Posts Tagged ‘NHS’

Why we are short of Nurses

Sunday, January 9th, 2022

Why we are short of Nurses
On January 9th 2016 I took the pictures shown here of a rally and march against the axing of bursaries for student nurses and midwives. The current huge surge in hospitalisation of Covid victims as Omicron rages through the nation has highlighted the huge shortage of qualified medical people in the NHS at all levels.

For years, but increasingly since the Tory-led coalition came to power in 2010, there have been huge shortages, with the NHS having to recruit from overseas – including from many poorer countries which are even more short of staff than the UK.

We have of course been bringing in nurses and doctors from abroad for many years – at least from the 1950s – rather than training enough from our own population. It has never been that there were not enough young people who want to be nurses and doctors – and in my years as a teacher I taught quite a few suitable young men and women who were well qualified but failed to gain admission to medical schools where there were perhaps 12 applicants for every place.

Hospitals have also become hugely reliant on agency nurses rather than directly employed staff, partly because of relatively low pay, but also because of a lack of self-defeating lack of flexibility by underfunded NHS hospitals which actually results in increased costs.

But for training nurses, the Tory government really messed things up in 2016 by removing the training bursaries for NHS nurses and midwives. Unlike other students they perform essential work for the NHS in hospitals caring for patients as an integral part of their courses, which makes it virtually impossible for them to undertake other part-time employment during their studies.

And in 2017 things got even worse and nursing students have had to pay tuition fees in the same way as other university students, leaving them with large loans to pay off when they complete their courses and go into employment.

Len McClusky, General Secretary of Unite next to a Unison banner

In 2020 the Royal College of Nursing published a report Beyond the Bursary: Workforce Supply which makes the point that at the start of the pandemic there were almost 40,000 nursing vacancies in the NHS in England alone, and called on government to develop a fully funded workforce strategy and aim for “an oversupply of nurses given years of underinvestment and the growing needs of our population.

The report notes that following the removal of the bursary there was a 31% drop in applicants for nursing courses, and over 4% fewer being accepted. Where we needed and increase in numbers being trained due to the shortage, government policies directly produced a decrease.

The RCN called on the government to abolish the tuition fees for nursing courses and reimburse the fees for those students affected by the removal of the bursary. And although the welcomed the decision to bring back an annual maintenance grant of £5000 for nursing students (£8,000 for some difficult to recruit specialities) from September 2020 they asked for that to be increased to a level that reflects the actual cost.

Of course the pandemic has made things worse. Some have died from Covid, partly as a result of the failure to provide effective protective clothing – and those contracts given to Tory mates with no experience in the field while some established companies failed to get orders. Many among those who recovered from Covid continue to suffer its after-effects – ‘long-Covid’. Others have simply been exhausted by overwork – and this is “a workforce that felt undervalued, unrewarded and where one in three were nearing retirement age.”

Brexit too has taken its toll, both with nurses from European countries leaving the UK and the failure of our government to respect the early promises it made to EU citizens working in the UK has not helped. Brexit and the continuing squabbles by the government over the treaty it signed is also a deterrent to people to now come and work here.

The shortage of nurses – and other medical staff – is a direct result of government policies. Not just the Tories but also of Labour under Blair and Brown, and is a part of the slow sabotaging of the NHS as a part of a policy of creeping privatisation that has been underway since at least the Thatcher years, though vastly accelerated since 2010. Unfortunately it isn’t as one placard states that the Tories are short-sighted, but that they are playing a long game to undermine our National Health Service.

More pictures on My London Diary:
NHS Bursaries March
NHS Bursaries rally before march


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Selling Off The NHS

Thursday, December 23rd, 2021

Two news items in recent days (neither given any great prominence in the media) show clearly how the Tories are selling off the NHS.

Though it was the Financial Times which reported why Rishi Sunak failed to attend a roundtable discussion with the UK hospitality sector. He was in California and the UK meeting was said by Treasury insiders to have clashed with his scheduled call with “US healthcare bosses.” Like me you probably don’t read the FT, but you are unlikely to have heard much about this from the BBC.

The second recent news is that Virgin Healthcare, a company that has been awarded contracts worth well over £2 billion for providing parts of our NHS services was this month sold to the private equity group Twenty20 Capital.

Virgin Care runs 400 NHS and local authority services including GP surgeries and Physiotherapy, generally concentrating on simple services which leaves more difficult and expensive work to be carried out by the NHS. It has a structure including Virgin Group Holdings based in the British Virgin Islands which sets up companies with large amounts of debt it uses to legally avoid paying UK tax – though the owners the Branson family have donated £70,000 to the Tory party.

