Hundreds of people gathered to give a rousing send off to the crusade launched by a group of North East mums protesting against the “privatisation” of the NHS.
One of the organisers, call centre worker Joanna Adams, 41, said she was “totally taken aback” at the turn out at their starting point, Jarrow Town Hall in South Tyneside.
“There must be seven or 800 people here,” she said. “It shows how many people care about the NHS. It’s really moving. It shows the majority of people are decent human beings, not the self serving and greedy people some would have you believe.”
Those taking part in the ‘People’s March for the NHS’ are to follow the historic Jarrow Crusade route of 1936 when over 200 men – and local MP Ellen Wilkinson – marched to the Houses of Parliament to protest about the lack of work.
The march this time is in response to government legislation they feel is leading to the privatisation of the NHS.
At the town hall send off speeches were given by politicians, union officials and Lizi Gray, the great granddaughter of one of the original marchers.
“It was a lovely symbolic gesture,” said Joanna.
Then, to the strains of the Proclaimers song ‘I’m Gonna Be (500miles) which the Scottish duo “gave” to the campaign and is now being used as their signature song, they set off.
The group will actually be walking 300 miles and are due to arrive at the Houses of Parliament on September 6, in time for Prime Minister’s Question time that day.
The idea stemmed from a group of 11 Darlington mums who wanted to highlight the damage caused by the Health and Social Care Act which has led to the increasing privatisation of the NHS
“The idea was floating around for a while – it seemed such a crazy idea – then in March we decided just to do it,” said Joanna.
As the marchers headed on their first leg to Chester-le-Street with many of those who originally come to give them a send off actually joining in, she added: “This is what British values are. We’re generous, we care about equality and justice, something that isn’t acknowledged. There is such a thing as society.
“They talk about choice, well this is our choice. We want the NHS. We want public services properly funded. We own it and they have no business trying to take it away from us.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 16 Aug 2014
Fears have been raised that the region’s ambulance service is struggling following incidents where patients have been left for hours.
In recent weeks issues have arisen where elderly patients have been left waiting for paramedics from the North East Ambulance Service to arrive.
Frances Logan, 94, of Hetton-le-Hole, suffered a fall in her apartment and was left lying on the floor for three hours until an ambulance finally turned up.
In another incident this Monday, an elderly woman who fell at Beaconsfield Avenue, Low Fell, Gateshead, was left lying on the pavement for more than two-and-a-half hours until emergency services arrived.
Meanwhile, this Wednesday a Health and Care Professions Council hearing will look into the conduct of former North East paramedic, Mark P Lakinski, who is alleged to have failed to transport a patient directly to hospital as his shift was due to end and he handed the patient over to another paramedic so he could be relieved from duty. The patient later died at hospital.
Union officials and a leading North MP have now warned that crews are being spread too thinly as the face increasing pressures.
Joel Byers, Unison branch secretary for the North East Ambulance Service said: “Paramedics are working very hard, but there is a lack of resources and a lack of paramedics. It is down to cuts that ambulance services are facing. The cuts were not supposed to affect patient care or the frontline, but they have.
“Paramedics are under increasing pressure and some are leaving the profession to pursue different careers or are moving abroad. Pressures are such that staff can’t get finished on time and they can’t get their meal breaks.”
Newcastle East MP Nick Brown said he was concerned that the strain on the ambulance service was “now intolerable” and more investment was required to tackle the problems the service is facing.
He said: “We can’t go on like this. The ambulance service cannot be the only point of contact with healthcare. The strain on the service is now intolerable. Nor is it fair to put further pressure on hospital’s A&E departments. In many cases this amounts to the same thing.
“The North East Ambulance Service is regarded as one of the best in the country but it is being overwhelmed by increased demand. The answer is further investment in the service itself and in the work of General Practice. There is also a strong case for clamping down on hoax calls and misuse of the service.”
Health chiefs at the North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust said both the elderly women’s falls were correctly categorised by as Green 3, the lowest priority available.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 06 July 2014
Scores of beds are set to be cut in a major overhaul of mental health services in the North East.
Radical changes will see the merger of two psychiatric intensive care units, a reduction of in-patient beds and the axing of 22 frontline nursing posts.
Fears have been raised over how the changes could affect some of the most vulnerable patients in the region.
But health officials at Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust insisted their Transforming Services Programme will improve quality of care for patients, while delivering efficient cost savings.
Patients and staff in the South of Tyne area are being affected by the proposals, and the trust says it has future plans to look at the way services are delivered North of Tyne.
Under the trust’s plans, two psychiatric intensive care units will merge into one. The services at Greentrees Ward at St Nicholas Hospital in Newcastle and the Dene at Cherry Knowle Hospital in Sunderland both have 14 beds.
