Labour councillors and supporters were out in force again in Bloxwich on Saturday, this time campaigning against the UK government’s proposed ‘reform’ of the National Health Service, as pictures kindly sent in by George Makin clearly show.
Supported by respected Walsall North Labour MP David Winnick, local Labour councillors Ian Robertson (Blakenall), Julie Fitzpatrick (Bloxwich East), Ann Young (Blakenall), Shaun Fitzpatrick (Bloxwich East) and Short Heath candidate Matt Ward amongst others were apparently kept very busy at Bloxwich Market Square collecting signatures on their petition protesting against the Conservative/Liberal Democrat’s troubled ‘NHS Health and Social Care Bill in England’, which is top of the British political and news agenda at the moment.
Tory Secretary of State for Health Andrew Lansley’s highly controversial bill, which many say will result in “privatisation by the back door” and the disastrously disjointed dismantling of one of the nation’s most important public services, looks set to be forced through by a government which has sets its face against all those who disagree with it, despite serious opposition from many professionals and respected bodies such as the Royal College of Nursing, who this week said that “…serious concerns expressed by [RCN] members have not been addressed during the parliamentary process, listening exercise or political engagement”.
The Royal College of General Practitioners has also now come out against the bill, and were not alone with the RCN and the British Medical Association in being unhappy about not being asked to attend Prime Minister David Cameron’s meeting about the bill at Number 10 last Monday, from which several major opponents of the bill were effectively excluded. They said “We are disappointed that the RCGP has not been invited to the meeting at Downing Street today. The RCGP, with its 44,000 members, is the largest professional body of GPs in the UK. It is our Members who will have to implement the changes if the Bill goes through so it is very important that we are part of any discussions on the way forward.”
Despite increasingly strident claims that their changes to the National Health Service are “essential”, the government, which before the general election claimed that there would be “…no top down reform of the NHS…” has been unable to successfully engage with a number of major professional bodies such as the RCGP, whose members will be expected to take on massive extra responsibilities as a result of root and branch changes to be imposed on a service which is already creaking under the weight of heavy budget and staff cuts.
Widespread opposition has already resulted in hundreds of amendments being made to the incredibly complex bill, but many are saying it should now be thrown out altogether as unworkable.
Meanwhile angry doctors and students who are members of the British Medical Association are seriously considering industrial action over the government’s proposed ‘reforms’ of their pensions. Last month they overwhelmingly rejected the Government’s “final” offer on pensions, which involves higher contributions, ending the final salary scheme, and altering the lump sum paid on retirement.
The BMA say the changes would see younger doctors contributing more than £200,000 extra over their lifetime and being forced to work eight years longer, to age 68. Industrial action from doctors, were it to take place, would be the first since the 1970s, possibly signalling a “spring of discontent” in the NHS.
In the meantime, Saturday’s enthusiastic response to Labour’s petitioning in Bloxwich seems to indicate that members of the public are finally beginning to realise that in England at least, one of their most highly valued and respected public services is in serious danger.Pictures courtesy George Makin