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In the fight to defend our NHS, know your enemy
Terry Pearce, Chair, Bracknell Forest Peoples Healthwatch
In their attempts to destroy the NHS the government has established local organisations under the guise of local accountability.
In reality these bodies are part and parcel of the privatisation and fragmentation agenda.
The most important are the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs). They exist in every locality, are responsible for spending about 80% of the national NHS budget, comprise of local GPs and commission most NHS services.
It is they that are responsible for outsourcing medical services to private providers.
For example in Bracknell, when the NHS Minor Injuries Unit closed at Heatherwood Hospital, it was the CCG that commissioned a private provider to replace it.
Sometimes there could be a clear conflict of interest with GPs both commissioning services and being themselves providers of private services.
Another body is the Healthwatch (HW), which is meant to be the local independent, health watchdog on behalf of patients.
It is neither independent nor democratic. It is funded by the government via the local authority, although the money is not ring-fenced.
HW is commissioned by the local authority although the latter is responsible for public health, a clear conflict of interest.
In Bracknell our HW is supportive of all the government's reforms, including privatisation of dementia services.
In fact they castigated campaigners for demonstrating against the privatisation. So we launched Bracknell Forest People's Healthwatch, which is democratic, accountable and fights against NHS privatisation and calls for openness and transparency in the NHS.
We recently organised a survey asking people what they know about these bodies. Early indications are that most people have never heard about them, yet they are the organisations running the NHS at a local level.
Mobilising the trade unions nationally to fight the government privatisation of the NHS is vital, but it is also important to build local struggles.
Here in Bracknell we have built a united front against the government policies, involving trade unionists, pensioners, anti-cuts campaigners, political activists and patients.
We think that to defeat the government we must first understand their strategy. While the local NHS bosses do not like us they have learned to respect us, after all we obtained 25,000 names opposing closure of our local hospital and they were forced to back off.
Minimum income needed for all
The BBC took some time off from promoting Ukip recently to discuss the plight of the UK's pensioners.
Incomes for many retired people have fallen well below what you would get from working on the minimum wage. A lot of workers from now on will simply not be able to 'afford' to retire.
The presenters put that largely down to people not understanding how much they need to put aside for their pensions.
Apparently we don't understand either that the state pension is not enough to provide even a basic subsistence level.
The truth is our wages have fallen so much that even those of us in full-time work can't afford to think about putting money aside for retirement because we've trouble enough stretching our wages to the end of the month.
The Socialist Party demands a real 'living wage' linked to a 'living income' for retired workers as well as those who society can't provide with an opportunity to work.
Ronnie Job, Swansea
In The Socialist 23 April 2014:
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