It is proposed to merge those wards into a single 14-bed facility at a new hospital at Hopewood Park, Sunderland, which is due to open later this year.
Meanwhile, a overhaul of in-patient care will see more services delivered in the community, resulting in the reduction of about 90 beds across the trust’s South Tyneside, Gateshead and Sunderland sites.
Staff are currently going through a consultation process as it is proposed to reduce the number of nursing posts, across all staff banding levels, from 64 to 42.
Last night, union officials and MPs raised concerns that the move will hit those in need of mental health care.
Blaydon MP Dave Anderson said: “Mental health services should be protected. We are in the situation where mental health issues are getting more awareness and it’s not good to hear that services are being affected in the region.
“It is ludicrous if these changes are being made to save money, and patients will understandably be concerned at what the proposals mean for them. Mental health services are very much needed.”
Greg Canning, Royal College of Nursing Officer said: “This is one of a large number of areas where the trust is currently consulting on reducing the number of posts.
“To cut the number of nursing posts in psychiatric intensive care from 64 to 42 is a huge reduction, and we want to see evidence that this will mean that the service remains viable.
“Patient and staff safety must come first. I’m meeting with Gary O’Hare, the director of nursing at the trust, and I will be raising the matter with him as a matter of urgency.”
It is expected that the changes will come into force within the next two to three years.
A spokesman for Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust said: “For some time now we have been working with staff, service users, carers and partner organisations to look at ways in which we can redesign our service around the needs of the people we look after. This has included a formal public consultation in South Tyneside which has now come to a close.
“We are currently consulting with our staff on a number of changes to the way we provide services both inside and outside hospitals.
“The aim of these changes is to ensure that we look after people in the right environment for them, avoiding unnecessary hospital admissions. We are also working closely with our trade unions to ensure that no one loses their job through this process.”
As many as one in four people suffer from mental health problems at some point in their lives.
Earlier this year, deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg launched the Government’s mental health action plan, setting out priorities for change in mental health care and support.
He said patients will have a choice of where to be treated and a right to minimum waiting times.
Source – Newcastle Journal 11 April 2014
The North East is missing out on jobs despite the economic recovery, union bosses said today.
The Trades Union Congress said the region was one of four where the likelihood of being in work has fallen since 2010 despite the recent upturn in business.
Union officials say jobseekers in the region have not benefited from better trading conditions in other parts of the country.
The other areas affected are the North West, the West Midlands, and the South East while all other regions have shown a better jobs market.
Figures released this morning by the TUC and based on information from the Office for National Statistics Labour Force Survey said the North East had an employment rate of 67.3% last year. The figure compares to 67.9% in 2010 – a drop of 0.6%.
The reduction compares to increases in most areas including Yorkshire at 2.4% and London at 1.6%.
Neil Foster, Northern TUC Policy and Campaigns Officer, said the figures showed inconsistency across the regions.
He said: “This study shows that under the previous Labour government the North East was catching up with the rest of the country before the global financial crash hit hard in 2008.
> From personal experience, there’s some truth in that – I got more work between 2000 and 2008 than in all the preceeding decade – all short-term work admittedly (longest 7 months, shortest 3 months) but there was at least an anticipation of things improving. Then it all went pear-shaped again…
“However under the Coalition we have gone into reverse and we’re now seeing the bulk of new jobs created in the south so it’s even harder to find work in the North East.
> As noted in another post recently, a survey of all online jobs reported in Financial Times last Summer showed that London and the South East accounted for 46 per cent of UK vacancies, compared with just 3.3 per cent in the North East.
Of that 3.3%, many are part-time, temporary, zero-hour contracts or commission-based non-jobs – not much good for us unreasonable people who want, or at least need, full-time, permanent work
“The Northern TUC warned Coalition ministers in 2010 that this could happen if they dismantled Regional Development Agencies with the significant powers, budget and support they possessed.
“Going forward, we need a devolved industrial strategy that gives our region the tools to build a real recovery that can draw on our significant strengths and benefit people in need of work here.”
TUC General secretary Frances O’Grady said the figures were part of a survey looking at employment in the regions over 20 years.
She said: “Despite the return of growth the chance of having a job has actually fallen in much of England since 2010.
“Whilst it’s great that jobs are created in London and the South East, stronger job creation is needed throughout the country.”
> Government policy : fund those areas likely to return Tory candidates in the next election. The rest can rot.
It’s not even a new policy – the Thatcher government actually considered cutting city’s like Liverpool adrift to sink or…well, sink probably.
The figures were released ahead of new jobless statistics this week.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 20 Jan 2014