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Hackney doctors go out on a limb to fight government's NHS reform plans

PUBLISHED: 11:08 11 October 2012 | UPDATED: 11:16 11 October 2012

Speakers at the meeting on Tuesday night. Photo Nick Bailey

Speakers at the meeting on Tuesday night. Photo Nick Bailey

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A campaign to fight the coalition government's NHS reform plans gathered momentum this week, as doctors from City and Hackney announced they will be the first in the country to write safeguards against privatisation into their constitution.

The Community Pledge:

1. City & Hackney’s community opposes NHS privatisation – because private companies value profits more highly than patient care.

2. We will support our City and Hackney doctors and our Clinical Commissioning Group in every way possible to ensure our local health services remain democratically accountable to our local community, equally available to all of City and Hackney’s community, and free at the point of use.

3. We ask our local council committees dealing with health issues to support them also.

4. We ask the Labour party nationally to stand by their promise to repeal the Health & Social Care Act on entering office.

5. In view of the privatisation initiatives carried out by the last Labour government, we ask the Labour party nationally to demonstrate their commitment to the NHS as a public service by immediately constructing, publicising and carrying out their strategy for reclaiming the NHS from private companies.

City and Hackney Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has joined forces with national campaign group 38 Degrees to create what they hope will become a model constitution for the rest of the country.

Nearly 200 people crammed into Abney Hall in Stoke Newington Church Street on Tuesday night to support the campaign, and listen to speakers from hear from speakers including Cllr Jonathan McShane and Becky Jarvis from 38 Degrees, which has over a million members.

“I’m here to thank City and Hackney CCG for being totally great actually,” she said.

“They are very brave. Hackney is the first to adopt some of the constitution suggestions our lawyers have drawn up.”

The meeting was organised by Hackney Coalition to save the NHS, which was formed in 2010 to fight the Health and Social Care Act.

Bronwen Handyside who chaired the meeting said: “The Act was passed by the coalition government, which opens the door absolutely wholesale to a tidal wave of the privatisation of NHS services.

“We know private companies are more concerned with profit than looking after patients.

“Although the Act has been passed, the way the act is implemented locally relies on local democratic decisions, this is where the CCG comes in and can play an active role - we can influence whether private companies are brought in to replace the NHS in our local areas.

“If our local communities speak out loud and clear to our local doctors who are organised into what is called a CCG, saying that we reject private companies taking over our health service, the CCG will have to carry out our wishes.”

Hoxton GP Dr Adam Forman, representing the GP’s union, the British Medical Association, added: “This constitution is probably as good as it gets anywhere in the country and it’s a remarkable achievement.”

“The central point of the Conservative coalition plan for the health service is the magic word “any qualified provider”, which means any private company should be able to come in and offer to buy services.

“As part of our campaign we should say we will not accept this phrase, the only phrase we will accept is a “Hackney qualified provider”, an organisation that has a track record in local provision, a commitment to the local population, a commitment to working with other local services and the Homerton as our secondary care hospital.

“Then I think we will get a lot further than just saying we want a pledge to keep privatisation out, this is our way of doing it.”

Journalist Andrew Robertson spoke about his investigation into members of the House of Lords who have links with private healthcare companies.

He believes this is a conflict of interest, and should have meant they should have become exempt from voting in support of the Health and Social Care Act.

Dr Clare Highton, the joint chair of the new CCG welcomed the support of local patients, and urged them to become involved in patient organisations so that they can have a say in how services are run.

The audience voted unanimously to support the pledge drawn up by the Hackney Coalition to Save The NHS.

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