You can watch a Labour Party video in which Jeremy Corbyn, then the Labour Leader, holds up a 451 page uncensored report and the considerably slimmer heavily redacted version released by Boris Johnson’s government. The unedited version confirms that the US demanded that the NHS is firmly on the table in the trade talks. “These uncensored documents leave Boris Johnson’s denials in absolute tatters… We’ve now got evidence that under Boris Johnson the NHS is on the table and will be up for sale.”

On Friday 23rd December 2016, I photographed ‘Howls of protest for death of the NHS‘, a protest at Downing St on the day that contracts were signed across the country to implement the government’s ‘Sustainability and Transformation Plans’ which effectively means the NHS can be handed over to private companies without any public engagement or consultation, ending a public service whose vision which has long been the envy of the world, signing the NHS over for private profit.

Every 15 minutes the speeches were interrupted for a long and loud ‘howl of protest’ by those taking part. These were timed to coincide with three social media ‘Thunderclaps’ across Facebook, Twitter & Tumblr by several hundreds of people mainly unable to be at the rally.

Speakers at the rally included Paula Peters of DPAC, Ealing Councillor Aysha Raza, trainee nurse Anthony Johnson of the Bursary or Bust campaign, a trainee mental health nurse, a patient and campaigner Gina and retired paediatrician and co-chair of Keep Our NHS Public Tony O’Sullivan.

At the end of the rally a small group of those present led by several DPAC campaigners, were harassed by police and threatened with arrest as they marched on the road to hold a final howl outside Parliament, with another short speech by Paula Peters.

Though the NHS has been deliberately weakened and made more available for private companies to run for profit by successive governments we still do have an NHS which is largely free at the point of need. But half of NHS beds have been lost since Thatcher began the cuts and privatisation and over 40% of services in UK healthcare are now provided by private companies and many of those who are now running the government have made clear in speeches, pamphlets and books that they favour an insurance backed scheme based on the US model.

The US model is expensive and flawed. Two thirds of personal bankruptcy in the USA is because people are unable to pay for the cost of healthcare either because they cannot afford the insurance or often because their insurance will not cover the treatment they require.

The Health and Care Bill 2021 continues the threats to the future of the NHS and gives much greater powers to the government to direct the NHS and will undoubtedly lead to greater penetration of the service by private providers, including the major US healthcare companies that Chancellor Sunak was making plans with in California while neglecting his duties in the UK.

More from 23rd December 2016: Howls of protest for death of the NHS


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Fuel Poverty, NHS Staffing & Zero Hours – 2013

Friday, November 26th, 2021

Eight years ago there were protests about fuel poverty and NHS staffing which seem still very much in the news today, and zero hours contracts remain a problem, though unscrupulous employers have found another unfair way to screw their workers with ‘fire and rehire’, although legal actions brought by smaller and more active unions have begun to curb some of the more obviously illegal aspects of the gig economy.

Justice Not Jumpers at NPower HQ

But fuel costs are rising fast and putting many energy companies out of business. Not that they were really energy companies, simply middlemen gambling to make a quick profit, buying energy as cheaply as they could and attracting customers to deals which have become uneconomic to honour as fuel prices have risen. The scheme to rescue their customers, passing them on to those companies still in business makes life tougher for those who have to pick them up, and with the latest company to go under – or at least into administration – means that either taxpayers or possibly electricity customers – we await the details – will have to shoulder the bill.

It’s a crisis that has its roots in the privatisation of the industry and the absurd belief in competition that has created an overpopulated market in companies taking a cut out of our bills, with others profiting from persuading people to switch suppliers. Along of course with a government failure to provide proper support for insulation of homes – as Insulate Britain have been gluing themselves to the M25 and elsewhere to highlight, as well as ending the building of onshore wind farms, failing to put investment into other renewable sources such as tidal power and instead backing climate-destroying wood burning and expensive nuclear schemes. The recent half-hearted support for heat pumps is yet another failure by government. We should have schemes that ensures that new build properties are built with either air or ground source heat pumps and high levels of insulation and provides incentives for them to have solar panels.

On Tuesday 26th November I went with fuel poverty activists to march to the offices of NPower, one of the big six energy providers to protest against the profiteering by them that leads to people having to choose between eating and keeping warm, causing unnecessary deaths.

They included people from Fuel Poverty Action, UK Uncut, the Greater London Pensioners’ Association and Disabled People Against Cuts and were protesting against the huge increase in energy costs and against the deception of the energy companies who blame price rises on ‘green taxes’. The protests, in London and at British Gas’s new Oxford HQ, as well as in Lewes and Bristol were supported by other groups including No Dash for Gas, Campaign Against Climate Change, Climate Revolution, Young Friends of the Earth, Frack Off London, Power for the People, Barnet Alliance for Public Services, Lewes Against the Cuts, SOAS Energy & Climate Change Society and Southwest Against Nuclear.

