BenBradshaw letter on Sidwell Street Walk-In Centre

Thanks for your e-mail and for all you and others have been doing to try and save the Sidwell St Walk-In Centre. it is particularly galling for me, as I was Health Minister when the Labour government set up the network of Walk-In Centres across England. I am afraid that most of them were closed by the Coalition government and I suspect you are right when you say this is being directed from the centre, and now the Tories are governing alone, is likely to be accelerated.

I have made several visits, have written several letters to and have several meetings with the CCG since the idea of closing the centre was first mooted two years ago. I will seek a further meeting but I am not confident the outcome will be any different, not least, given the serious financial crisis facing Devon NHS. I will also seek to raise this is Parliament.

A number of Labour members are involved in the campaign and I am copying this to the Chair of the local party, Matthew Vizard. You might want to engage Richard Westlake, who is the Labour councillor who chairs the Health Scrutiny Committee of the County Council. That is the body, under the Tories disasterous NHS ‘reforms’, that is supposed to provide the democratic oversight to local commissioning groups, but their powers are quite limited.

Finally, Labour has just suffered a terrible defeat in the General Election, although we did extremely well in Exeter. In the long term, the only thing that is going to save the NHS from the Tories is a Labour government. I would encourage you and everyone else involved in the campaign to join us and help us in that mission in the months and years to come.

With very best wishes

Rt Hon Ben Bradshaw MP

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#noTTIP | #Exeter is a TTIP-Free Zone

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TTIP, the EU-US trade deal, could be the biggest threat to democracy of our generation. This is true both at national level, where government policy like increasing the minimum wage or freezing energy prices could be challenged in secret corporate tribunals, and at local level, where councils could be forced to favour big American corporations over local, sustainable businesses in their procurement. Councils could also be challenged for doing things like denying planning permission for fracking in their local area.

Download the briefing from Global Justice Now to find out more about TTIP and local government.

Global Justice Now also have a model motion on TTIP for local authorities

Make your local council a TTIP Free Zone

Keep Our NHS Public is suggesting that local groups consider a campaign to persuade their local authority to declare their council a ‘TTIP free zone’. There have already been resolutions to this effect successfully passed by a number of local authorities, such as Southampton (19 Novmber 2014), Oxford (29 September 2014), and Exeter (16 December 2014) , and Lancashire County Council (17 July 2014).

KONP has drafted a motion for campaigners to put to local councils (see attached – it just needs the name of the Local Authority inserted).
Download suggested Motion

Advice from those who have already successfully lobbied Councils includes first finding a sympathetic councillor to take this forward and writing to members of the Council in advance of any discussion of the resolution, to provide information that may help to persuade members to support the motion.
Download draft letter to Councillor

If my experience here in Exeter is anything to go by, this is a good move – one Tory councillor ahead our meeting did his research on Wikipedia!

Earlier this week, Global Justice Now announced that Edinburgh and Lewisham joined the list of TTIP-Free councils.

TTIP-Free Zones
TTIP-Free Zones

Save Sidwell Street Walk-In Centre petition presented to NEW Devon CCG

Earlier today, I joined campaigners from Keep Our NHS Public (South West) to hand over the 38 Degrees petition against the planned closure of the Sidwell Street Walk-in Centre in Exeter to NEW Devon CCG

The petition was launched at Exeter Respect and KONP (South West) managed to get well over 6,000 signatures in just over three weeks.

KONP to present 38 to present the 38 Degrees petition against the planned closure of the Sidwell Street Walk-in Centre in Exeter to NEW Devon CCG
KONP members prepare to present the 38 Degrees petition against the planned closure of the Sidwell Street Walk-in Centre in Exeter to NEW Devon CCG

We met in the grounds of Newcourt House on the edge of Exeter, where the Eastern Locality Board were due to have a meeting.

Geoff Barr, Chair of KONP (South West), attended the meeting and afterwards he told me that the Clinical Commissioning Group Chair seemed unmoved by reason.

It seems that more pressure may be needed.

Some notes from Geoff Barr

Why keep the walk-in centre open?
Thousands of people want it open. We have collected well over 6,000 signatures on the petition to keep it open.

Where do the signatures come from?
– Respect Festival. The petition was launched here on 6th June.
– Anti-Austerity event on 13th June in Exeter
– Sidwell Street outside the Walk-in Centre – thanks to our team who spent many lunch hours attracting signatures. It was not difficult as the results show.
– Churches across the city from several denominations.
– Schools.
– Doctors waiting rooms.
– Community centres.
– Other places too numerous to mention.
– On-line collection thanks to 38 degrees and thanks to Andrew for organising this.

Behind this lies the feeling of the people of Exeter. We had less than 4 weeks to accumulate the names. We could not reach most of the population of our city.

Why should we keep the Walk-in Centre open?
This is not some conservative instinct to preserve an old service just because it is familiar. It is a service that has proved its worth in the many people we approached who told their own stories. One was the person working with people dependant on drugs and homeless people. He pointed to the need for a place that these hard to reach people could find health services. The Walk-in Centre is vital. The busy workers from out of town who cannot access their GP. The mums who find that a fortnight’s wait for a GP appointment is intolerable were another group. Then we saw some of poorest people in Exeter. They often had disabilities and the thought of going to the hospital meant a long trudge or an excessive bus fare. Several people needed dressings replaced. Their GPs were simply overwhelmed and could not do this work in time. Again and again we found that this centre offered a quick and efficient service.

