[I wrote this article for for IoW Save Our NHS in Feb 2018 – Ed]


Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last week or so, you’ll have heard talk on social media, and in both the local and nation press, about plans to cut some of the services offered at St Marys.

What’s Happening To Island Health Care In A Nutshell

Our IW Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG – the people who decide how money is spent on healthcare services locally) are considering 5 options for the future of our health services.

One of those options, at the insistence of NHS England, is the removal of around 50% of services offered at St Marys, which would essentially mean only basic A&E and maternity units would remain on the Island. The other options involve less severe cuts to local services, you can find out more here.

Today (Friday 26th Jan), it was announced the recommended option is option 4. Option 4 would mean more than 10% cut in local services, on top of the cuts we have already suffered over the last 8 years. It would mean more than 8,000 seriously ill patients and their families, would have to travel on unreliable ferries, often in emergencies, just to receive the care that should be a basic right. Of these 8000 patients, 1,300 are expected to be people needing emergency surgery, 1.800 newborn babies with complex conditions and 1,200 sick island children in need of care (Source: BBC). The risks associated with this are unknown.

What Happens Now?

The CCG will consider the proposals at a meeting on the 1st of February. there will then be a ‘public consultation’, and the plans, if confirmed, will go ahead over the coming years. It is expected that option 4 will be accepted.

What We Think

This isn’t just a local problem, although it will have much more impact on us because we are an island. These proposals are about saving money, not about improving patient care, and they are part of a much wider government strategy to centralise and privatise healthcare, known as Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP).

Our National Health Service is under unprecedented pressure, due to persistent under-funding.  St Marys is one of many hospitals in ‘special measures’ and on ‘black alert’ which means that patient care is being compromised, despite the heroic efforts of the truly dedicated staff working above and beyond the call of duty.

So many of our local services have already been cut or transferred to the mainland. More and more patients from the island are having make expensive journeys to unfamiliar surroundings, on unreliable and uncomfortable ferries to receive their basic rights as citizens to health care. Some Island families cannot visit loved ones who need them when they are ill, because they simply cannot afford to. The travel itself, along with the added stress and isolation, can exacerbate health issues, especially for patients that are already vulnerable, and there are no plans to provide funding except for those claiming certain benefits.

The 5th Option under consideration (the one that would leave only a basic A&E and Maternity Unit) is understandably frightening for islanders. It is unlikely at this time that this option will be selected, but the fact that it is there alludes to the direction we are headed. Option 4 (10% cuts) certainly looks positively desirable in comparison, especially if you gloss over the fact that it follows previous cuts. Or maybe in years to come, when option 5 is a likely option, we’ll have all become accustomed to the idea and less inclined to fight it…

Either way, the writing is on the wall.

Our Island MP and others will implore you to believe these changes will provide a better service, that the motivation behind them is better care for you. The truth is that between 2015 and 2020/21, £54 million is due to cut from health services on the island, in line with the Sustainability and Transformation plans for our NHS. It seems inconceivable that £54 million in cuts could equal better health care. Read more here.

We ask all Islanders to be as involved as possible in the public consultation that is to follow. Attend local meetings, respond to survey/comment requests, write to our MP and to your local Councillors. It is important for us to be as engaged as possible. However, we don’t hold much hope that this consultation will be much more than the usual lip service paid to the public in order to validate plans that will go ahead, whatever the public has to say.

We must do everything we can to protect the NHS. Please follow our page for updates. Share and come to events. We must unite to make as bigger impact as possible to defend our NHS, and in doing so, keep our loved ones safe.

What’s Happening To The NHS (In A Nutshell)

A government that prioritised patient care would properly fund it, yet almost all independent studies conclude that the NHS has been underfunded consistently under the Conservatives and is currently facing a 4 billion pound black hole.

Despite over 50,000 operations being cancelled this winter, patients being treated within the ‘safe’ target of 4 hours at A&E units in England is at a record low (77.3%).  19 trusts were on 99% or 100% bed occupancy between 1 and 7 January, with average occupancy at 95%. Three hospitals were completely full during this time. That’s 7000 fewer beds compared to the same time period last year.

Hospitals across the country, not just here on the island, are fighting cuts and closures. Staff are beyond stressed, beyond demoralized, beyond tired, beyond unhappy. For the first time ever, more nurses (1 in 10) are leaving the profession than joining.

