Friday, 30 March 2012

Letter 59: Fueling panic. Enough now, people are getting hurt

"Dear Dave
Enough now, people are getting hurt. Time to issue an announcement that stops panic. And then we really have to address the issues you have been distracted from: 50p tax, Cruddas, the granny tax, unemployment and donor's influence.

PS The photographed jerry can is completely empty and has never contained fuel And in advance of any formal Govt announcement, some advice on storing fuel.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Letter 58: Strike, a pose

"Dear Dave,
How much do you want a strike? The only reason I ask is that it strikes me just how many times you've referred to the possibility of a strike as you attempt to strike the balance between a firm but conciliatory pose as you warn us to top up our fuel tanks in the event of a "totally irresponsible" strike. (And jerry cans?? What WAS Frances Maude thinking of? Certainly not Health and Safety!)
Has a strike been called? Because if it hasn't, to keep mentioning strikes might strike some as a crude attempt to either ramp up the tension and anxiety or you're simply trying to distract us from your current donations and "cash-for-access" crisis. That strikes some as just poor politics, so let's just strike that one from our thoughts. Better to think about what you can do to end the anxiety. How about you take Ed Miliband's advice and meet all concerned at ACAS? Strikes me, that's the best thing for everyone.
With best wishes..."

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Letter 57: Allowing private healthcare groups to be "tax efficient" will rob the NHS of much needed funds

So the Health and Social Care Bill passed through the Lords and will be on law by Easter. A weird little ritual took place at Downing St in celebration of it's passage, making those present appear less than honourable. Still, let's see how it's implemented and the effect that will have at the hustings...

"Dear Dave,
The BBC reported this week that "Ministers insist changes to the NHS will make it more efficient."So can you explain how tax avoidance might fit in with NHS reform and efficiency drives? You've said many times that you are keen to make taxpayers money go further, but surely you didn't want it to go as far as the Cayman Islands? The reason I ask is I've been reading about private healthcare firms who are hoping to benefit from the Health and Social Care Bill. It seems some of the companies who have lobbied in it's favour have set up corporate structures that allow tax avoidance on millions of pounds worth of profit. Though none of these structures are illegal, I am concerned that increasing private sector involvement in the NHS will allow taxpayer's money to be channelled out of the UK to investors abroad. Check out "An Unhealthy Business" which has been compiled by corporate Watch, or just take a look at last weekend's Observer for more information. Do you not also worry that people might see this as "the power of the State to unlock the dynamics of the Market"?
Either way, you might need to invest in a peg, because you can expect an unholy stink about it unless George keeps his pre-budget promise to clamp down on tax avoidance...
With best wishes, "

Monday, 19 March 2012

Email to my adopted Peer, Lord Ezra on Lord Owen's Amendment

Here's the email I've sent to Lord Ezra, my adopted Peer asking him to back Lord Owen's amendment on the NHS Risk Register. Can you help too?:  

