SHA UK: All members meeting January 2021

Minutes of 30th Jan Meeting – With Professor Allyson Pollock and Mayor Jamie Driscoll

The main speakers were Prof Allyson Pollock, Professor of Public Health University of Newcastle and member of Independent SAGE, President of SHA, author of ‘The new NHS – A Guide’ and Jamie Driscoll North of Tyne Metro Mayor.

Allyson spoke of the long list of ineffective government interventions led by populist slogan headlines (‘moon shots’, world beating’ etc.) rather than using long established systems run by trained personnel. Provisioning contracts costing many millions have been given to inexperienced Johnsonian cronies, irrespective of their consistent repeated failure whilst experienced staff in underfunded, inadequately provisioned hospitals and other essential services maintained their responsibilities throughout, despite often risking their own and their families lives to do so, and too many losing their lives.

  1. The health service has been systematically fragmented, Public Health eviscerated, whilst primary, mental health and social care have all been reduced and privatised over the last 30 years.
  2. Millions have been squandered on novel schemes rather than established evidence-based practices by this unaccountable government, and NO evaluation of any of these new schemes has been undertaken to date.  Good research is necessary to back recommendations, they should not be politicised into left – right issues but informed by evidence, impacts, costs, and benefits
  3. Lessons were not learned from China and Italy
  4. There was neither effective quarantine, nor contact tracing, Covid19 was not made notifiable which would have triggered Public Health, GPs, and hospitals to initiate established surveillance practices.
  5. Reliance was placed on poor quality testing data, which is just a support, NOT a diagnostic service. ‘Lighthouse’ labs were created rather than using NHS and university labs which were immediately available and offered.
  6. Poor people in insecure employment and crowded accommodation i.e., those most likely to be infected, could not afford to be tested, risk being +ve and quarantined as they would lose their income. No minimum income was set up under the furlough scheme, another mistake.

The Thursday clap for ‘our NHS’ was followed shortly by a pay freeze (in effect a pay cut) which reflects how these services and staff are valued by the government.

Jamie Driscoll pointed out the false dichotomy of economics v health, since a healthy workforce boosts the economy, whilst an unhealthy workforce cannot. Stimulating house building, creating quality jobs with good prospects and wages, zero poverty and zero carbon were essential to the post Covid19 world. Already 3000 jobs had been created, all yielding lasting assets, unlike ‘Eat out to Help Out’, which provided just a temporary prop to businesses, many of which have since closed. Why not scrap tuition fees to encourage people to learn new skills instead, especially whilst they are stuck at home?

Food insecurity is a huge problem. Statutory pay is inadequate. Parents need pay which allows them to provide for their families, not vouchers which cannot be spent in local shops and markets. To suggest that impoverished parents will choose NOT to feed their children is an insult.

Developing the new economy will not be achieved without real financial support, investment with a long vision, open to scrutiny, in a system that works. Short term ‘ad hoc’ policies not properly informed do not work. The Labour Party needs to be investing in millions of homes and in our future. The people need leaders they believe, who will stand between them and their fears, leaders who will fix the systemic problems of precarious work and pay and homes – no plan, no vote.

The next part of the meeting involved speaking with members in the different branches in Scotland, the North East, Yorkshire, Greater Manchester, Liverpool, Wales, West Midlands, Fenlands, Oxford, Bristol, and London. Esther Giles, setting up a new branch in Bristol to cover the Southwest, emphasised how crucial members were in developing local and national policies. The geographical remit for Bristol branch was still uncertain but she hoped it would be contiguous with an NHS planning region. The inaugural meeting was not attended by any national officers and currently, she had an incomplete data list of local members but hoped this would soon be resolved.

Mary Whitby and Coral Jones are the newly elected Chairs of Liverpool and London branches respectively and spoke as did Alison Scouller (Wales) of liaising with local special interest groups with similar objectives like addressing health inequalities, (including BAME) safety issues and restoring the NHS. in many ways, Zoom meetings help as those branches with memberships scattered over large areas like Wales, Yorkshire, the Southwest, Scotland and London can meet as they couldn’t before Covid19 required us to become Zoom competent..

All branches had had their AGMs and with new officers in place were now ready to proceed with the national elections and a new Central Council. Members were reminded to use their votes when the ballot papers were issued.