Asking Conservative MPs to scrap the Health and Care Bill.

#DontBlowIt#NHSResistance  #NHS_Not_ICS  #SaveOurNHS #NHSPay15 

The last leg of our tour of Tory constituencies in Lancashire ended this week with a trip to the Morecambe and Lunesdale seat of David Morris MP and then a visit to the Wyre & Preston North seat of Ben Wallace MP. 

This has been a collective campaign by Unite Community Lancashire branch, along with Chorley and South Ribble Hospital campaign, and members variously  from Save Liverpool Women’s Hospital campaign,  SHA Liverpool City Region, Keep our NHS Public Merseyside, Defend Our NHS Wirral and Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC), and members from various Constituency Labour Parties and from Trades councils in Lancashire.

The plan was to contact the 11 Conservative MPs in Lancashire who all voted the Health & Care Bill through on its second reading. The aim was to urge them to vote against the Bill and to oppose the Integrated Care Systems into which the NHS has been remodelled. We wanted to deliver to each of them a lovingly hand embroidered handkerchief with the message 

“Don’t Blow It! Kill the Health & Care Bill Before It Kills Us”

Thanks to the CK999 and 999CallForTheNHS campaigns for the brilliantly creative  #DontBlowIt campaign and to all the volunteers around the country who have been hand embroidering handkerchiefs.

We attempted to visit 13 Tory MPs as we included a trip to Bury North MP James Daly and Bury South MP Christian Wakeford. No one in James Daly’s office would deign to come to the door and would only communicate over the intercom. 

In some constituencies, we held stalls near the MP’s office to speak to local voters. It was heartening to see the extent of awareness in the public of the dismantling of the NHS,  they knew they were being denied care, they knew it has been made so difficult to get appointments,  referrals, tests, scans and that they or their friends and family are suffering as a result. Those who worked in the NHS knew they were being taken for granted, underpaid, exhausted, expected to do more for less, their lives being put at risk throughout the pandemic. They understood that remodelling the NHS on the American system is  a terrifying prospect for us all. 

Why would any government think it was a good idea to push through the complete remodelling of the NHS and fast track legislation to legitimise what they have already done during a global pandemic which has killed hundreds of thousands in the UK and millions across the planet? 

No one admires the US system so why would a 21st Century country import that profit-driven system in place of Bevan’s National Health Service? That US system which incentivises cuts, which is a bare minimum “service”, which is bureaucratic,  inefficient and yet massively more expensive to run,  and which encourages denial of care and consequently has pain suffering and death built-in. 

The public were angry, and they couldn’t sign our petition quick enough. We often had queues of socially distanced people waiting for their opportunity to sign the petition.  

The sun shone again yesterday. Unfortunately, no one at the office of  David Morris was prepared to speak to us or meet us. They didn’t answer their phone. We were told by another occupant of the building that whoever was in his office wouldn’t come down. He wasn’t listed on the board of occupants so we couldn’t contact his office by the entrance intercom. So, we had to post his embroidered handkerchief in his letterbox.

Ben Wallace’s office in Great Eccleston was deserted. (Just like the offices of Jake Berry, Nigel Evans, Christian Wakeford). No answer at the door. No lights on. No intercom even.  Again, how do people contact him? If you can’t even catch him in his constituency during the very long summer parliamentary recess, when MPs are supposed to be back in their constituencies, it must be impossible when Parliament is sitting. But never mind we will go back another time to see them again.

Again, we had to post his embroidered handkerchief through his letterbox.

Mark Menzies – no way of contacting him in the constituency,  no office, no answer on phone.

Paul Maynard– no answer on phone, address apparently on an industrial estate.

Jake Berry – deserted

Nigel Evans – deserted

Christian Wakeford – deserted

Ben Wallace – deserted

Katherine Fletcher, Andrew Stephenson, Antony Higginbotham, Scott Benton – staff came to the door.

David Morris, James Daly – although apparently there was someone in the office, no one would deign to come to the door to take receipt of the handkerchiefs

What can we say about Sara Britcliffe MP for Hyndburn? Well, Sara’s staff could see and hear me at their door but refused initially to answer the intercom. Eventually, veteran  County Councillor and Lancashire County Council vice-chair, father of the MP, came to the door and accepted the handkerchief, leaflets and letter addressed to his MP daughter. Sadly, shortly afterwards, the MP who was not present to witness what happened,  wrote a misleading post on Facebook making false accusations against us, alleging that we surrounded her staff and intimidated them. Must be those Harry Potter books again and the Hogwarts’s school of magical thinking if I alone could “surround” one man and intimidate him? Quite a magical power! 🦄🧙‍♀️🎩 This false account was picked up and repeated by Lancs Live with no attempt to verify what happened. 

It was then picked up by the Lancashire Telegraph, again with no attempt to ask what my version of events was other than to ask for permission to use our photos, which I didn’t see until after they already used them. The Lancashire Telegraph piece was quite comical, it made fun of the MPs accusations using the tag #HankyIntimidation and for some reason they did seek a quote from Cllr Peter Britcliffe who was forced to admit he was not intimidated by me, being as he is such an experienced long-term Councillor. He would have looked silly trying to claim he was surrounded and intimidated by one woman wielding a scary hand-embroidered handkerchief!

