Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘NHS’

Bollocks to Brexit!

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 9th October, 2018

Bollocks to BrexitThe founder of Pimlico Plumbers, Charlie Mullins, is to be congratulated for not submitting to pressure from (Labour) Lambeth Council to remove the giant sign over his company HQ saying Bollocks to Brexit! He has argued persuasively that Britain’s leaving the European Union — which it is scheduled to do on 29 March next year) will be bad for his customers and bad for his workforce, which has benefited from the Freedom of Movement that is part and parcel of the European Single Market. Rather than take down the sign he has instead invested in many more advertisements with the slogan posted near stations and other prominent places around London. After all, the Leave campaign was allowed during the EU Referendum campaign in 2016 to get away with driving a bus round with the lying slogan that the money the UK sends to the EU (itself a dodgy statistic) could be spent on the National Health Service instead. No surprise to learn now that that is not going to happen. In fact, Brexit is already costing this country hundred of million of pounds each week, and it hasn’t even occurred yet. And any increase in NHS funding (indeed needed) will probably have to come from higher taxation instead.

Brexit's Barking MadCharlie Mullins isn’t the author of the catchy Bollocks to Brexit! slogan, but it has gone viral, not only on social media, but also through sticky labels that have been appearing all over the place. On Sunday, I attended the Wooferendum march of Remainers and their dogs in Westminster, and many of the pooches were festooned with it as well. Over the coming weeks, in the run-up to a parliamentary vote on whatever Brexit deal is or is not agreed with Brussels, we can expect more campaigning activity, with a massive march in London on 20 October calling for a People’s Vote — i.e. a referendum on the deal, with an option to Remain — with support from people from every political party (except UKIP, probably) and none. Meanwhile, several local councils have been debating motions about whether to support a People’s Vote. I took part in a LibDem-led demonstration outside Camden’s temporary council offices last night, urging councillors to back such a motion, though sadly time ran out at the Full Council meeting before that part of the agenda was reached. I hope to attend a similar gathering outside Haringey Town Hall on Thursday. Both Camden and Haringey voted heavily Remain in 2016, yet the ruling Labour Party in both cases is divided on the issue. Conservative Brexiteers such as Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg have received massive media attention, but the Labour Party is home to “Lexiteers” as well, not just on the right (such as Kate Hoey) but also the left, including among some supporters of Momentum. Party leader Jeremy Corbyn was a Euro-sceptic for most of his 30-odd years in parliament, campaigned very quietly for Remain in 2016, but then called for Article 50 to be invoked immediately afterwards. He is still sitting on the fence over Brexit, though the Opposition Brexit spokesperson, Keir Starmer, did say clearly at the Labour conference in Liverpool that a People’s Vote should be on the table, including an option to Remain. He looked rather startled when this provoked a standing ovation, but it is not really surprising, as over 80% of Labour members reportedly support staying in the EU. Moreover, according to a poll-of-polls in the London Evening Standard last night, a large majority of the 150 recent opinion polls on the Brexit issue have shown a majority for Remain if a new referendum is held. In a democracy, it is a fundamental right for people to change their mind and maybe that is indeed happening as the complexity and cost of disentangling ourselves from the EU become clearer. So, yes, let’s have a People’s Vote. And let Bollocks to Brexit be our proud Remainer chant!

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Amber to Red for the Tories

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 30th April, 2018

5F9ED72A-789F-44CA-92C7-2238321154A8British Home Secretary (Interior Minister) Amber Rudd has fallen on her sword; her position had indeed become untenable over the weekend with revelations about how much she encouraged the “hostile environment” to “illegal” immigrants and approved of the policy of deportation before appeal, despite having tried to distance herself publicly from it all. The inhuman treatment of the so-called Windrush generation, who had their right to remain in the UK questioned and in some cases refused, was a particularly egregious example of this. Perhaps the final blow to her reputation came with the revelation that the Home Office had refused visas to 100 Indian doctors recruited by the National Health Service (NHS). Under Rudd’s watch, the Home Office has indeed become unfit for purpose. But one could argue that it became so under her predecessor, none other than the now Prime Minister, Theresa May. I can’t help feeling that Mrs May has sacrificed Amber Rudd in the hope of saving her own skin, because frankly it is time for her to acknowledge that old political adage “the buck stops here”. Theresa May was catapulted into the top job when David Cameron resigned after the disastrous outcome of the EU Referendum (which he called largely to try to silence Eurosceptic headbangers on the right of the Conservative Party). But far from proving to be a safe pair of hands, Mrs May has shown herself ready to give ideology precedence over common sense. This shows itself in two, related aspects: immigration and Brexit. The government persists in trying to reach its unrealistic target of getting net immigration down to below 100,000 a year, despite the fact that this is harming not just the NHS but other sectors of the economy too. And despite being a Remainer in the EU Referendum campaign, Mrs May has been pressing ahead with Brexit — again to appease the Tory right — in a most damaging way. The incompetence of the three Brexit Ministers — David Davis, Liam Fox and Boris Johnson — would be comic were this all not so serious. Britain’s international reputation has been trashed, not only among our 27 current EU partners but around the world. Moreover, from being the best performing economy among the OECD nations, the UK has crashed to the bottom. Growth was just 0.1% in the last quarter, with the real prospect of recession looming. And we haven’t even left the EU yet! Theresa May is lucky in that she lacks a credible Opposition in Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, but that should not let her off the hook. The amber light of  Rudd’s resignation should turn to a red light for the PM herself.

