Public Meeting

There was a well attended public meeting in St Clements Hall on a wet Friday evening in November at which over 50 local people took the trouble to turn to listen to a panel of speakers express their concerns about the Coalition Government’s Health and Social Care Bill, which has just received its 4th debate in the House of Lords.

The meeting was chaired by Dr. James Chan, a founder member of Defend Our NHS York, who now works for the health service in Hull. The four speakers were Dr. Simon Smale, a Consultant at York Hospital, Tina Funnell, Labour councillor and chair of the York Health Scrutiny Group, Hugh Bayley, MP for York Central, and Dave Taylor, Green Party councillor for Fishergate.

The Government first introduced the Bill into the House of Commons on the 19th January this year, taking everyone by surprise as there had been no hint of it in either party’s manifesto or the coalition agreement. And this after David Cameron’s pre-election promise that the NHS would be “safe with the Conservatives”. It clearly isn’t.

Although Liberal Democrat peers and others have proposed a range of possible amendments, the Bill’s intention is to encourage progressive privatization of the National Health Service. It will result in the most fundamental changes to everyone’s access to health care since the formation of the NHS in 1948. If the Conservative led coalition get their way all of us will soon be having to pay for an increasing number of treatments, many of which will be provided by companies whose first priority will be to ensure a profitable dividend for their share holders.

Many of the people who attended Friday evening’s meeting were clearly well informed, while others were there to find out what it was all about. If you want to know more, or you want to exercise your democratic right to lobby peers and MPs, here are some suggestions:

38 Degrees is a UK based, non-profit, organisation that campaigns on a range of issues. They had a major role in stopping the Government’s plans to sell off the Forestry Commission earlier this year. If you haven’t all ready signed up to their campaign to stop the Health and Social Care Bill, please do so now and encourage at least one other person to do the same.

Write to any, or all, the Yorkshire based members of the House of Lords. Alternatively the health service union Unison or 38 Degrees will identify a Lord for you to write to. The Lords are not accustomed to being lobbied by the public and if there is enough expression of concern this should encourage them to think again or at least give more attention to the detail than they otherwise might.

The Labour Party shadow health spokesman Andy Burnham has recently launched his own “Stop the Bill” campaign. The Green Party leader Caroline Lucas also expressed her opposition to the Bill. We need to keep up the momentum and that depends on ordinary members of the public making their voices heard.

Thank you to everyone who turned up that night.

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