Posts Tagged ‘doctors’

NHS Birthday March – July 5th 2011

Monday, July 5th, 2021

The UK’s National Health Service began on 5 July 1948, 73 years ago today. Earlier in 1946 doctors had voted 10:1 against, but compromises were made to bring more of them on side. It had taken the Labour government a fierce battle to get the proposals through parliament, with the Conservative Party under Winston Churchill voting against its formation 21 times when the bill was being passed.

Churchill followed the example of a former chair of the British Medical Association and compared its formation to Nazism, calling it the “first step to turn Britain into a National Socialist economy.”

It was their often unprincipled opposition that lead Aneurin Bevan to make a famous speech two days before the NHS began that included the following:
That is why no amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical or social seduction, can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party that inflicted those bitter experiences on me. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin.”

In recent years various Tory MPs have claimed that the Conservative Party should be credited for setting up the NHS, when in fact the party fought tooth and nail against it. They also claim that the NHS is ‘safe in their hands’ while increasingly selling off parts of it, largely to US based healthcare companies. Many MPs have financial interests in healthcare and their votes reflect this, in what seems a clear conflict of interest.

One of the compromises needed to get the bill through was that GP surgeries would remain private businesses that could be bought and sold. Doctors in general practice were to remain independent, with the NHS giving them contracts to provide healthcare. What is now happening is that GP surgeries are increasingly becoming owned by large healthcare companies who organise how they are run and employ doctors.

At the moment we still get to see the doctor for free, though it has become more and more difficult for many to do so, in part because of the systems set up by these healthcare companies. But we have now and then heard proposals for charges to be introduced. We do currently have to pay to see a dentist, and even with these charges it has become difficult for many to get dental treatment under the NHS. Many cannot afford the higher charges for private treatment and even the lower rates under the NHS are a huge problem for those on low pay who are not entitled to exemptions.

This year there were protests around the country last Saturday, a few days before the NHS’s 73rd anniversary. Ten years ago around a thousand people marched through central London on the actual 63rd anniversary of the foundation of the NHS in a protest to defend the NHS against cuts and privatisation, ending with a rally outside the Houses of Parliament. The changes then being debated under Andrew Lansley’s bill made radical changes which brought in private companies to take over the straightforward and highly profitable areas of NHS services. Now a new bill is under consideration which will make for further back door privatisation of the NHS.

More at NHS 63rd Birthday.


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Defend All Migrants

Thursday, June 24th, 2021

Five years ago on the day after the Brexit vote, Friday 24 Jun 2016, socialists and anarchists marched in London in support of migrant rights and against racism and against the attacks and scapegoating of immigrants not only by right wing extremists but by mainstream parties and media over many years. The pictures in this post are from that march. The most recent of these attacks has come from a Tory peer who has proved herself a serial failure over the years and seems likely to be rewarded for this by being put in charge of the NHS.

One of the most disturbing trends during the last eleven years of Coalition and Tory governments has been the increasing politicisation of public appointments, with jobs in charge of public bodies increasingly being awarded to people on the basis of their political views rather than any relevant experience or competence.

Of course there are many other things to be worried about, not least the many dodgy contracts awarded to family, friends and party donors, particularly those lucrative Covid-related contracts. One major benefactor has been Conservative peer Baroness Dido Harding, married to the Tory MP and United Kingdom Anti-Corruption Champion at the Cabinet Office since 2017. No, you really couldn’t make it up.

In 2015, when Harding was the much criticised CEO of TalkTalk, following a cyber-attack in which the personal and banking details of up to four million customers, many not encrypted, were though to have been stolen, Marketing Magazine ran a story under the headline “TalkTalk boss Dido Harding’s utter ignorance is a lesson to us all”. The Information Commissioner agreed, though the fine of £400,000 seems far too low for a company which she said failed “to implement the most basic cyber security measures.” Harding, who had been made a Tory Life Peer the previous year, stood down from TalkTalk in 2017 to concentrate on her public activities, following the party line on all her Lords votes and joining the board of the Jockey Club.