"Dear Lord Ezra,

This evening before the final vote on the Health and Social Care Bill, I am writing to ask for your help. I'm very concerned about the proposed changes to the NHS and I'd like you to support Lord Owen's amendment, which is asking that the House of Lords be prepared to propose a delay of a few weeks in order that Peers have a fully informed debate. The delay would allow time for the NHS Transitional Register to be published, which I'm sure you're aware the Coalition have been directed to do by the Courts under the Freedom of Information Act. Without access to the Register, I do not believe you have all the information you need to fully scrutinise the Bill which will change the NHS beyond all recognition.
The Coalition claims that its reforms of the NHS will put patients at the heart of healthcare. Contrary to its stated aims however, the government is driven by the desire not to improve healthcare but to open the door to new healthcare providers, invariably from the private sector. This will mark the beginnings of the privatisation of the NHS and though the process will not happen overnight, it will happen and standards will worsen gradually. This will mean that though a core of free NHS services will remain, they will be of declining quality because for-profit providers will cherry pick the most profitable services. NHS hospitals will be left with the more costly work, so staffing levels and standards of care will be forced down and waiting times will get longer. To be sure of getting good healthcare, people will increasingly take out private insurance, but only if they can afford it. At first most people will take out the cheaper insurance plans now on offer, that cover just what is no longer free from the NHS, but gradually insurance for most forms of care will become normal. The poor will be left with a limited package of free services of lower quality. That would include people such as a friend of mine currently being treated for breast cancer. She has recently had a mastectomy and is undergoing a course of chemotherapy, which will be followed by radiotherapy and a five year drug therapy programme. Both she and I are extremely grateful she has had such excellent care and access to resources. She's a single mother, with a tiny income, in receipt of benefits. She has no money to fall back on and in the future there is no possibility she would be able to take out insurance plans to fund her healthcare. Then there is my mother - a pensioner on a state pension with a tiny NHS pension. She has been struggling for over 10 years with distressing bouts of dizziness which leave her feeling very ill and incapacitated. Despite repeated testing by doctors, the cause has been very difficult to diagnose, but she too has continued to receive very good care and treatment. In the future how could others in my mother's position pay for costly tests, such as her recent brain scan? People with such small incomes have no spare cash for insurance, therefore they would have less efficient healthcare.
If Lord Owen's amendment were successful, appropriate time could be given to publish the NHS Transitional Register and thus Peers might scrutinise the Bill with access to full knowledge. This would mean that in future, people such as my friend and my mother would be less likely to face the inequality of TAXCODE healthcare, which seems to be the much more likely outcome if the Health and Social Care Bill (as it currently stands) is allowed to become law. So on moral grounds I respectfully ask you to vote tomorrow to support Lord Owen's amendment. Please help ensure that time is given so that the Lords continue the fight to keep the NHS a free and fair service for all, regardless of income or severity of illness.

Yours sincerely,

Bern O'Donoghue

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Letter 56: Will George give benefits to the super-rich at Budget time?

"So after a few days visiting our "special friends" in the USA, with Nick manning the helm, no doubt your thoughts have turned this weekend to next week's budget. I've been thinking about it myself, particularly the news that George is expected to slash the top rate of income tax from 50p to 40p. Against a backdrop of benefit cuts and austerity measures for the poor, it seems ironic that the super rich will be able to celebrate BENEFITTING from Coalition policies. But let's hold back on the Bollinger for a few more minutes - things are very different at the other end of the financial spectrum. I'm sure you're aware that the 14% increase in homelessness is simply the tip of the iceberg. Also, from April things can only get worse for those families whose homes have been repossessed because that's when homeless charities expect to lose 30% of their funding from councils. 
You've been swayed by the intellectual argument that the 50p tax doesn't bring in sufficient funds... but what about the moral one? Take a banker on his basic salary - Stephen Hester and £1,200,000 (!) On that he pays top rate tax of £525,000. When George slashes the rate from 50p to 40p, Stephen  will gain £115,000 extra, just for staying in the UK. Over £2,000 increased disposable income for Stephen, every week. Evidence shows (by the way)that the wealthy tend to hang onto their cash, while the poor tend to spend it, thus keeping the money - and the economy, moving. It's been reported by the IFS that the poorest 20% of households will see their incomes fall by about 1.5% in 2012-13 and that your government will not be able to meet your targets for cutting child poverty.
Not much to celebrate there, eh? Hardly progressive.
With best wishes ..." 

Friday, 2 March 2012

Letter 55: What do you call a man who doesn't take medical advice? Prime Minister I think...

"Dear Dave,
How does this 'listening on the NHS " malarkey work? Where's your accountability? Yesterday was the fourth PMQ in a row where Ed Milliband asked questions that you have been unwilling to answer directly on the Health and Social Care Bill. I'm glad that he took the time to put such issues to you; no-one else seems to be getting through. Your emergency summit at Downing Street on 20th February - promoted as an opportunity to plan the implementation of the reform - was grabbed by those few organisations you invited as the chance to spell out their anxieties. Meanwhile the Health Minister was being heckled outside by members of the public. Increasingly, clinicians, journalists, MPs, patients and providers have voiced their concerns (including two CCGs this week). 
You still refuse to publish the NHS risk assessment... WHAT HAVE YOU GOT TO HIDE? Now I see that there will be no parliamentary debate on Dr Kailash Chand's e-petition calling on the Government to drop the Bill, even though with 165,352 signatures, it more than qualifies for such a democratic discussion. What are you so afraid of? And why the rush? Do you not realise that the less transparent a government, the easier it is to see straight through it?

With best wishes, etc