Backed by major Trade Unions, campaign groups and individuals an all-new, all-Wales health campaign launched this week [July 5] with a plan to fight for NHS, social care & support services in Wales.
Driven by the People’s Assembly Wales, the new pan-Wales health campaign names Our NHS – Born in Wales’ launched on July 5th, the 74th birthday of the NHS with an online rally which heard speeches from leading Welsh Trade Unionists & Campaigners as well as elected representative such as Beth Winter MP and Heledd Fychan MS.
Jim Scott, People’s Assembly activist & co-founder of the campaign told us: “There is a pressing need to unite all the health campaigns in Wales with one unified & overarching campaign because we are facing threats to closures of A&E departments, NHS staff are campaigning for decent pay and our NHS in Wales is in crisis due to a number of contributing factors”. “Welsh Government has signed up to some fantastic pieces of legislation such as the Future Generations Act and the Social Services and Well-being Act so we know they have good intentions, but the reality we’re seeing on the ground is cuts, closures and failing health boards. There is a huge ‘implementation gap’, the Welsh Government is acutely aware of this so they need to admit that things aren’t going well and address the issues we’re all facing in the Welsh NHS.”
“For example, 4 out of 7 health boards in Wales are either in Special measures, Targeted intervention or Enhanced monitoring. This isn’t good news for our NHS in Wales. In Pembrokeshire where I live, my health board, Hywel Dda is currently undergoing monitoring for financial mismanagement and is threatening to close the only A&E in the county. This is all part of a wider centralisation program taking place in Wales which our research has shown is not even working in urban areas along the M4 corridor because people cannot access the services, so we know that it cannot possibly be safe to remove the A&E in such a rural setting as Pembrokeshire where they plan to move services to a new hospital (yet to be built) which will be outside the golden hour and way too far away to be safe.”
Concerns which were echoed in Heledd Fychan’s [Plaid Cymru regional MS for South Wales Central] speech during Tuesday’s Launch Rally when she said: “We need to acknowledge the strain the staff are under in the NHS & that there is a crisis in the NHS in Wales”, “We need to work together and we need to be united in the fight to protect what is so dear to us; universal healthcare” Also highlighting that Plaid Cymru were working together with Welsh Labour as part of the Cooperation agreement to implement a national care service for social care in Wales to become a nationalised service like the NHS.”
In the campaign’s Founding Statement Our NHS – Born in Wales states that the campaign is based on the vision of Nye Bevan and the founding principles of the NHS – “publicly funded, publicly run, publicly provided and universally free at the point of need”. Adding: “The NHS was established with socialist principles at its core, therefore we must be clear that any deviation from those principles is unacceptable. The campaign also demands that these principles apply to social care and support.”
“Our demands are nothing less than a return to those original principles” For:
reversal of all privatisation within the Welsh NHS
reversal of all cuts and downgrades
fair pay, decent conditions and appropriate training for all NHS staff
Adding that to achieve this they will: “work in unity with all individuals, groups and campaigns in Wales that support these demands and objectives and who are prepared to campaign and take action together to ensure they are put into practice by the Welsh Government.”
Many of the speeches at the launch rally highlighted the impact that over a decade of Tory Austerity has had on the Welsh NHS with UNISON Wales’ Head of health, Hugh McDyer saying: “I sit back and I think, on the NHS Birthday. What would Nye Bevan make of this? It’s a pretty dyer situation in Wales and across the UK, our members are telling us that they’re exhausted. The health of our nation is suffering because of the treasury, the Tories of Westminster’s cynical underfunding of over a decade. If there ever was a time for restoration of the NHS it is now. McDyer, who has been a long term supporter of the NHS workers pay claim in Wales adding: “We do need a motivated, valued and well paid staff and we’re way off that. We’ve got inflation flying through 12%, there’s a recruitment and retention issue in NHS Wales where it should be the obvious career choice for the up and coming workforce in Wales”
Other campaigns supporting the launch included Keep Our NHS Public, Disabled People Against Cuts, Socialist Health Association Cymru & the NHS Workers Say NO campaign. One of several Trade Union speakers was Pasty Turner of Unite Wales who is also an organiser of the Bevan Festival who said:
“We have to go back to some of the basic principles of the NHS. Nye Bevan said at the time of bringing about the NHS that he was going to Tredegar-ise the UK. What he meant by that was that we had the medical aid society in Tredegar, which he based the NHS on. One of the good things about Nye having been the Chair of the medical Aid society is that it was just a matter of refinement and enlargement of the medical provision that could be given to the UK, as he put it. And that’s one of the things we need to understand; the NHS was born out of medical aid societies around the country, it was born out of the working class, it’s our NHS, it’s not the politician’s NHS to play with and tinker with, Nye Bevan set it up as our NHS, the people’s NHS and that’s how it’s got to stay”
Campaigners tell us that it’s this sentiment around the founding principles of the NHS that forms the basis and inspiration of the new campaign “Over the past 40 years sinse the Thatcher UK Government we have seen a gradual but determined erosion of the public’s perception and expectation of Public Services and the NHS, Through the Blair years we saw the PFI’s being introduced to the NHS in England and now a decade of cuts has brought our NHS in all nations of the UK to the brink. As a campaign we say that we have to demand a return to those original founding principles and that includes public expectation of what our health services should deliver. If underfunding is one of the major factors crippling the NHS in Wales then the Welsh Government should stop pretending everything is fine and should join with us in calling out the Tories for the impact austerity is having. The Health Boards need to be reminded that they are supposed to deliver services based on health-need as their first priority. As a campaign we will undertake a research and monitoring role of the NHS in Wales and where we find that services are not being organised based on health-need first we will demand that the Health Boards go back and start again.”
Pledging her support for the campaign in her closing speech Beth Winter MP [Labour MP for Cynon Valley] brought into sharp focus some key demands, saying: “We are in a critical state in the UK, we have to take action and to come together, organise and fight in unity for radical solutions & for change. Some of our key demands must include: A fair share of funding for Wales including for the NHS and including proper, secure, inflation proofed pay rises for NHS staff and all public sector staff. We need respect for the devolution settlement and the UK government to stop riding roughshod over our democratically elected government in Wales. We must fight to bring back into public ownership privatised services across the board. The UK government needs to listen to the trade unions in Wales and consult with the Welsh Government on responding to the trade union public sector pay demands.” Adding: “Like Nye Bevan, we recognise that we have to keep the struggle going to protect our rights and we must keep the faith to fight for a society that puts people ahead of profit, protects our planet, fair, just and equal and for the many not the few.”
With such strong campaign & Trade Union support for the campaign which also include FBU Cymru and the Social Workers Union, Our NHS – Born in Wales say they hope to gather representation and activists from across all the Health Board regions in Wales, they say they will play a strong role in supporting existing campaigns such as the Save Withybush campaign and pay campaigns and hope to strengthen and embolden all other health, social care and support campaigns in Wales. This also means addressing infrastructure and public transport issues as well as demanding the support at community and at a social level that will be needed if the Welsh government ever hopes to successfully implement its ‘A Healthier Wales’ strategy.
If you’d like to get involved please contact Jim Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please follow the Our NHS – Born in Wales Facebook page.
Support the People’s Assembly Wales.
And please let us know about any health, social care & support campaigns in Wales that you think would like our support.