Posts Tagged ‘NHS’

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


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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.


9 January 2016

Saturday, January 9th, 2021

Class War at White Cube Bermondsey

This was always the most depressing point of my year. Particularly back when I was still teaching full-time, getting up on cold dark mornings to go into work, at the start of the term which, particularly for those teaching classed facing exams in May and June, seemed to be longest and hardest slog of the year. We are actually just a few days past the latest sunrise of the year, (it is a whole 2 minutes earlier today) but its only really by the middle of the month it starts to be noticeable.

NHS Bursaries Rally & March

Usually we’ve put away the Christmas decorations, turned off the Christmas tree lights and put the tree outside, waiting for the energy to plant it in the garden. We’ve eaten the Christmas cakes (we usually have an iced fruit cake, stollen and Buche de Noel to get through, finished the meat, eaten the nuts and fruit, Bombay Mix and chocolates and are back on normal fare, with perhaps a dose of austerity to make up for the previous weeks of minor gluttony.

NHS Bursaries Rally & March

But this year has been different, with no family, friends and neighbours visiting to help us get through the Christmas bonus or see in the New Year. Everything has been flatter and less interesting, and I’m feeling bored. I exercise along routes I’ve cycled or walked close to home many times before, taking out my camera and making pictures largely out of habit rather than any great interest.

Ian Bone and Rita the Raven

Back in earlier years, protests and other events were getting back into swing at this time of year after something of a hiatus over Christmas and the New Year, when most of us were busy with other things. I live just too far from central London to be able to easily take part in the New Years Eve events, and though for some years I went up the following morning to photograph the New Year Parade, in recent years this became too organised to be really interesting.

Ian Bone takes a free kick

Saturday 9th January 2016 began for me with a rally and march against the axing of training bursaries for NHS nurses and midwives. As a part of their training they perform valuable work in hospitals, caring for patients, and the time involved means that unlike other students they are not able to get part-time work to support themselves.

Fire-eating outside the White Cube

The removal of the bursaries seems certain to result in much greater hardship and also in fewer students training as nurses – and we already have a shortage of nurses. It was a simple cost-cutting measure that only makes any sense as a part of the Tory plans to privatise our NHS by stealth, part of which involves putting greater pressure on the system so that more aspects of it can be put out to private tender. Many in government have interests in private health companies and favour a move away from the principles behind the NHS of a service based on clinical need free to all towards a US-style high-cost insurance-based system.

I left the march before it finished to join Class War outside the White Cube Gallery in Bermondsey St, one of the areas of London where gentrification is most apparent.

December 9th 2015: Class War protest Gilbert & George at White Cube Bermondsey

I’d come the previous month to photograph Ian Bone of Class War and Simon Elmer of Architects for Social Housing holding a short protest outside the gallery over the appropriation of protest slogans by Gilbert and George in the show taking place there, and the gentrification of the area. I wrote then:

Bermondsey, once a working class industrial area on the edge of London’s docks with many small workshops in yards off of Bermondsey St producing hats, leather goods and a more recent arrival, the print trade, has changed dramatically. Run down when I first photographed there in the 1980s (and produced an industrial archaeology walk leaflet, West Bermondsey – The leather area) it is now full of restaurants, galleries, designer clothes and other businesses catering for London’s new gentrification, with offices, design studios and expensive flats now having replaced most of the workshops.

http://mylondondiary.co.uk/2015/12/dec.htm#banners

In front of the gallery is their large open yard, and Class War had decided that as this is an area where many still live in council estates with notices on the green spaces ‘No Ball Games’ that this would be an ideal place to hold a game of football as a protest against gentrification. And I’d been invited to come along and take pictures.

Although they hadn’t been invited, the police had clearly heard about the protest and had come along too, along with some security staff employed additionally by the gallery. A large sculpture at one side of the yard had also been wrapped up to protect it from damage (and artistically that seemed to me a great improvement.)

Jane Nicholl performs ‘The Finest f***ing Family in the Land

There was some opposition – and a hapless young police woman tried to tell the protesters that kicking a ball around was reckless behaviour – but the protest continued. Here is my description from My London Diary:

The protesters deliberately kicked the football at police and security, encouraging them to join in the game. Some of them did kick the ball back, while others simply stood and let a protester come to collect it, sometimes holding it but returning it when requested.

