Posts Tagged ‘NHS’

NHS Victory Parade in Lewisham: 2013

Tuesday, September 14th, 2021

Among years of gloom for the NHS, under various reorganisations which have furthered the Tory project for privatisation a few bright spots have stood out, mainly where local people have stood up and fought to retain NHS hospitals and their services. One of these was celebrated on 14th September 2013, when the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign held a community march through Lewisham past the hospital to a free celebration in Ladywell Fields of their High Court victory which overturned the government closure plans.

The government had planned to close most of Lewisham Hospital, a hospital serving a large area of South London simply to allow the NHS to continue to make massive PFI repayments due from the building of other London hospitals at Woolwich and Orpington through contracts that were badly negotiated under a Labour government when interest rates were high; these contracts had already by 2013 delivered huge profits to the banks with payments of over £60m a year.

The popular campaign was also backed by the London Borough of Lewisham and both the council and the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign went separately to the High Court for judicial review of the decision by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt – and both were successful.

A new Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust was established in October 2013 as it states “following a period of intense controversy” and after early problems claims to have made considerable progress in maintaining a good service at the two hospitals in Lewisham and Woolwich including 24/7 emergency services at both as well as some other services in the area.

There had been previous large protests against the closure plans – which I photographed in November 2012 and January 2013 along with a couple of smaller events. But rather fewer came for the victory celebrations, which were led by a council dustcart with large posters on it. Behind the marchers were a couple of nurses in uniforms that they wore to take part in the Olympic opening ceremony, along with a small street band.

The parade ended in Ladywell Fields behind the hosptial, with live music, dancing and a children’s dance competition, although it and the parade were a little dampened by the continual light rain. But it was a good day for the people of Lewisham and for those of us who support an NHS free at the point of service, for “everyone – rich, or poor, man, woman or child” to “relieve your money worries in times of illness”.

Although they were celebrating victory, Jeremy Hunt had then yet to concede defeat, announcing the government would appeal against the decision. I think his advisers probably told him there seemed no chance an appeal would succeed and any appeal would simply waste public money. Eventually the policy was dropped.


Lewisham Hospital Victory Parade

See also:

Save A&E at Lewisham Hospital – Nov 2012
Save Lewisham Hospital – Jan 2013


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.


Peoples March Against NHS Privatisation 2014

Monday, September 6th, 2021

Almost all of my life has been lived under the NHS, although the free orange juice and cod liver oil from our local clinic just predated it. But it’s been there through my life when I needed it whether for minor complaints or more serious including a heart attack and diabetes.

When it began, everything was free – except for dental treatment which never became fully a part of the system, though I still get NHS dental treatment, but for many years there have been large areas of the country where it is almost impossible to do so. It was a Labour government that made the introduction of prescription charges possible – something that led Aneurin Bevan to resign from government, but they were actually introduced by the Conservatives in 1952.

Currently those not exempt pay £9.35 for each item on a prescription, and surveys show that around a third of those who have to pay have failed to collect items because of the cost. I’ve been exempt since my diagnosis of diabetes – and would have been so a few years later when I reached the age of 60, just as well as last week I collected 8 items from my local chemist that otherwise would have cost me around £75, though for those who can afford it would be cheaper to pay for a season ticket (PPC) at £108.10 for 12 months.

Increasingly parts of our NHS are being provided not by the NHS itself but by commercial providers. Some of these are the simpler treatments for patients – such as the annual photograph of my eyes or routine surgery. This leaves the more difficult (and expensive) work being carried out by the NHS – who also take over from private hospitals when more difficult or intensive procedures are required.

The Health and Social Care Act 2012 opened up the entire NHS to this backdoor privatisation, and it is now estimated by the Kings Fune that approximately a quarter of NHS spending goes on the private sector, though probably Covid has led to an increase.

There have been some spectacular failures in this privatisation, notably Hinchingbrooke Hospital, franchised to private company Circle under New Labour in 2019. After they were put into special measures as a result of significant failures in care – and were failing to make sufficient profits – they walked away in 2015, leaving the NHS to clear up the mess.

