By Chris Cornell / Health / 0 Comments

Around 1,000 people turned up at Labour Party street stalls in Whitstable and Canterbury last Saturday to sign cards wishing a very Happy 70th Birthday to the NHS.

Paul Todd, a local Labour campaigner who came up with the idea for the cards said: “The NHS is the Labour party’s greatest achievement, which for 70 years has helped improve the lives of working people. It’s always been there in our times of need so it’s right to for us to show our support when it needs us most.”

Members of the public signing the cards agreed, with hundreds of comments and messages of support including:
“Keep up the good work!! We’re rooting for you.”
“Thanks for everything you do! Hang in there.
“We love you! We will fight for you, NHS.”
“Keep up the good work…the Labour Party will make sure of that!”
“Thank you all you hard-working people that make the NHS.”
and “Long live the NHS! “Free at the point of need” – Nye Bevan’s Ghost”

Callum Adams, one of the event organisers, said one of the cards would be delivered to the Kent & Canterbury Hospital and the Whitstable & Tankerton Hospital at 11am. Member’s baked birthday cakes to show their support for NHS staff.

Whilst it was right to celebrate, Mr Todd added: “However, the NHS needs more than cards and cake if it’s to last another 70 years and you can be sure that Canterbury and Whitstable Labour will be right at the front to protect our NHS from Tory privatisation and mismanagement.”

By Rita O'Brien / HealthKent & Canterbury / 0 Comments

We read your glowing article on Helen Whately (10 May) with a weary cynicism.  Like most Tory MPs, Ms Whately regularly expresses her commitment to the NHS and no doubt she is sincere in her wish to see a regenerated Kent and Canterbury hospital.  But there is a serious flaw in her protestations – she supports a government which, since coming into office, has systematically undermined the NHS through repeated funding cuts and privatisation.

For most of its 70-year existence, the NHS has received annual funding increases of between 3-4% but this changed in 2010 with Tory austerity policies.  Since then the annual increase in NHS funding has only been 1.1%, and is predicted to be even lower over the next three years.  This has resulted in staff cuts and longer waiting lists. And despite an estimated 40,000 nurse vacancies the government has abolished bursaries for trainee nurses, making it even more expensive to train. We see the results of these budget cuts every day on our TV screens, with A&E departments overwhelmed, and ambulances queuing to deliver seriously ill people.

Given these continuing financial constraints, it is difficult to see where the money will be found for the major developments supported by Whately at the K&C, even with contributions from a private developer. What she should be doing, along with Labour MP Rosie Duffield, is demanding the money necessary to fund three good hospitals, providing all the people of East Kent with the health care we need.

Regarding privatization, the NHS continues to give huge contracts to private companies, like Virgin Health, with no evidence that they provide better or more cost-effective services.  Indeed the whole contracting process is costing millions of pounds, which would be better spent on patient care.  Added to which we have the appalling spectacle of Virgin taking the NHS to court when they don’t win a contract!

Even some of Whately’s Tory colleagues have acknowledged that the Health and Social Care Act, was a disaster.  Passed by the coalition government in 2012, it fragmented and destabilised the NHS and cost billions. And now another stealthy reorganisation is under way – the so-called Sustainability and Transformation plans (STPs) which Whately supports.  These claim they will deliver more community based services and better integration of health and social care – all aspirations we share – but the real motivation is saving money.  The Kent and Medway STP for instance states clearly that the proposed changes are essential to avoid £486 million deficit by 2021.

Whately mentions patients unable to leave hospital due to lack of social care places yet since 2010, the Tories have reduced funding for local authorities by almost 40%. Even the leader of the Tory Kent County Council says they face making “unpalatable “ cuts in frontline services.

If Helen Whately really supports the NHS, as she claims, she would surely be asking questions of her own government and not consistently voting for policies which damage our health and social care services.  Until she does, we remain sceptical about her passion for the NHS.