This is the first of a regular newsletter to SHA members in Wales. It will report matters of relevance at the UK level as well as purely Welsh issues and will either include or refer members to, relevant reports and communications from SHA UK. SHA Cymru Wales is seeking to increase its ability to involve members, to contribute further to the policy development in the U.K and in Wales, and remain a “critical friend” of the Labour Party. This newsletter comes at a sombre time for the nation and for the NHS and the wider care services. Many of our members have friends or family that have been affected by the current crisis. Some of our members are working in the NHS or the care services. Some carry the strains of political office. We feel for those who mourn, we salute those who care, and we stand alongside those who serve our cause in elected office.
- The national SHA web site contains a raft of information, comment, and blogs updated regularly. It also holds a range of historical papers and reports. It has a special “Covid -19” blog offering an informed view on the challenges posed by it and provides proposals for action. (See sochealth.co.uk)
- SHA is affiliated to the Labour Party and recent comments in the media about the Party’s governance have caused concern. SHA Chair Dr Brian Fisher has issued the statement below on behalf of the Association.
“We have seen commentary on ‘The work of the Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit’ in relation to anti-semitism 2014-19. If the reported content is to be believed it appears that our work to get Labour to power has been undermined for years, leaving the U.K. at continued risk from this incompetent and malign government. As an affiliated socialist society we are pleased to see that Keir Starmer has opened an independent investigation which must examine the contents of the document as well as its leaking and provenance.”
Since sending this statement, the NEC of the Party has confirmed the scope of the enquiry which mirrors our request.
- SHA Central Council continues to meet (virtually) during the current crisis on which five members from Wales serve – two elected by Welsh members and three elected by the all UK membership. The next meeting is likely to discuss a revised constitution for the SHA that would enable it to operate as a company limited by guarantee – as agreed at the 2020 AGM. It will also consider proposals to realign health and social care – timely given issues raised by the management of Covid-19 and thse topics will be further explored in the next newsletter.
- SHA President Allyson Pollock (Professor of Public Health, Newcastle University) – with colleague Peter Roderick a Principal Research Associate – have an article in the Observer (26th April) describing the actions necessary to control Covid-19. They cite weaknesses in the response of Public Health England that ceased contact tracing on 12th March. They are critical of the wider austerity-driven context in which the Public Health function in England now sits and its transfer to cash strapped local government. The article makes a plea for locally sensitive public health actions that revert to locally delivered contact tracing public health measures.
1. As noted in the introduction, recent events at the national level have required and still require – considerable input from Welsh officers. The Covid-19 crisis had added to this pressure. At a recent meeting of Welsh officers via Zoom it was agreed that these (Alison Scouller, Chair, Sue Thomas, Treasurer, and Tony Beddow, secretary) should be supported in developing further internal communications with members and outward facing options including the website and other social media, with an assistant secretary role. Linda Lewis has offered to help in this regard, which is very welcome. As officers we are recommending that she fills this position for the time being, until such time as we can hold a meeting of Welsh members. If any other members feel able to offer their talents to the officer team, such offers would be greatly welcomed.
2. Welsh officers have received some reports of concerns about the possible impact of Covid-19 on NHS dental services in Wales. It has been suggested that the virus has impacted adversely upon the income streams of some dental providers and this in turn may cause some unwelcome changes in the level and coverage of NHS dental care in Wales. If members have any experience of such changes, please could they share these with SHA officers.
3. Members may have heard that in England the historic debt of many NHS Trusts has been “written off” by Matt Hancock at a cost of £13.8 billion. SHA Cymru has been told that this huge sum was found from within the allocation of the Department of Health and Social Care and thus there were no “Barnett consequentials” – estimated for Wales to be £690 million. SHA Cymru Officers are puzzled that, at the start of a new financial year, the “English health and care budget” had the capacity to splurge £13.8 billion. We conclude that debt write off at this level must have been sanctioned by the Treasury as part of funding negotiations with the Health and Social Care Department. Officers continue to explore with Welsh Government from where in the 2020/21 English departmental allocation such a sum came, and why the Welsh 2020/21 revenue allocation did not benefit.
4. The policy process in Welsh Labour continues as we move towards the elections to the Welsh Assembly next year. Documents known as the Stage Two consultation papers are now out for consultation with a closing date for responses given as 15th June. Papers can be found on the Labour Party web site. We hope to arrange a virtual meeting to consider these policy documents – especially the paper relating to health and care – to which all members will be invited. The papers were prepared prior to the full impact of Covid-19 becoming clear so modification of them in this light is likely. The consultation paper has been separately sent to members. Members may wish to suggest for attention areas of policy that have not been covered in the document, or may wish to suggest changes to some of the proposals made and these will help inform the arrangements made for the virtual meeting.
5. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) recently published an analysis of the relative mortality rates from Covid-19 related conditions across the UK. The report notes that between 1st March 2020 and the 17th April 2020, there were 90,232 deaths in England and Wales. Of these, 20,283 involved Covid-19. London had the highest age – standardised mortality rate of 85.7 per 100,000 people and the local authorities with the highest rates were all London authorities. Newham for example had a rate of 144.3 per 100,000, with Brent close behind on 141.5. In Wales the most deprived areas had a rate of 44.6 per 100,000 while the least deprived area had a rate of 23.2 ( the Welsh average was 28.4 which was close to that of the East of England and the East Midlands).
Members are encouraged to comment on this newsletter, to send in copy for consideration, and to suggest topics that deserve some explanation or coverage. Please send these to Tony Beddow, secretary SHA Cymru Wales, at firstname.lastname@example.org