On Thursday evening I joined a spontaneous demonstration by junior doctors outside the Department of Health. Hundreds of London medics, including many from Charing Cross and Hammersmith, were expressing their outrage not just at Jeremy Hunt’s decision to impose a new and unsafe contract on them but of his calculated attempts to undermine their profession and the NHS.
Hunt has consistently lied about there not being seven-day cover in the NHS, about mortality rates at weekends and the doctors’ willingness to negotiate. He can afford to gamble with the future of the NHS because if it fails and private providers are let in there is nothing he would like more. He is unfit to hold his office.
Hunt claimed there were excess deaths at weekends as a reason for imposing the new contract. In fact there are fewer deaths on Saturdays and Sundays than other days, what he should have said is that patients admitted at weekends were more likely to die within the next 30 days. And an obvious reason for this is that people rushed to hospital at weekends tend to be very sick.
Now 13 of the 20 hospital trust which he claimed supported imposition have said they do not, and another 152 foundation trusts will decide for themselves whether to continue negotiations.
Plan B for Charing Cross. Imperial Healthcare Trust is currently running a £25m deficit and needs the downgrading of Charing Cross to help it balance the books. The same is true of our neighbouring Trust where Ealing Hospital is similarly threatened with demolition, sale of land and replacement with a ‘local’ ie non-emergency hospital.
But the final decision on the so-called ‘Shaping a Healthier Future’ programme is at least two years off, and the costs are spiralling. The Treasury is getting cold feet about the billion or so of capital it must find.
So it was perhaps not a total surprise when I heard from a reliable source that Ealing Hospital would not now be demolished. It would still lose all its emergency and specialist services and the remaining mainly primary care would occupy only a fraction of the space, but this would be in the existing old buildings. Those parts of the site left vacant would be mothballed.
Obviously I asked if a similar plan were being prepared for Charing Cross. I was told that the demolition/sale/local hospital plan was still the preferred option. Was it the case then, I asked, that a ‘plan B’ is being prepared in case plan A can’t be funded? The answer is yes – all the more significant as last month I was told that ‘there is no plan B’.
There are some positives about this. It finally exposes the truth that this ‘reconfiguration of services’ is simply a cut to balance the books. And the Charing Cross site would remain in NHS hands rather than be sold to developers. But it presents the prospect not only of downgraded and inadequate services but of basing them in unmaintained buildings not fit for purpose.
H&F Council is holding a public meeting on the future of Charing Cross at 7.30pm on 23 February in Hammersmith Town Hall.
Funding the NHS. Although health has had more protection than other government departments, after allowing for increased costs and rising demand cuts have still been made. But in H&F this is about to get a lot worse. In the next four years we will be one of six boroughs getting an actual cash cut in its budget.
Supporting the NHS. A resourceful Save our Hospitals supporter managed to put Charing Cross firmly on the agenda for the London Mayor election when she asked the six candidates at a Hustings whether they supported the independent report by Michael Mansfield QC that has called for Shaping a Healthier Future to be binned. Impressively all six knew about the issue, and five supported Mansfield, though only Sadiq Khan had a copy of the report and had clearly read it. Not so the Tory candidate, who refused to back Charing Cross – and rubbed salt into the wound by saying he had campaigned successfully for his own local hospital but wouldn’t do so for ours.
SK in SB
Talking of Sadiq, he was in Shepherds Bush Market on Friday, meeting traders and hearing how the battle to save it from the Tories’ sell off to developers continues. In two weeks’ time, the Court of Appeal will hear a further attempt to reinstate the planning inspector’s decision to block the demolition, a decision which was overturned by the Government last year, despite them giving no reasons.
There is still time to sign the petition to support the Market. I notice Boris Johnson has responded to the petition saying how much he supports small businesses and markets. Curiously he omits to say that his decision to back H&F Tories and sell the market (owned by London Transport for a century) to the developer is the only reason it is now under threat.