They went to the NPower offices in Threadneedle Street in the centre of the City of London because NPower is the UK’s most complained about energy company with double the customer complaints of its nearest rival EDF and higher price rises in 2013 than any of the other Big Six companies. It had then paid zero corporation tax for the past 3 years despite a 34% profit rise of £413million and in the previous winter its price hikes were estimated to have pushed 300,000 people into fuel poverty.

Fuel poverty leads to premature deaths – and the figure for these announced that day for winter 2012-3 was a shock, with an increase of almost a third on the previous year, to 31,000 people. The protesters emphasized this by carrying a coffin to the offices, with several of the wearing masks with the faces of the prime minister and chancellor, David Cameron and George Osborne, and wearing jumpers with the logos of major energy companies.

Police protected the offices of NPower while the protesters held a peaceful rally outside, where many testimonies were read from people who were having to chose between heating and eating, already cold and dreading the coming winter. In a press statement, Susan Jarrett of UK Uncut said: ‘The fact that people are dying of fuel poverty as Npower and other energy companies rake in the money and avoid tax is a scandal. This Government is not only unnecessarily cutting our services in the name of austerity but are allowing these energy companies to literally get away with murder which is why we are fighting back today.’

This winter fuel costs are higher. Global warming means our weather is far less predictable, and its possible we may have an unusually cold snap. Or we may be lucky and avoid extremes of cold. But if we do get them, then there will be more deaths.

4:1 legal minimum NHS staffing

Back in 2013, the Dept of Health was still in Richmond House on Whitehall, and nurses were there to campaign for a manadatory staffing level of one nurse for every 4 patients in the NHS. They were joined by other groups protesting against closures and privatisation in the NHS. Its probably because of protests like this and many others that the department moved to obscure offices some way down Victoria St – which at least one protest I photographed marched past without noticing and got several hundred yards down the road before they realised they had missed it. Richmond House is now set to hold Parliament while the old building undergoes extensive and very expensive modernisation.

The protest was a response to various disastrous news stories about the problems of the NHS, including the RCN (Royal College of Nursing) revealing the NHS has over 20,000 nursing vacancies and the Department of Health’s decision to downgrade (effectively close) 100 A&E departments. Protesters also urged people to sign a petition calling for the NHS to be exempted from the provisions of the EU-US trade treaty then being negotiated in secret; and post-Breixt the government has made clear they will not protect the NHS in UK-US negotiations.

Cultural Workers against Zero Hours

Finally I went to photograph PCS members from national cultural institutions in London at Tate Modern and on the Millennium Bridge protesting against zero hour contracts which give them no guaranteed weekly hours or income, while stopping them taking on other work. Employers use zero-hour contracts to cut wages, avoid holiday pay, pensions, and ensure the maximum flexibility and profit for themselves. Workers are also unable to take on other part-time work, as they are obliged to be available for work at the whim of the employer.

There have been some minor changes in the law and in 2015 employers were banned from requiring workers to get permission before accepting other work but zero hours contracts continue to be a problem for many workers. Workers on them have no way of knowing their income week to week and although in theory they have the right to refuse any work offered, this still often leads to them being offered fewer hours in future. And while in theory zero hours workers have employment rights, these are often denied – and virtually impossible for individuals to enforce. All workers – particularly those suffering from zero hours contracts – need to join an effective union.


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Trade Justice Parade 2001

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2021

Twenty years ago today on 3rd November 2001 I wrote:

the trade justice parade was a serious event but also we were having some fun. the world trade organisation isn’t at all amusing, but i loved the t-shirt that said ‘wto – unsuitable for anyone with a conscience.

giant pound signs, balloons, a hug fat cat, the wto dragon, pirates and everyone made it an event to remember.

speakers included naomi klein (author of ‘no logo’) and sergio cobo from mexico.

My London Diary

And with the article I posted the two black and white images shown here. But I think most of the pictures I took of the parade were in colour, taken on colour negative film. But the only work I was putting in to a picture library back then was in black and white – and then still 8×10″ prints. There was still greater demand for black and white, and some of the pictures I took in colour I printed as black and white. The library would have taken colour, but mostly they worked with colour transparencies.

But I had recently bought a scanner with which I could scan colour negative film and it had software that could produce positive results with something like the correct colours. The results were not great and seemed to accentuate the faults in the negatives and exaggerate flare. The results were certainly not of professional quality as you can probably see – even after I have improved the pictures in Lightroom.