Healthwatch Devon is the official voice of health service users in the county. It undertook an assessment of the two Exeter Walk-in Centres. It used a questionnaire and interviewed a number of users of the service in some depth. The result is the same as our less systematic finding. People value the service.

We note that the hospital has faced enormous pressures on its accident and emergency services. Indeed it has had periods when it failed to see every patient within the four hour target. Closing this Walk-in centre will pile more pressure on the hospital.

The service is popular; it is needed by patients and the health system of Exeter and east Devon. In a time when government NHS England and health professionals say that the voice of patients must be heard we insist that you listen and drop the plans to close this valued service.

Handing over the petition
Handing over the petition


Some responses to the petition against the closure of the Sidwell Street Walk-In Centre.

“It’s the finest thing – the staff have all been very good to me with my troubles.”

“It’s such a good place, really helpful people.”

“It’s disgusting, they shouldn’t cut down on people’s health. It’s accessible to all – young girls wanting help – the GU clinic – they don’t want an appointment with the GP which would take weeks, they can just walk in.”

“Even if the GU clinic stays it won’t be used as much because it’s stigmatising to be seen walking into one, whereas you can go into the Walk-In Centre and nobody knows what service you’re going to.”

“It’s really good, it’s really handy having it here. I can use it from work whereas I couldn’t get to the GP without losing time off work.”

“I can’t believe it!”

“Let’s hope it stays, it’s very convenient.”

Keep Our NHS Public | Position Statement

KONP Position Statement

The principal objective of Keep Our NHS Public is to campaign to resist and reverse the privatisation and commercialisation of the National Health Service by restoring it to full public ownership and control, and to promote its future development as a truly public service – publicly funded, publicly provided, publicly accountable and available to all.

In order to achieve this objective, we support the following measures:

  1. Repeal of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 and other NHS privatisation legislation 
  1. Reinstatement of the legal duty of the Secretary of State for Health

2.1 This is to secure and provide a comprehensive health service that ensures that the population gets full access to the health care they need.

2.2 The NHS should be restored according to its founding principles of 1948.

2.3 The market – including that prevailing in Foundation Trusts – must be removed from NHS service provision, in order to protect it from the compulsory application of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) rules, EU competition law and, crucially, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

  1. Provision of Social Services on the same basis as NHS Health Care

3.1 This is a longer-term goal.

  1. Restoration of Democratic Control

4.1 We demand that all aspects of the NHS are returned to democratic control at national, regional and local levels.

4.2 Foundation Trusts should not be run as separate businesses able to raise capital (a task for the Secretary of State): they should be incorporated as an integral and cooperative part of an NHS public service.

4.3 There must also be a statutory, adequately resourced democratic voice for patients and public.

4.4 We demand an investigation into the opaque system of patronage and lobbying that has characterised the privatisation of the NHS.

4.5 All personnel involved in the NHS should be required to declare financial interests which conflict with their role.

  1. Establishment of Adequate Funding

5.1 We demand increased funding, from taxation, commensurate with the principles of provision of the service, raised at least to the European average health expenditure. Public funds are currently being wasted on maintaining a market within the NHS. 

  1. Removal of the Purchaser-Provider split

6.1 We oppose this split and demand that it be fully removed as part of the renationalisation and de-marketisation to retain the founding principles of the NHS.

6.2 The planning and provision of services must be done by collaboration between managers and clinicians working with, and for the benefit of, patients. This will yield efficiency gains and improve accountability and patient care.

  1. NHS Transparency and Accountability

7.1 ‘Commercial confidentiality’ must not be allowed to apply in any area where public money is used for the purposes of the NHS, which should not in any case be run as a competitive system.

  1. Phasing–out the private-sector Commissioning and Providing of NHS Services

8.1 As an interim measure, there must be an immediate start to their phasing out by robust monitoring of contractor performance, sanctions for failure, and no contract renewal.

  1. Safeguarding of NHS Assets

9.1 We demand an immediate end to the sell-off of NHS assets, unless as part of a coherent, clinically sound and publicly supported plan to configure assets and services better to meet the needs of local populations.

9.2 Urgent priority must be given to any legislation necessary to immediately outlaw any further sales of NHS property.

  1. Abolition of the Private Finance Initiative (PFI)

10.1 The mounting debts and excessively-high interest repayments inherent in NHS PFI schemes are proving increasingly unsustainable for hospital budgets, leading to down-grading and cuts in staff, services and facilities and even to inappropriate mergers and threatened closure for “failing” hospitals.

10.2 We will therefore urgently seek the broadest possible partnership:

– to raise public awareness of the mis-selling of PFI schemes and their no-risk profiteering, and

– to campaign for (a) an immediate halt to all further PFIs, and (b) their speedy abolition by means which do not maintain taxpayers’ liabilities by moving them from one part of the public purse to another (as in “buy-outs”).

  1. Partnership between all NHS staff and Patients
    • We must promote the involvement of all these groups as partners in a joint endeavour to develop the best possible NHS, based on principles of openness, transparency and accountability.
    • The bullying culture within NHS management must end.  We demand robust enforcement of statutory measures to protect NHS whistleblowers and sanctions against those who seek to gag them.
    • Every effort must be made to restore the culture which will re-kindle pride in great public service and support for the public service ethos.

June 2014