I seem to be speaking almost every day in the House of Commons at the moment, which means there is a lot going on with which constituents are not happy
Some issues are local – I’ve raised health (here, here and here) and housing issues. Some are international. And some are on my frontbench justice brief.
As Labour’s justice spokesman in the House of Commons I opened an Opposition Day debate on prisons and probation by laying out some sobering statistics about safety in custody.
I spoke in two Urgent Question debates; the first on Saudi arms sales and the second on the Bedroom Tax ruling. You can read my contributions here and here.
The Ministry of Justice has a bad habit of slipping out bad news late on a Thursday so few notice. They tried this on their latest debate with regards to criminal legal aid so I applied for an Urgent Question, which was granted, to hold them to account. You can read that debate here.
The Justice Minister also said it would be a “waste of time and effort” to get to the truth about how much money had already been wasted. I disagree.
Local news and events
West Ken. Thanks to Alf Dubs, Labour Lord and Hammersmith resident, the Government has backed down on proposals to allow Transport for London to develop its property for the benefit of offshore developers, providing no affordable homes. One of the first sites they intended to misuse in this way was the railway sidings in West Ken.
Bad (news for) education. Like health and local government the money in education is flowing one way – away from London and into the Tory shires. H&F schools could lose up to 10% of their funds, as Sue McMillan, Labour councillor in charge of local schools, explains here.
Visit my Mosque day. It was a pleasure this weekend to speak at the West London Islamic Cultural Centre, one of our local mosques, as part of the Muslim Council of Britain’s initiative to improve the understanding of Islam and good relations between communities.
Kosovan Independence Day. The still young country of Kosovo continues to be recognised by more countries around the world, following its battle for independence, and is normalising its relations with Serbia. Hundreds of families from the Kosovan and Albanian diaspora met to celebrate in Hammersmith town Hall on Sunday and it was a privilege to be asked to speak to them.
Lunch with Inspector Barnaby. Actor Neil Dudgeon (star of ITV’s ‘Midsomer Murders’) will be hosting a charity lunch at Fulham FC on Thursday, 25th February at midday. The event will be compered by DJ and Presenter, David Hamilton and raise funds for the ITP Support Association (Immune Thrombocytopenia, a blood disorder affecting the platelets)
Tickets for a fun-packed afternoon are £60 with group discounts available. Welcome drinks, lunch, draw, Q&A session and autograph/photo opportunity. A maximum of 60 attendees will ensure there will be excellent opportunity to interact. Contact Debbie at firstname.lastname@example.org or 07803 117180 / 02380 614795 for more details and to book.
Support your local singers. The excellent Addison Singers are in concert again next month for their Spring Concert. It will be held on Saturday 19th March 2016 @ 7.30pm at St. Michael & All Angels Church, Bath Rd, Chiswick W4 1TT.
Tickets in advance £12, concessions £10, under 16's £3 (all + booking fee). Tickets can be bought here, or on the door. The conductor & Musical Director is David Wordsworth, with members of the Brandenburg Sinfonia and organist Edward Kemp-Luck.
PV Book Club. A year ago local resident Jane Vernon set up a monthly book club that meets in the upstairs room at the Princess Victoria, 217 Uxbridge Road W12 – and it has gone from strength to strength. Anyone is welcome and at its next meeting, at 8pm on Wednesday 24 February, I will be leading the discussion with my choice of book – Nick Davies’ Hack Attack: how the truth caught up with Rupert Murdoch.
And finally. I was very sorry that Eric Lubbock, Lord Avebury, died at the weekend. He was a Lib Dem peer whose political life began as ‘Orpington Man’, winning a stunning by-election there in 1962. But he became better known as a champion of human rights at home and around the world. I worked closely with him over the past ten years particularly on Gypsy and Traveller Rights (it was Eric’s Caravan Sites Act that first established the need for permanent sites) and democracy in the Gulf, especially Bahrain. His fascinating blog showed how at 87 and in poor health he was working until three days before his death.