Last week, 68 leading senior A&E doctors and consultants from around the country wrote to Theresa May. warning that patients are ‘at intolerable risk’, and imploring her government to take action. This is what they said:

“The facts remain, that the NHS is severely and chronically underfunded. Thousands of patients are waiting in ambulances for hours as the hospitals lack adequate space. Some of our own personal experiences range from over 120 patients a day managed in corridors, some dying prematurely.”

You can sign a petition supporting their call to action here.

The NHS is already being privatised. Hospitals are being forced to save money by cutting patient care, whilst haemorrhaging money to line the pockets of shareholders for companies that services are outsourced to. Last year, a record £3.1 billion of taxpayers money was spent on healthcare outsourced to private companies on behalf of the NHS. £2.9bn is spent every year by hospitals in England on agency staff to alleviate chronic under-staffing, denying the NHS vital funding and creating profit for private employment agencies. This is merely the tip of the iceberg. We are witnessing the dismantling of our health service.

A group of eminent doctors, consultants and researchers, including Professor Stephen Hawking, just won the first part of a legal battle to challenge the governments plan to replace NHS Trusts with Accountable Care Organisations (ACO’s). ACO’s are non-NHS, commercial bodies, that if introduced, will run Health and Social Care services. This means unaccountable companies that are run for profit, not the public interest, would control health care provision in this country. That is the beginning of the end of the NHS as we know it. The introduction of ACO’s has NOT been debated in parliament, and without the legal action taken by Hawking and co, would not be subject to public consultation. Pending the consultation and the outcome of further legal actions, ACO’s are due to be introduced this year.

“I am concerned that accountable care organisations are an attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS. They have not been established by statute, and they appear to be being used for reducing public expenditure, for cutting services and for allowing private companies to receive and benefit from significant sums of public money for organising and providing services. I am joining this legal action because the NHS is being taken in a direction which I oppose, as I stated in August, without proper public and parliamentary scrutiny, consultations and debate. I want the attention of the people of England to be drawn to what is happening and for those who are entrusted with responsibility for the NHS to account openly for themselves in public, and to be judged accordingly.” – Prof Stephen Hawking

Want to know more? Go here.

Your NHS needs you to defend it NOW

Why now? Because now or never. We are at a crucial fork in the road and if we do not stand up to this attack on the foundations of our NHS, it will crumble before our eyes. It already is.

The NHS should be and should always remain publicly funded, publicly accountable, free at the point of use and a basic right for all. It is those principles that make it such a source of national pride, it is those principles our grandparents believed in enough to fight, work and pay for. It is those principles that attract the worlds most renowned and brilliant brains from across the globe, it is those principles that make the NHS a world-class health service and it is those principles that wipe out diseases like smallpox.

The founding principles of our NHS have meant for the last 70 years, if your child fell, or you had a car accident, or you were born with a medical issue, or you suddenly had a heart attack, no matter who you are or where you come from or how much money you have, the NHS would be there for you.

It is the one consistent safety net for everyone, and in some ways has been the victim of its own success, because it is that very consistency that has allowed us to become complacent: Don’t be daft, they couldn’t possibly sell the NHS from under us…could they?

If you rely on the NHS, you cannot afford to take the risk that we might be wrong.

Our children deserve to grow up with the same security that we did, knowing the NHS will be there when they need it…no matter what.

That will not happen if you don’t stand up and defend it now.

Do you Care Enough to Stand Up For your NHS?

There are mass rallies, protests and demonstrations up and down the country on Saturday, February 3rd. The Isle of Wight Labour Party is proud to collaborate with Isle of Wight Save Our NHS for an emergency NHS Day Of Action in Newport to coincide with the national demonstrations.

ABSOLUTELY EVERYONE is invited to this event. If you are concerned about the future of our NHS, you are welcome, regardless of political and personal views. We must unite to defend our NHS. Please come, bring your husband, your mum, your friends, your Nan, your kids, your postman and your dog.  Especially bring your friend who doesn’t believe the NHS is in trouble. Come if you know the NHS is in trouble and you want to fight it. Come if you aren’t sure but want to know more. Come if you think we’re wrong but you have an open mind and know it’s not a risk worth taking.

Tell everyone you can, and please share widely! Not only is it of paramount importance to us all, it also should be good fun! Bring whistles, bells, drums, placards. anything and everything to make as much noise as we can for the NHS!

Details as follows:

10am St Marys Hospital – Rally with speakers

10.30 March To St James Square

11 Rally with Speakers, St James Square

11.30 and 1pm FREE MOVIE SCREENING – Documentary Film ‘$ell Off – The Abolition Of The NHS’ at the Unitarian Hall, 9 Newport High Street.