Her appointment as Chair of NHS Improvement in 2017 was a clearly political one, and Harding rejected the recommendation of Parliament’s Health Select Committee that she should resign as a Conservative peer and become a cross-bencher.

Her appointment to run the track, trace and test programme in 2020 (later misleadingly named NHS Test and Trace) was highly controversial. It had little or no connection with the NHS, simply outsourcing work to private contractors including Serco, Mitie, G4S, Boots and Sodexo and paying several thousand consultants from Deloitte and elsewhere on average £1,100 a day each.

Harding is now expected to be appointed as Chief Executive of the National Health Service (NHS) and has pledged to make the NHS less reliant on foreign doctors and nurses. At the moment about 1 in 7 NHS staff are not British, including many Indian, Filipino and Irish. There are many others too who while themselves British are the sons and daughters of migrants to this country, some of whom came here as health workers.

We currently have over 40,000 nursing vacancies and are heavily reliant on the contribution of foreign healthcare professionals who have made great sacrifices during the Covid pandemic. They already suffer from having to pay an immigration health surcharge fee of £470 per person per year for themselves and their families.

Nursing Notes quotes Andrew Johnson of the grassroots campaign Nurses United UK as saying:

“Dido Harding remains as incompetent as ever as she panders to her political party.”

“The UK has always benefitted from international staff. Whether it was Indian, Pakistani or Caribbean nurses like my grandma in the 50s and 60s, or our colleagues from Europe and the Philippines in more recent times, we needed them to keep our loved ones safe.”

“The NHS would not exist without international staff and if Dido wants to grow homegrown staff, we would need greater investment in our schools, a living bursary, a substantial restorative pay rise and an end to the privatisation she has been a part of.”

Nursing Notes

There are good reasons for the UK to train more doctors, nurses and other medical specialists. We are a wealthy nation and as well as caring for the health of our own population should be sending trained staff to other countries around the world, particularly those less able to train them. But as well as sending people abroad there is also much to be gained from having migrants coming to work here and foreign medical staff should be welcomed, not denigrated.

More about the 24th June 2016 Defend All Migrants rally and march.

Save Our NHS

Thursday, March 4th, 2021

The past year has made all of us appreciate both what a great national asset our National Health Service is and also – unless we are blinkered Tories – to realise how much it has been run down as a deliberate Conservative policy ever since the Tories came into power in 2010. Though of course its problems also come from decisions taken by earlier governments, and in particular the disastrous PFI contracts taken out under New Labour which involve huge and continuing debt repayments by parts of the NHS.

Even the Tories have come to realise that the NHS reorganisation under Andrew Lansley’s 2012 Health and Social Care Act were a mistake, although the fine print of their 2021 White Paper makes clear that they are still – as in 2017 when I photographed this ‘Save Our NHS’ march – pursuing their goal of rapid stealthy privatisation with medical services increasingly being run for private profit rather than public benefit, threatening an increasingly under funded public service which delivers high quality service at low cost and remains the envy of the world.

This privatisation is continuing. Last month it was announced that Operose Health Ltd, a UK subsidiary of one of the larger US health insurance companies, is taking over AT Medics, which runs 49 General Practice surgeries across London, with around 370,000 Londoners registered at them. When the takeover was finalised on 10th Feb, the six GPs who had been the directors of AP Medics resigned and were replaced by Operose staff – who include two who had in previous years held high-level positions in NHS England, a public body of the Department of Health set up to oversee the commissioning side of the NHS under that 2012 Act.

The Save our NHS March on March 4th, 2017 pointed out that the Sustainability and Transformation Plans which NHS organisations and local authorities were made to produce as 5 year plans from 2016-21, intended to counteract some of the worst effects of the 2012 Act, were leading to cuts in services and hospital closure and had already caused many premature deaths. They are a part of the rapid stealthy privatisation with medical services increasingly being run for private profit rather than public benefit, threatening an increasingly under funded public service which delivers high quality service at low cost and remains the envy of the world.