But the protest outside the ‘protest’ show (entitled ‘Banners‘) was not just football, but there was some spectacular fire breathing along with a premiere performance of Ray Jones‘s latest song, ‘any chance of a sub?’ dedicated to Damien Hirst and accompanied by the dancing Lucy Parsons banner ‘We must devastate the avenues where the wealthy live’. (Jones, together with Ian Bone were formerly part of the Welsh punk band “Page 3”.) ‘Sid Skill’ had brought along a fairly lifelike black model bird (a fiver on eBay) which inspired a histronic performance from Ian Bone, about how the security men guarding the White Cube had murdered the last raven from the Tower of London, and that London was now doomed. Doomed I say, doomed.

Later, there were two spoken word performances, one by Jane Nicholl of a traditional verse, ‘The Finest f***ing Family in the Land‘, performed with great gusto and with the small crowd joining in, and the second of a rather odd poem about a raven, sent in response to a tweet about Ian’s performance at the protest by Ray Jones, which he read to us all. And the Womens Death Squad led a rousing performance of their anthem, ‘ Bunch of C***s

Altogether it was a ‘happening’ with arguably rather more artistic credibility than the rather sterile work on display inside the gallery, and one that was appreciated by some members of the public even though it lacked the Art World’s financial imprimatur.

Eventually it was time to leave – and for Class War to continue their celebrations in a local pub … On the way a number of Class War Womens Death Squad stickers somehow found their way onto street furniture, walls and estate agents windows, to remind the gentrifiers that Class War will be back.

http://mylondondiary.co.uk/2016/01/jan.htm#whitecube

More on My London Diary
Class War Footy at White Cube
NHS Bursaries March
NHS Bursaries rally before march


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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.


Election Day

Thursday, December 12th, 2019

Today I will be voting, as I have done in every election, local, European and national, since I was old enough to vote. Not that my vote will really count but I think it is a duty, part of being a citizen rather than a subject, though I have often been tempted to write ‘None of the above is suitable‘ on my ballot paper.

For the last 45 years I have lived in a safe Conservative constituency, and in a ward of that constituency which also has a large Tory majority. None of the MPs (and few of the councillors) have been people I felt I could trust or who had the interests of the majority of the country rather than their own careers and interests at heart. The current candidate, now a leading figure in the party, seems to turn up here only for the occasional photo-op and seems to have little interest and even less knowledge of the area, has some strange right-wing economic views, clearly wants the NHS to be privatised and will certainly not get my vote.

The last person I voted for who became an MP was Gerald Kaufman, back in 1970 in Manchester Ardwick. I took this signed portrait of him in 1908, and more recently talked to him at an event not long before his death in 2017, still and MP, when he was amused by me telling him this.

Although Boris Johnson and the others in his party keep telling us this election is all about getting Brexit done, it isn’t an argument that resonates with me. Firstly because I think any Brexit they are likely to get done (and it doesn’t finish with the withdrawal agreement) will be something of a disaster, but also because I don’t feel this is the most important issue facing this country.

Top of the list is of course the climate emergency. This is something that is not just a matter of things getting a little worse, or of us getting a little poorer while the rich make more money to hide away in their tax havens, those treasure islands supported by Britain, but of the continued existence of life anything like we know it on the planet. Personally I’m likely to die before the crisis really bites, but I’d like to think that my children and their children will have a future to look forward to.

And secondly, there is the welfare state in general and the NHS in particular. I was born just as the war ended, when the country had been near bankrupted and austerity was real, but then it prompted a great vision and hope for the future – though I was less than two months old and so unable to vote. But I did benefit from the NHS as a toddler, with free orange juice and (though I didn’t thank them at the time) cod liver oil, and access to a doctor when I was sick without my parents having to worry if they could afford the bill (and they would have found it very hard.) And I benefitted from free education all the way to degree level, getting a full maintenance grant as well as paying no fees.

Since Thatcher, succesive governments have chiselled away at our public services – and Blair and Brown were certainly a part of this, particularly for the NHS. If you’ve not watched the recently released film ‘The Great NHS Heist‘ you should do so, as it goes into great and convincing detail about how the NHS has been systematically undermined and prepared to change into a US-style insurance system – with people in key posts who have long advocated its privatisation. In the run-up to the election there were some organised screenings and the whole two hour film was available to view for free. I thought I knew about what was happening to the NHS, but it is even more advanced than I thought.

Nye Bevan may never have made the famous quote attributed to him, “The NHS will last as long as there’s folk with faith left to fight for it“, but it remains true. When Tory and New Labour tell us the NHS is “safe in our hands” they mean safely being turned into a privatised system. Unless we fight for an NHS run as a public service we are going to lose it, and we are rather a long way down losing it already. And the NHS may not last my lifetime.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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.

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