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"The NHS - on the Brink?" was the title used by Professor Sue Richards for her talk to mark the opening of "How Come We Didn't Know?", a photographic exhibiition tracing the increasing involvement of big corporations in the National Health Service.  Sue Davies from Defend Enfield NHS outlines what Professor Richards had to say.

how come we didnt know sue richards

Professor Sue Richards at the opening of the How Come We Didn't Know? exhibition

On the evening of 24 July an exhibition created by photographer Marion Macalpine, and exposing corporate involvement in the NHS was launched at the Dugdale Centre. It is quite an eye-opener for those prepared to visit the exhibition and view the photos and captions.

The main speaker was a well known campaigner for keeping our NHS free at the point of use. Professor Sue Richards, with a long pedigree in public administration as a professor at Birmingham University and as a senior civil servant in government, ranged her talk through topics of privatisation, government funding, the sell-off of NHS estates, staffing and rationing of treatments.

Some of the main points she talked about to a packed room were:

  • How the 2012 Health and Social Care Act was based on bringing the health service into the marketplace with compulsory tendering of services and the loss of obligation to provide a ‘not for profit’ health service that was free at the point of need for all. It has not gone as well as expected for those who favour it. So far privatisation has produced insufficient financial rewards, unfulfilled contracts, poor standards and public opposition. Profits that have been made have frequently ended up in tax havens……..

how come we didnt know audienceThere was a good turnout for the opening at the Dugdale Centre

  • In overall health funding we are 17th among the 30 most advanced economies in the world, yet despite being underfunded for many years we are, amazingly, regarded as the most efficient health service in the world. So the NHS is clearly doing something brilliant even in cash starved times!
  • The selling of hospitals, land and other NHS assets to raise short term funds, justified by the need for housing especially in London, is a disgrace because we do need hospital beds when we have no adequate social care system in place. ‘Selling off the family silver’ was the expression she quoted, declaring that the whole strategy of selling off ‘NHS Estates’ is driven by financial famine in the health service.
  • Huge vacancies in staffing with shortages of 40.000 nurses and 10,000 doctors has led to overworked staff on 12 hour shifts and continued leakage as working conditions have deteriorated. Removal of training bursaries for nurses after a period of staff redundancies to cut deficits has been part of the problem too.
  • Waiting lists for operations have shot up again as they did in the 1990’s. Unfortunately Enfield is leading the way in ‘referral management’ which reduces access to treatments, making people wait longer, suffer more and take longer to recover.

This exhibition is hosted by Defend Enfield NHS (DENHS), a small group of Enfield residents who are trying to mobilise local people from all political persuasions around NHS and social care issues.

There is a visitor’s book where you can sign, comment and contact them. The exhibition continues throughout August at the Dugdale Centre.

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