A year after I made these pictures I bought my first DSLR and things changed, though it took a while for the library and some other outlets to shift to accept digital files, and for a little while I was still taking black and white film for the prints they wanted as well as digital colour. But things changed quite rapidly to an all-digital world.

Going back to the negatives I’m sure I could now make much improved digital versions than these by ‘camera scanning’ – using a DSLR to photograph them and then Negative Lab Pro software to convert them to positives. It’s good news for those of us with archival material on colour negative film. But I can see no reason at all for wanting to take film again when digital produces so much better results with much less hassle.

The issues people were protesting about in the Trade Justice Parade are still very much with us – and in the UK the government last week passed yet another act hastening the privatisation of our NHS, while many of the same issues that were brought up by the protest are behind the failures to deal effectively with climate change. The huge greed for consumption and wealth of a small minority of the ultra-rich underlie both; they are not ‘high net worth’ but ‘high global liability.’


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Nine years ago: 6 Oct 2012

Wednesday, October 6th, 2021

Proposals to close Accident and Emergency services at four of the nine hospitals in North West London provoked fury among local residents and opposition from local councils as they would mean slow journeys over heavily congested roads for those living in much of northwest London. The proposals seemed to be motivated simply by cost savings with no regard to the consequences.

This protest was one of a number that I photographed, particularly about the closure of A&E and some other services at both Charing Cross Hospital (which is in Hammersmith) and Ealing Hospital. The previous month I had photographed a http://mylondondiary.co.uk/2012/09/sep.htm#hospitals large march from Southall Park to Ealing Hospital against the closure plan and there was another march to Central Middlesex Hospital taking place that same day.

These large and widespread protests and legal actions taken by the protesters were almost certainly a major factor behind the decision in March 2019 by then Health Secretary Matt Hancock to finally scrap the plans for what was the biggest hospital closure programme in the history of the NHS. The campaigners welcomed the decision but said it should have come much earlier rather than after seven years of the Dept of Health supporting the plans, which would have involved demolishing Charing Cross Hospital and selling off most the site.

I photographed as people gathered for the march in Shepherds Bush but had to leave as the march was setting off for Hammersmith and a rally in Fulham to go to Westminster.

Britain First, a far-right anti-Muslim movement (it describes itself as “a modern, responsible patriotic political movement”) was protesting at Downing St against what they described as ‘Britain’s secret shame – Muslim Grooming’ and were joined on their protest by members of other extremist groups including the English Defence League. After protesting for around an hour at Downing St they marched the short distance to Parliament Square where they tried to burn an Islamic flag. It proved to be rather fire-resistant.

A few yards away, thousand of Muslims packed Old Palace Yard opposite the Houses of Parliament in a peaceful protest against an Anti-Muslim film made in the USA. They called for laws to protect religious figures.

The film, Innocence of Muslims, a crude video made by https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nakoula_Basseley_Nakoula Egyptian-born American writer Mark Basseley Youssef had already prompted violent anti-American protests in various Muslim countries. Youssef was then in jail in Los Angeles for violations of a probation order which, among other things included making false statements regarding his role in the film, and his use of the alias “Sam Bacile”. He had a previous conviction for in 1997 for intent to manufacture methamphetamine and was under probation following release in June 2011 from being jailed in 2010 for his part in a bank fraud.

Youssef, under his alias Bacile, falsely claimed that the anti-Islamic film had been funded by $5 million from 100 Jewish donors and that he was an Israeli Jew. An Egyptian court tried him and others in absentia and sentenced them to death for defaming Islam in November 2012. He was released from prison in 2013 to serve the remainder of his sentence in a halfway house in Californinia followed by 4 years of probabation.

Finally I travelled to Kilburn for a march and rally demanding Brent council rehouse the Counihan family from South Kilburn. Two years earlier, Anthony Counihan, a London bus driver inherited a few acres of poor land in Galway on the death of his father. Rented out, it brings an income of £18 a week.

He reported this to Brent Council, who responded with an eviction order and a demand for repayment of £70,000 of housing benefit, later telling him he should move back with his family to Ireland where he was born – while continuing to drive a bus from Cricklewood Depot. His wife Isabel and five children were all born in Brent.

The case was complicated by the fact that the family had moved out of a council property to go back to Ireland for a year to look after his sick father, and had signed away their lease as the council had not told them they could sublet for the year, and by their treatment by the council after their return, when they were unable to find accomodation they could afford on a bus-drivers salary. Brent decided they had made themselves “intentionally homeless” and were refusing their statutory duty to rehouse the family.

More on all at:
Rehouse the Counihans
Muslims against Anti-Muslim Film
Britain First – Muslim Grooming
Save Our Hospitals – Shepherds Bush


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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


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.


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


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


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