The People’s March for the NHS was set up to oppose the continuing privatisation of the NHS, and was inspired by the 1936 Jarrow Crusade when 200 men marched to London in protest against unemployment and poverty. Rather fewer made the whole distance in 2014, but they were met by supporters who marched with them for parts of the way, and by several thousands when they arrived in London on the last section of their route on Saturday 6th September 2014.

Their message was simple:
The NHS is ours.
We built it, we own it, we use it.
It’s under attack and if we don’t fight for it, we’ll lose it.

The current proposals for NHS reform leaked in February 2021 recognise some of the failures of the 2012 Health and Social Care Act but leave its core elements in place, while giving central government greater powers to meddle. As the authors of the NHS Reinstatement Bill commented:

These proposals are incoherent, de-regulatory, off-target, and badly timed. They will do next to nothing to remedy the serious shortcomings highlighted by the pandemic: a depleted NHS, a privatised social care system, with over-centralised, fragmented and part-privatised communicable disease control and public health systems. Joined-up legislation is needed to revitalise local authorities and to rebuild public services.


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.


Five Years Ago – 13th July 2016

Tuesday, July 13th, 2021

Wednesday was a busy day for me on 13th July 2016, photographing five events in London.

Cleaners at the 100 Wood St offices were still on strike against the anti-union cleaning contractor Thames Cleaning, by then the longest running industrial dispute in the history of the City of London and supporters including Unite the Resistance, the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, Class War and others held a rally in support of the action by the United Voices of the World trade union, beginning on Wood St and then moving on to the street outside CBRE who manage the offices.

CND members and supporters had come to Parliament to lobby MPs against the plans to replace Trident at a cost of at least £205 billion, and held a ‘Mad Hatters Tea Party’ in Parliament Square where members of Faith groups including both Christians and Buddhists held placards. Church leaders had written to The Times stating ‘The Government must take a lead – cancelling Trident would be a momentous step – Britain can lead the way!’ The government was instead led in its decisions by the lobbyists from those arms companies that profit greatly from these totally redundant weapons.

Also on Parliament Square was a protest supporting Labour MP for Wirral West Margaret Greenwood’s ‘Ten Minute Rule Bill’ with cross-party support to stop the privatisation of the NHS and return it to its founding principles. Among those who spoke was Shadow Health Minister Diane Abbot.

The day was also a ‘#PIPFightback’ National Day of Action against the Personal Independence Payments which disabled people say are a totally inadequate replacement for the Disabled Living Allowance. These rely on systematically flawed assessments carried out by private firms Capita and Atos which make no allowances for many variable conditions and ignore medical evidence. Administered by poorly qualified staff, many are overturned at tribunals after disabled people have suffered for months, sometimes leading to hospitalisation or suicide.

I’d started the day outside the Vauxhall PIP Consultation Centre run by ATOS in a back street with a small group of protesters including Gill Thompson, whose brother David Clapson, a diabetic ex-soldier died in July 2013 after his benefits were ‘sanctioned’. He was left starving without money for food or electricity to keep the fridge containing his insulin running. Like many his benefits had been stopped for trivial reasons and she was calling for a full and public inquiry into cases like those of her brother and to ensure a fairer system for vulnerable claimants.

Later people from the Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN), Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and Winvisible (Women with Invisible and Visible Disabilities) and other supporters met outside the Victoria St offices of Capita PLC, one of the companies responsible for PIP assessments and held a rally on the busy pavement there.

After some speeches they moved from the narrow pavement to the busy road to continue their protest, holding up traffic for a few minutes, though they quickly moved to one side to allow an ambulance to drive through.

From there the moved to hold a short protest outside the Department of Work & Pensions offices at Caxton House, and then on to Parliament Square for another short rally.

Finally they decided to go to College Green where a media village was present with politicians being interviewed on TV over the appointment of Theresa May as Prime Minister. Police tried to stop them going into the area, but after some moved in eventually allowed them to stand on a path in the middle of the area a few yards away from the TV crews, who almost all totally ignored the protesters. Disabled people suffering and even dying apparently isn’t news.

