When I asked constituents for their personal stories about the NHS to help launch my second NHS Check Oldham report – which is one of my top ten constituency priorities – I never imagined the variety of stories I would hear. I would like to thank Brenda for allowing me to share her story.
The second NHS Check Oldham report is looking into the privatisation that is currently underway in the National Health Service and how it is being enabled by the coalition Government’s Health and Social Care Act. Currently seven out of ten health services that have been put out to tender have been awarded to private contractors so we are in real danger of losing the NHS as a free, comprehensive and universal service.
And we now have conclusive evidence that in privatised or marketised health systems, health inequalities gets worse, healthcare quality is compromised and care costs more. This is why I’ve asked local people to help with my NHS Check Oldham campaign by telling their NHS stories to show how much this public service means to us all. The response has been fantastic and, so far, the stories have ranged from surviving a heart attack to getting advice about not eating a whole head of celery in one sitting!
The NHS really does seem to touch all our lives but Brenda’s story really stood out for me as her family life has been interwoven with the organisation since she was born in 1940 and it was created in 1948 by Aneurin ‘Nye’ Bevan. Nye famously said that there would be an NHS as long as there were folk to fight for it. Well, we need folk to fight and oppose what is happening to our NHS right now! Without any doubt the NHS is the most treasured of our country’s institutions and if we don’t stand up to this Government and their attempts to privatise services, there is a real danger that we’ll lose it.
Brenda’s story, which she tells on video here, starts when she is a child in the 1940s. Her family, who were poor because her father became unemployed after the war, had to hide under the window when the local doctor’s secretary came to their house for payment every Friday afternoon. With the introduction of the NHS in 1948 Brenda’s parents slowly paid off what they owed to the doctor and could then get free health care. The creation of the NHS and a move to a council house with a large garden on the edge of Oldham meant life ‘blossomed’ for Brenda and her family.
Three of Brenda’s five children needed intensive care after birth but all survived thanks to the NHS. Four of them being boys she would make numerous visits to A&E in the following years! Recently Brenda herself needed A&E treatment for an eye problem and she describes how she was attended to quickly and the problem was solved.
In the most touching part of the video Brenda talks about her husband undergoing treatment, including two major operations, for cancer and spending 6 weeks in intensive care and a high dependency unit. All this treatment was free on the NHS.
This NHS Check Oldham report concentrates on how the government’s Health and Social Care Act is allowing the slow-but-sure privatisation of the NHS and examines how national policies from the coalition Government are affecting local health and care services in Oldham East and Saddleworth.
*The key findings of the 2nd NHS Check Oldham report are:
• Between April & December 2013, 7 out of 10 NHS health services put out to tender have been awarded to private healthcare companies.
• Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust (provide community and mental health services across Oldham) estimate that staff time ‘well in excess of £100,000’ was spent on bidding for a community services contract.
• Oldham Clinical Commissioning Group estimate that in 2013/14, nearly £93,000 will have been spent on legal and other advice for putting services out to tender.
• Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust (who run Royal Oldham Hospital and other local hospitals) estimate that last year £20,000 was spent on financial advice.