It was a large march, and made up largely of those who work in various parts of the NHS and have clear view of the actual consequences of the effects of government actions, and many of them spoke before the march set off. Most medical professionals do the work they do through a strong sense of vocation rather than being motivated by money, and as we have seen over the past year, many have worked long over their paid hours, and often with inadequate personal protection because of decisions taken to lower the stocks of supplies and the cuts in beds, the cutting of support for the training of nurses, changes to contracts for junior doctors and other measures.

Looking at the faces in these pictures – and I took many more on the day – I wonder how many of them have died because of their dedication to their job of saving our lives. I wonder how many are suffering the prolonged debilitating effects of ‘long covid’, how many mental illness because of a year of working under extreme stress.

Some carried signs ‘Born in the NHS’. I wasn’t but I grew up with it and it was there when I needed it, and still is. Others carried that quote attributed to Aneurin Bevan, though he probably never said it,”The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it.” There were perhaps 50,000 on this march showing they were ready to do so.

More pictures in My London Diary: Save our NHS March


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Save the NHS – 3 Feb 2018

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2021


We didn’t have Covid in 2018, but the Tory Government was busy laying the groundwork that would lead to our current 100,000 deaths and counting as a part of their longer term intention to privatise the NHS. It looks likely that the total excess deaths due to the virus will rise to over 200,000 before the outbreak is tamed to a fairly small continuing trickle, mainly then killing those who refuse vaccination.

Tens of thousands marched in support of the NHS through London on 3 February to a rally at Downing St calling on the Government to stop blaming patients, nurses, doctors, immigrants, flu and the elderly for the crisis in the health service and to fund it properly and bring it back into public hands from the waste and demands of private profit.

Despite warnings from many in the health sector of the dangers which would arise from any major pandemic, the government ignored many of the warnings and recommendations of the 2016 Exercise Cygnus, which had simulated a flu pandemic causing as many as 400,000 excess deaths, as well as the experience from other countries around the world in dealing with epidemics.

Over a long period, under Tories and New Labour, the increasing outsourcing of services has damaged the efficiency of the NHS and created dangerously low standards of hygiene, while expensive PFI building contracts have left many hospital trusts with impossible long-term debt repayments. Cutting the number of beds was a way to ease the financial problems, but left hospitals unable to meet the extra demands of normal winters, let along Covid.

Cutting bursaries for nurse training exacerbated the shortage of nursing staff, and over the longer term we have failed to provide training places for sufficient doctors, relying increasingly on those trained abroad, both from the EU and also from countries with greater need of doctors than the UK. And changes to pay and conditions, particularly for junior doctors have led to more UK trained doctors and nurses finding work in other countries.

Back in 2018 I pointed out:

Many in the Conservative Party have financial interests in healthcare companies and their policies are clearly designed to carry out a creeping privatisation of the NHS, setting up various devices including STPs and ACSs (Sustainability and transformation partnerships and accountable care systems) which obligate the tendering of NHS services to private healthcare providers, and large areas of NHS services now provided by companies such as Virgin Healthcare.

Fix the NHS Crisis Now

The march on 3 Feb 2018 began in Gower St, which was packed with people making it hard to walk down as I arrived around an hour before it was due to start. I made my way to the front in time for the start and walked with it for a short way before stopping to photograph marchers as they walked past me on Shaftesbury Avenue. They were still filing past – an estimated 50,000 of them – when I had to rush away to Downing St to photograph the rally there. More were still arriving when I left.

Three years later the need to fix the NHS and to stop the increasing privatisation is even greater. Many of those now in government, including my own MP are advocated moving away from a system free at the point of use to a private insurance-based healthcare system similar to that in the USA – where many now are unable to afford insurance or find that more serious conditions are not covered by it. Were I now living in the USA, it is unlikely that the prescriptions that I now get free for my long-term condition would be covered by insurance and they would be costing me over £1000 per month. Many with Covid would also find they were not covered by insurance and would have no way of covering the huge costs of hospitalisation should there condition become serious. We need to keep our NHS and to stop privatisation – and if necessary increase our tax and national insurance payments to fund it.

More at Fix the NHS Crisis Now


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.