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Brexodus Has Begun

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 21st November, 2017

BrexodusWhen a slim majority of the UK electorate voted in June last year in favour of leaving the European Union it became inevitable that Britain would lose the two European agencies that it has been hosting, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Banking Agency (EBA). Sure enough, yesterday it was announced that the EMA will move to Amsterdam and the EBA to Paris. The number of staff involved are 900 for the EMA and 150 for the EBA, but the knock-on effect of the departure of well-paid employees on service industries in London will be significant. This is only the start of Brexodus — the departure of institutions and staff who are in Britain (notably London) because it is currently an EU member state, a situation that is scheduled to end in March 2019. Already banks in particular have been making preparations to shift operations to Frankfurt, Paris, Dublin, Luxembourg and so on. That change is likely to accelerate now that Michel Barnier has confirmed that if Britain leaves the single market (as both the Tory and Labour leadership are determined will happen) then banks and financial institutions will lose their passporting rights to operate throughout the EU. This is a catastrophic blow to the City of London; over a comparatively short period London is now likely to lose its status as the unmatched financial capital of Europe. And it is not only the fnancial sector that is going to suffer. Universities currently employ a lot of other EU nationals, but many of them have started to make plans to leave. Similarly, the NHS depends quite heavily on EU migrant labour, but applications from other EU countries to work in the NHS have fallen by 96%. Farmers are sounding alarm bells about rotting food because of the likely shortfall in EU migrant workers to harvest the crops. Theresa May argues that this is what the British public voted for, but as Brexodus speeds up during 2018 and the negative effects of a looming Brexit are exacerbated, surely then the British electorate should be asked “Is this really what you want?” Shamefully, the Prime Minister and her Brexiteer Cabinet Ministers currently will not even countenance the proposition, and equally shamefully the Labour “Opposition” under Jeremy Corbyn is just going along with the madness, which can only lead to a shrinking economy and diminished political importance for Britain. So much for “taking back control”.

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Talking about the NHS

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 15th November, 2017

NHS Channel S debateLast night I was on Channel S TV’s “Let’s Talk” live debate show, hosted by my old friend Ajmal Masroor, discussing the state of Britain’s National Health Service (NHS). The NHS will celebrate the 70th anniversary of its foundation next year, but there is a widespread belief that it is showing its age, not in a complimentary way. The peg for the show was a BBC report suggesting that 280,000 more routine operations could be carried out in NHS hospitals each year if the theatres were managed more efficiently. The way that Croydon has improved its performance was cited as a template which others might follow. Of course, all sorts of factors come into play in efficiency in operatingtheatres, not just timetabling. A percentage of patients cancel, sometimes at the last moment, or even without informing the hospital. And a shortage of beds can aggravate the situation. But of course the TV debate — whose other participants were a retired GP from Newham, a solicitor specialising in clinical negligence cases and a Labour Party politician — ranged more widely over the state of the NHS. Everyone agreed that there is a funding shortfall; the Liberal Democrats, of course, included in our manifesto for June’s general election a pledge to inject a further £6bn into the NHS, paid for by raising income tax by 1p in the pound. A great idea which was theoretically popular, but did not actually encourage many voters to back LibDem candidates. In my remarks during the one-and-a-half hour programme, I highlighted the way that Brexit is hitting the NHS. In the UK we rely quite heavily on medical staff from other EU member states, but since last year’s EU Referendum, applications for nursing jobs from other EU states has fallen by 96%. To respond to that shortfall, nurses and being recruited from outside the EU, not least Asia, but the NHS has to pay £1000 each for their working visa, therefore costing the cash-strapped service many millions of pounds it can ill afford. There is also uncertainty over how tightly the UK’s research facilities will be able to stay plugged into EU-wide endeavours if we leave not only the EU but also Euratom. However, I did point out that not all is gloomy about the NHS. Technology continues to advance (though it is ever more costly) and mental health now receives much more serious attention (thanks largely to the work of Norman Lamb and other Liberal Democrat Ministers and MPs during the 2010-2015 Coalition government). Similarly, there is a greater awareness of the need to integrate the health and social care services. So, as the NHS prepares to turn 70, there is still much to praise, not least the dedication and quality of so many NHS staff, at all levels.

