen.
Margaret Greenwood MP has written an excellent article in ‘Open Democracy’, which spells out very clearly why MPs should be voting against the Bill on 23rd- which you can read here.
‘We Own it’ Poll shows lack of public support for Bill:
A Survation Poll recently carried out for anti-privatisation group ‘We Own It’ shows only 2 out of 10 people surveyed thought re-organising the NHS should be a Government priority.
Whereas in contrast 8 out of 10 said they wanted the Government to prioritise tackling waiting lists and ensuring people could see their GPs face to face.
Of the 1,008 people polled, 72 per cent said they were worried that the proposals would open the health service to contracts being given out to private companies without scrutiny.
70 per cent of Tory voters polled raised these concerns, while 83 per cent of Labour supporters did.
We Own It director Cat Hobbs said the group’s survey shows that the public, including a majority of Tory voters “are rightly very concerned about the likes of Richard Branson getting contracts in our NHS by the back door.”
“We’re calling on all MPs to take a stand now for our NHS and stop this Bill from damaging our health service” she added.
Coming just before the vote on the Bill on the 23rd this should give Tory MPs some food for thought.
JOIN THE PROTEST AGAINST THE Bill:
Monday 22 November, 5.00pm, Richmond Terrace SW1A 2JL (near the Cenotaph and 10 Downing Street
An alliance of health workers, campaigners and celebrities led by ‘Unite’ the union have called a protest outside Parliament on 22nd November to oppose the Health & Care Bill ahead of the vote on the Bill on 23rd November.
Ealing Save Our NHS will be joining in with our banner and would love to see a good turn out from Ealing.
Scandal of private testing firm that put thousands of lives at risk:
Many of you will have the read the story of the private testing firm in Wolverhampton that told 43,000 people in the South West that their PCR Test was negative when in fact they were positive!
Immensa who own the laboratory were awarded a £119 million contract last September to carry out testing without going through the accreditation process and there was no tender process either.
Stories from whistleblowing staff suggest it is no surprise with the emphasis being on quantity not quality.
Once the alarm had been set off you would have expected the Government to suspend testing at Immensa but it took weeks and apparently they are still being paid to process PCR tests for travel at their laboratory in Loughborough – unbelievable!
Unsurprisingly Covid cases in the South West have quadrupled but according to the Government it’s nothing to do with the false negative results which led to people assuming they were safe, but because Covid cases had been low in those areas. You really couldn’t make this up.