Health Service in Ealing is shrinking before our eyes

Steve SpeechThe snow may not be sparkling on our streets but it is certainly floating down on our television screens and while some of you may be already tiring of Christmas Carols on a tape loop in the department stores there is more than enough of the mystery of the Advent Season and the start of Christmas to send a shiver down the spine and to put a smile on the face of the most miserable.
In all the years I spent working in the National Health Service I came to love working at Christmas.
Admittedly I didn’t have children then and as my wife was a nurse who also worked at the Middlesex Hospital we were happy to take on the holiday season shifts to allow colleagues to spend some time under the tree with their families.
Patients may have winced as this porter pushed their trolley through the corridors of the Middlesex while wearing a paper hat and a silly grin but most people seemed pleased to join in with a bit of seasonal jollity and there was always a sense of camaraderie between us ancillary workers and the nurses, medics and catering staff in the hospital and the police and paramedics who appeared with increasing frequency in Casualty.
None of us would have thought for a moment that our beloved Middlesex Hospital would now be a hole in the ground or that our local services in Ealing would be shrinking before our eyes.
The very idea of an Urgent Care Centre replacing A&E would have seemed ridiculous and the prospect of the place where my wife went on to work as a sister on a cancer ward, Charing Cross, being flogged off to property speculators and hedge fund spivs would have seemed nothing less than a bitter, sick joke.
I actually accept that change is inevitable and the concentration of stroke services on fewer sites has been a great success and has actually confounded my initial misgivings and proved to be a life saver.
Even allowing for that I cannot help but look at the devastation that has been wrought on our local health services and feel the Christmas spirit draining away.
All current indicators point towards a severe worsening in the service provided at Ealing Hospital.
I have a natural disinclination to alarmism but this is beyond paranoia and in the realm of real and present danger.Ealing hosp
The revelation that the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, has so little confidence in GP provision that he took his children to A&E over the weekend does not fill me with confidence and I shudder to think what might be our fate here in Ealing if we suffer from what are known as “winter pressures” or when we experience outbreaks of influenza or, God forbid, a serious road or rail accident.
I’m lucky enough to have a truly excellent GP and anyone who can keep me upright and compos mentis deserves a medal at the very least but I am really seriously worried about Ealing Hospital.
I went in for an x-ray the other day and was seen promptly and efficiently with the greatest of courtesy and professionalism but everyone I spoke to was desperately anxious about the future.
Not their personal future but that of the hospital.

We face a general election in a few months and, quite rightly, the National Health Service will be front and centre in the campaign and certainly in the debates before polling day on May 7th.
I’m not going to get all political on you and I always respect any individual’s decision to cast their vote however they choose.
All I ask is that you think about the NHS in the next few months and ask those who are asking for your vote what they will do to earn it where the NHS is concerned.
It wouldn’t do any harm to say thanks to the people who are running our health service on behalf of all of us.
If you’re visiting anyone at Ealing why not bring a card or a little something for the staff and I hope that you pop in to the truly excellent League of Friends café for a cup of something warm and cheering and a chat with the volunteers who prove their support for our NHS in the best and most practical way.
We are all immensely grateful to everyone working in the health service in our part of the world and I know that we all wish them the very best of the season and warmest greetings to their friends and families.
When they come off shift and head for home there may well be a light dusting of snow on the streets and there will certainly be lights twinkling in the windows and in some cases illuminations blazing out over the whole house.
IMG_3614I want the NHS workers to come home to a warm welcome but, above all, I want them to look forward to a New Year free of the awful anxiety that besets us at the moment.
That would be the best possible Christmas present for us all!


IMG_3614With the local NHS under increasing threat, Stephen Pound, MP for Ealing North, has voted for Labour’s new Bill to repeal the Tories’ new competition rules that drive NHS privatisation at the expense of patient care.

Labour MP Clive Efford successfully introduced a Bill this week that will scrap David Cameron’s market framework for the NHS and make sure local NHS patients are always put first. Now the Tory-led government is under pressure to honour this new bill and make sure it is enacted and enforced.

The Tory-led government has forced hospitals to open themselves up to a privatisation agenda which prioritises spending on competition lawyers and tendering exercises instead of on patient care.

Stephen Pound voted for Labour’s new Bill as a way of protecting and saving our NHS, and has challenged the government to act to make sure patients are put before profits.
Stephen Pound said: “The Tories’ approach is to let private companies cherry-pick the most profitable NHS services, regardless of patient need, and spend more money on economic regulators and competition lawyers. Instead, Labour will ensure that the NHS once again puts patients before profits. Labour will rescue the NHS with our £2.5 billion Time to Care package which will fund new staff including 20,000 more nurses – investment the Tories will not match.

“The Tories haven’t just destabilised our health service; they’re holding it back from meeting the challenges of the 21st century as well. I voted for this new Bill because it will end the creep towards NHS privatisation, bureaucracy and red-tape, and put patients back at the heart of the NHS. Now it’s time for the Tory-led government to listen to Parliament and put this bill into action so that patients in Ealing North are prioritised once again.”

What’s it All About?
Under the Tories’ damaging Health and Social Care Act, enforced competition and creeping privatisation within the NHS have left patient care as an afterthought and not the priority that it should be. On 21st November, a Private Member’s Bill from Clive Efford MP was debated which, if passed, will restore real democratic accountability for the NHS, scrap the new competition framework and make sure NHS patients are always put first.
Labour’s Bill to repeal David Cameron’s market framework in the NHS
The Bill would scrap the rules that force market tendering of services and that are seeing millions of pounds wasted on competition lawyers instead of patient care.

Section 75 regulations
These are the rules that many doctors say are forcing them to put services out to the market, even if they do not want to, for fear of legal challenge.
Labour oppose these regulations because they risk fragmenting care and are seeing large amounts of money spent on tendering exercises rather than patient care.
• Freedom of Information requests by the Labour Party show NHS hospitals are now spending in excess of £60 million per year just on tendering exercises / assessing tenders for bids. In addition to this, Clinical Commissioning Groups will also be spending millions on putting services out to tender.
• In a survey by Health Service Journal, two thirds of commissioners said they had experienced increased commissioning costs as a result of the new regulations (Health Service Journal, 4 April 2014)
• Last year, the Chief Executive of the NHS said “You’ve got competition lawyers all over the place, causing enormous difficulty…We are getting, in my view, bogged down in a morass of competition law which is causing?.?.?.?significant cost in the system” (Sir David Nicholson, Financial Times, 5 November 2013).

The Bill scraps these rules and return to a system based on collaboration and integration. The Bill would also give contracting authorities the right to use ‘NHS contracts’ to ensure they can avoid competition law.