Solidarity for Wood St cleaners
Trident Mad Hatters Tea Party
Disabled PIP Fightback blocks Westminster
NHS Bill protest at Parliament
PIP Fightback at Vauxhall


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.


Save St Helier Hospital – 7 July 2018

Wednesday, July 7th, 2021

The battle by local campaigners against the closure of acute facilities at Epsom and St Helier Hospitals in south London has been hard fought and illustrates many of the problems faced by the NHS as the government has called for huge savings from hospital trusts, many made paupers by PFI repayments.

The situation continues to develop after the march which I photographed on Saturday 7th July 2018, and in July 2020 plans were approved to build a new smaller Specialist Emergency Care Hospital in Sutton which will bring together six acute services, A&E, critical care, acute medicine, emergency surgery, inpatient paediatrics and maternity services.

The trust say in the documentation for the first phase of public consultation which closed on 30th June 2021 that “85% of current services will stay at Epsom Hospital and St Helier Hospital. There will be urgent treatment centres open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at both of these hospitals.”

But health service unions and campaigners are worried by the proposals, which they say will strip acute services including two fully functioning A&E departments. The proposed urgent treatment centres will not have the capacity to treat life threatening illness. They say the downgrading of the two major hospitals will endanger the lives of people living in the area.

The new unit is one of 40 across the country which have been announced several times as a part of the governments increased investment in the NHS. Many see this and other similar schemes as being designed to increase privatisation and make involvement in the health service more attractive to healthcare companies.

July 7th was a sweltering hot day in London, and the walk from a park in the centre of Sutton to the St Helier Open Space in front of the hospital went through Sutton High St, fairly crowded with shoppers and then along hot, dusty streets with few people around. Walking was tiring, and taking photographs even more so. It was a difficult event to photograph, where I found relatively little to work with. But I was pleased to be there, supporting the campaign to keep the hospitals open and serving the community, part of a National Health Service that was celebrating 70 years of being brought into existence by a Labour Government.

It took a huge and deterimined fight by Nye Bevan to get the National Health Service Act passed, with Tories denouncing it as bringing National Socialism to the country and opposing it in parliament at every opportunity. But on 5th July 1948 we got the NHS, although almost ever since the Conservative party when in power has been looking for and finding ways to convert it from a universal public health care system to a service run for private profit.

NHS at 70 – Save St Helier Hospital

Blair lied, Millions Died – 6th July 2016

Tuesday, July 6th, 2021

Labour scraped in at Batley and Spen by a few hundred votes, which was enough to take the pressure of calls for a replacement for Keir Starmer off the boil for at least a few months. And for the media to call upon some of the more grisly figures from the Labour past to come on and repeat their vilification of Jeremy Corbyn, and call for a return to those policies which had made Labour – New Labour – unelectable.

It had started with a great burst of support and enthusiasm in May 1997, when we really believed that ‘Things Can Only Get Better‘, but soon the disillusion set in. One of the major early problems came with PFI, launched by John Major in 1992, but taken up and expanded greatly under New Labour. Private companies were contracted to build and manage major public projects, enabling some very flashy announcements but failing to say we would be paying through the nose for them for many, many years – and in many cases for another 20 years or more from now.

‘Blair’ and ‘Bush’s’ bloody hands – and the cash.

It essentially privatised many public projects, with often poor negotiating skills by civil servants unschooled in such matters resulting in excessive profits for the companies involved. There were many critics of PFI at the time, and in 2011 a critical Treasury report. In 2018 then Chancellor Philip Hammond stopped any new PFI projects.

PFI has been particularly disastrous for the NHS, causing huge financial problems and leading to the cutting down an closures of hospitals. The 127 PFI schemes had a total repayment cost (according to Wikipedia) of £2.1m in 2017 and continuing to rise until 2029. In 2012 seven NHS Trusts had to be given emergency financial support as even with cuts they were unable to meet their PFI repayments.

