Further protests against the Health Reform Bill; FHC update

As steam gathers against the Health Reform Bill, protests are planned this month to coincide with the government’s current ‘listening exercise’. Last Saturday there was a headline in the Guardian, where the chief of the review board set up by the government, Professor Steve Field (former head of the Royal College of GPs), expressed reservations about the bill, after having broadly supported the bill last year. Doubts have also been raised by the appointment of an ex-McKinsey man, David Bennet, to be head of Monitor which will oversee the ‘competition’ aspect of commissioning, and more by the remarks of Mark Britnell, global head of health at KPMG and former head of commissioning at the NHS, that the NHS ‘will be shown no mercy’ in privatisation.

In general, the ‘listening exercises’ have been called at extremely short notice and with the exception of the one being held at the Guardian this afternoon, not widely publicised. This will be ‘live blogged’ by the Guardian here. Apparently the Forum for the Future, which is organising these events, does not take calls about them – there was one last Friday at Voluntary Action Islington, and another at the King’s Fund last Wednesday, which SaveFHC found out by accident!

Tomorrow (Tuesday) evening there will be a march against the bill from University College London Hospital to the Dept of Health, organised by London Keep Our NHS Public and the Health Workers Network, starting from 5.30.

NHSdirectaction has organised several imaginative protests against the bill and has written a guest post for UKuncut summing up actions around the country over the past month. Nationally on Saturday 28 May there will be a day of protests in banks about the Health Reform bill organised by UKuncut.

Finsbury Health Centre

The papers for the Finsbury Health Centre Community Trust were filed with Companies House, but came back demanding that we get permission from the Dept of Health to use the words ‘health centre’ in the name. This has been duly applied for. Building works on both FHC and the Pine St building next door are progressing, and now we finally have the list of the works through a Freedom of Information request, it seems that it is just basic weatherproofing, decorations, and updating of computer connections which staff have needed for several years. There will be a meeting of the North Central London cluster this Thursday, 19 May where the results of the Orthotics consultation will be discussed. Apologies for the long hiatus – since I got back from holiday in April I’ve had to concentrate on fundraising to save my own job in the wake of local government cuts. We hope to have another meeting in early June, will post again when that is arranged.

In the meantime, Finsbury Health Centre figures in the latest exhibition at the Wellcome Trust, Dirt until August. This is a good opportunity to see two of the original Cullen panels explaining the design of FHC, kept at RIBA and rarely on display. FHC also features in Tom Cordell’s film Utopia London, ‘a potted history of the welfare state in London’ (Ikon magazine) which is well worth a look. Screenings can be found here, next one in London is on 17 June. Indeed it is amazing that the NHS, fairly successful organisation, should be up for such changes while the banks, responsible for the biggest collapse in finance since the 30s, are left in tact.

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