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Recycling a Son of the British Raj

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 4th September, 2016

Peter RamraykaI suspect the British patients who deal with doctors, nurses and other National Health Service staff from the Commonwealth rarely consider the journeys those people have made. I don’t mean just the physical move, though that may be from the other side of the world. I am thinking more about the culture shock. Working in Britain must be for many overseas NHS workers as much of a challenge as an opportunity. So it is interesting to have one man’s considered view of his own journey: Peter Ramrayka’s Recycling a Son of the British Raj (Hansib, £13.99), in his case arriving from what used to British Guiana in South America, now Guyana, with the added twist that being ethnically Indian, the author has roots that go back to the Indian sub-continent. As a child he was taught to think of Britain as the Mother Country and he followed his brother’s lead in moving here and then joining the Royal Air Force. A posting to Cyprus gave him the opportunity to travel in the Middle East, but the major part of his career was spent in hospital management and management consultancy, based in the UK but sometimes travelling on assignment to other countries including Botswana and Pakistan. For me the travelogue passages were more engaging than some of the detail of various hospital closures in south east London and north west Kent, though doubtless the latter would appeal more to fellow NHS workers, past and present. The author uses the unusual device of having an imaginary companion on his life journey: a spirit contained in a bottle, whom he addresses directly at times when he wants to explain the background to something. He also has a fondness for exclamation marks; in fact much of the narrative is amusing as well as presented in a way that is both observant yet kindly towards the nation that is now the author’s adopted home.

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Norman Lamb Goes to Church

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 23rd October, 2013

Norman LambSt Stephen's NW3So much vitriol is thrown at Liberal Democrats in government by the opposition Labour Party that it was appropriate and helpful to have the LibDem Social Care Minister in the Department of Health, Norman Lamb, as guest speaker at Camden Liberal Democrats’ fundraising reception this evening at the magnificently restored (deconsecrated) St Stephen’s Church in Hampstead, to remind us that the LibDems are the caring side to the Coalition. The Norfolk MP is so transparently decent and honest — in contrast to the caricature of MPs in the tabloid Press — and he has picked up Paul Burstow’s mantel and worn it effectively, homing in particularly on care for the elderly — a hugely growing issue in Britain as elsewhere in the “developed” world — and mental health, the Cinderella of the NHS. Norman batted away the suggestion from one questioner that the NHS is under threat (by privatisation, if one believes Labour propaganda), despite the fact that Tony Blair’s government instigated many of the current reforms;  the Coalition government wants to see the NHS function well. In a short warm-up speech, I noted that tomorrow, 23 October, is a significant date for LibDem activists in Camden and across London, as seven months hence will be the day when  it is too late to say “I may lose”, in local or European elections, as the polling booths will have closed at 10pm the previous evening. It is essential that in the interim LibDems campaign not only to hold what they have got (in London boroughs and the European Parliament) but also to champion the European ideal. The electorate in the UK knows that the Liberal Democrats are the only major party in Britain that “gets” Europe; it’s our USP, and we should not try to hide that European light under a bushel. Mercifully, Nick Clegg is the first party leader who has dared to proclaim the European love that dare not speak its name: i.e., the EU is good for Britain, and Britain is good for the EU. To leave would be, in Nick’s words, a disaster. Of course, the EU needs reform, but you reform from inside, not from throwing stones from outside — UKIP and Tory Euro-sceptics please note.

Link:  http://www.camdenlibdems.org.uk

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Paul Burstow’s Mental Health and Social Care

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 3rd September, 2011

Since the tuition fees debacle, the one policy area that has been giving Liberal Democrats in the Coalition Government most grief has been the whole area of Health Service reforms. Andrew Lansley, the Conservative Secretary of State, unveiled a set of radical proposals which were not in the Coalition agreement and which sent alarm bells ringing among LibDems, not least members of the Social Liberal Forum, who led a successful revolt at the Party’s 2011 spring conference. That then strengthened the hand of LibDem MPs and even Ministers to force a significant rethink, especially of those concepts which seemed to imply a degree of competitive tendering in the free market which  opponents were able to portray as privatisation by the back door. Anyway, the Bill in its revised form is much less scary, according to the man who ought to know: the LibDem junior Health Minister, Paul Burstow, who was guest speaker at a lasagne and poilitics event at Orpington Liberal Club this evening. Paul stressed that the new policies the Government wishes to bring in will help integrate health and social services, will end the Cinderella status of mental health (which is a cause Nick Clegg has been promoting personally) and addresses the elephant in the room, i.e. how to fund future long-term care for an increasingly geriatric population. Paul accepted the point made by one party member this evening that the British Medical Association has opposed many of the proposed reforms, but he rightly countered that the BMA has a record of opposing change, including the original establishment of the NHS. LibDems have reason to be proud of what the Party has achieved in government, he said — a refrain that is increasingly being heard from LibDem Ministers, but it is worth repeating, especially when it is backed up by the evidence shown by comparing what was in the LibDem 2010 Manifesto and how much of that is now government policy.

 

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