We must thank Sara Britcliffe MP and her daddy, County Councillor Peter Britcliffe for increasing the publicity our visit got. 👏 It’s a pity the local media/press didn’t want to report more often and in-depth about NHS privatisation and about our tour of Lancashire. Perhaps they will use this blog to do so? 🤔

I don’t know how constituents get hold of some of these Tory MPs. It’s nigh on impossible.  Presumably, you must write to them. We did find a post-box for David Morris which is more than can be said for Fylde MP Mark Menzies who didn’t appear to have an office in the constituency at all. His constituents must have to write to him at Parliament. 

We found an address for Paul Maynard MP,  Blackpool North & Cleveleys, on another industrial estate but it was Friday 13th and we had had enough of wild goose chases searching for the non-existent offices of Mark Menzies so when we didn’t get an answer by phone we decided to stop wasting our time and petrol!

So, 13 MPs later, unlucky for some? unlucky for all of us if they wave through this Bill! 

If you are a constituent of any of these MPs please go to one of their surgeries ( if you can get hold of them and if they hold surgeries) or write to them, tell them you object to the remodelling of the NHS, don’t be fobbed off by platitudes that they “love the NHS” or the “NHS is safe and will never be privatised”. All governments of all colours have said that while continuing the long slow privatisation by stealth. This bill is the final nail in the NHS coffin, and it must be opposed outright. It can’t be tinkered with and improved by amendments, the whole premise of the Bill is dangerous and destroys the NHS denationalising it, breaking it down into 42 separate businesses with capped budgets, with private profiteers able to sit on the boards and committees making decisions about what services will be offered, to whom and which providers will get the lucrative contracts. It is about denying care. 

We can afford a high quality, universal,  comprehensive publicly provided and run National Health Service available free to all according to medical need. This model is far cheaper than the US model both for patients and the Government finances

We, the public,  cannot afford to allow the government to reduce our NHS any further, it’s already a shrunken postcode lottery provided by a hotchpotch of providers.

The disastrous remodelling of the NHS had no political, legal or democratic mandate, no one proposed it at an election, no one had the chance to vote for or against it, but they did it anyway. The top bureaucracy of the NHS, closely advised by the big healthcare corporations, created Integrated Care Systems quangos which had no legal authority, but which have gone round dictating and calling the shots around Lancashire and South Cumbria (and across the whole of England).

Sadly, many MPs, CCGs, GPs, Hospital trusts, Councillors and local authorities have meekly gone along with their diktat putting up no resistance.

Where is the evidence that the local organisations scrutinised these plans,  or did they wave them through?

Where is the regard for the health and wellbeing of the population?  The rhetoric was about Integrated health and care being better, fluffy & cosy leading to prevention of ill health, reduction of inequality and better services! Sounds lovely. But it was all magical thinking!

Social care is indisputably a mess. Council funding has been cut to the bone, the providers of services are now largely private companies running expensive disconnected businesses paid for from people’s own pockets or from the cash strapped councils. Poor  Pay and conditions have led to a terrible turnover in staff. How has it been integrated into NHS provision?

We want a nationally-funded universal care system run by public service, free at the point of need. Not a privatised fragmented service that leeches off the NHS and  local authority budgets

The Health and Care Bill says nothing about social care, it does not oblige any organisation to provide Hospital care for us. It involves the denial of medical care in return for a bigger share of the savings/profits for providers, it requires staff to do more for less, work beyond their competencies & be “flexible” meaning they can be forced to work anywhere in the footprint of Lancashire and South Cumbria or beyond and forced to work for any provider including private profiteers

WORSE STILL they plan to make £340,000,000 of cuts to services in Lancashire and South Cumbria alone and on top of all this, the measly 1% pay offer (effectively a pay cut as its well below the inflation figure of 4%) has to be funded out of existing inadequate budgets.

So, I would really like for one of these MPs to explain how that can work? How do you magically conjure up better services, better health & care for the nation while continuing to undermine the NHS, continuing to pay poverty wages & cutting staff income, continuing with staff shortages, cutting budgets, making “savings”, allowing profiteers to take out huge profits from the ICS capped budget etc?

What kind of magical thinking or delusion is this? Have they all been reading Harry Potter books, looking for unicorns and phoenixes or invisibility spells? It’s an impossibility. It’s fiction. 

We had an efficient,  integrated health system, it was called the NHS. We need it to be renationalised, reinstated and properly resourced for all our sakes and for future generations.

It is possible that some  Conservative MPs really do not understand the NHS sufficiently well to know what is going on

 For a straightforward explanation of the Bill please see this and for more detail this

Tell your MP, wherever you live in England, whichever party they represent, that you want them to oppose NHS reorganisation into Integrated Care Systems (or whatever new name they give them to pretend their plan has changed) and you want them to vote against the Health and Care Bill during the Committee stages, the House of Lords stages and when it returns to the House of Commons in late autumn.

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