But, as the recent death of Donald Rumsfield reminded us, the most clear public failure of New Labour was to support what was largely his personal vendetta in the disastrous invasion of Iraq. Richard Wolffe, writing in he Guardian headlined his article ‘Rumsfeld’s much-vaunted ‘courage’ was a smokescreen for lies, crime and death‘ – and Blair colluded whole-heartedly in the deception, with the ‘dodgy dossier’ and various other statements and decisions. His was a special relationship with Bush most politely described as brown-nosing.

This of course is Britain, so instead of taking action we eventually had an inquiry, with Chilcot taking over seven years to allow the long grass to grow. Set up by Gordon Brown in 2009, six years after the invasion, it produced its report on 6 July 2016, when the protest here took place. Wikipedia quotes Richard Norton-Taylor of The Guardian as describing it as “an unprecedented, devastating indictment of how a prime minister was allowed to make decisions by discarding all pretence at cabinet government, subverting the intelligence agencies, and making exaggerated claims about threats to Britain’s national security”.

A banner uderestimates Blairs crime – there were millions who died

Clearly Blair was a war criminal. But of course no legal action followed – and that war criminal and proven liar continues to be invited to give his opinions in the media – and there are even those who suggest he should be brought back to lead the Labour Party. Financially he has done well out of his time as Prime Minister – and probably even better from his property investments, with an estimated net worth according to some of £100m. But as the placards say, ‘Blair lied, Millions Died’ and if there was any justice he should have gone to jail.

More at Blair lied, Millions Died – Chilcot


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.


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.


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.


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.

7 Days to save the NHS

Friday, April 30th, 2021

‘7 Days to Save our NHS’ on Westminster Bridge, 30th April 2015

Any remaining doubts about the Tory party’s intentions to privatise the NHS should have been eliminated by the recent appointment of Samantha Jones, the outgoing chief executive of Operose Health, as an “expert adviser for NHS transformation and social care“.

Openrose is the British subsidiary of giant US private healthcare firm Centene, and recently bought AT Medics, a GP led company that was ran many of London’s GP surgeries and other primary care services. Openrose was already running around 20 GP surgeries as well as various opthalmology services, a dermatology clinic in Kent and an urgent treatment centre in Birmingham.

Despite health secretary Matt Hancock’s claims that his proposed changes to the NHS would put an end to 30 years of NHS privatisation, the process is currently being accelerated, with these and other changes making it easier for US and other companies to take control of parts of the NHS.

The launch of the ‘7 Days to Save our NHS’ Campaign’ on April 30th, 2015 came a week before the 2015 General Election, and urged people to use their vote on May 7th to save the NHS. It was one of many protests against the creeping privatisation of our health service that I’ve photographed, along with more protests over hospital closures and other attacks on the service which left it in a poor state at the start of the Covid pandemic.

Fortunately – and largely thanks to the dedicated work of NHS staff – it more or less coped, but at the price of far too many deaths in hospitals and care homes, with high levels of hospital-acquired infection due to a lack of proper protection – and we saw photographs of staff having to improvise with bin bags.

But although some of us could have used our vote to try to save the NHS, for many their was no such credible alternative. Both of our major parties have been guilty of privatising the NHS, with New Labour responsible for much of the present crisis in our healthcare system, particularly for saddling hospital trusts with crippling long-term debts through insanely thought out and poorly negotiated private finance initiative hospital building projects – which have forced programmes of hospital closures. The https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/355999/Who-now-owns-the-NHS-and-can-they-cure-it Daily Express described these in 2012 as “a Klondike gold strike for investment firms” which will result in the taxpayer paying £301billion to receive facilities worth £57.4 billion.

And many MPs – mainly but not entirely Tory – are very much in on the gravy train that NHS privatisation is already providing, and very much rubbing their hands in anticipation of more. In 2015 the https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/former-private-health-firm-chief-23838725 Daily Mirror published what they called a full list of MPs with links to private healthcare firms. Among the 70 on that list were the then prime minister David Cameron, Andrew Lansley, described as ‘Former Health Secretary & architect of privatisation’, former Home Secretary David Davis, and most of the leading Tories – including current secretary of state for health and social care Matt Hancock MP.

NHS banner on Westminster Bridge
‘7 Days to Save our NHS’ Campaign launch


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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


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.