Thursday, 28 August 2014

999 call for the NHS

Over the last few days I've been writing about the 999 call for the NHS march that is coming through Northampton on the evening of Monday 1st September and leaving Northampton for Bedford on Tuesday 2nd September.

If you cannot make the march, there are lots of ways that you can help. One thing you can do is to write to your MP and ask them to support  Clive Efford MP's private member's bill (NHS amended duties and powers).
• stop the Privatisation of the NHS,
• restore the legal duty of the Secretary of State for Health to provide National Health Services,
• amend the Health and Social Care Act 2012 to remove the competition requirements,
• amend the ability to provide private health services,
• amend the provisions of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 relating to Monitor,
• repeal Section 75 Regulations.

If you live ing Northampton South you can email Brian Binley MP on
and if you live in Northampton North you can email Michael Ellis on

If you contact your MP, make it clear that you live in their constituency and try and write even just one sentence about why you are concerned about the NHS.

If you're on social media use the following hashtags:

You can find more information about the Northampton events here

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

For those who don't think that cuts in the NHS are happening in the here and now...

Earlier in the year, the Chronicle and Echo reported proposed job losses of almost 250.

Proposals included:
- support staff, such as medical secretaries at risk. The list is also believed to include a handful of consultants.
- The plan to replace band 6 staff nurses with cheaper, less experienced band 5 staff, or else ask for volunteers to drop to the lower grade.

Critically, the proposals included no plans to consult with the public

As with some many things like this the devils is in the detail. To find out a little more I put in a freedom of information request for the equality impact assessments (EqIA) for the proposals

The EqIA's provided range from ones which seemed to be ammended in handwriting to others which were blank. Hardly the signs of a process that was being robustly considered.

A few months later and we have the scandalous debacle of hospital scientists wanting to work being locked out of their own workplace in a dispute over pay. This meant that patients were left high and dry with out blood tests and results as a result of heavy handed management strategies which
prevented staff in the department going to work.
If you don't think that there's a need to shine a spotlight on changes in the NHS, it's time to think again.  Find out more about how to support the #999MarchNorthants , part of the #darlomums campaign here. In brief, you can help 
  • by marching the Market Harborough to Northampton or Northampton to Bedford legs of the march, even if you just do a little bit
  • coming to the rally outside All Saints Church on Monday 1st September at 5.30pm
  • coming to the Dostiyo Centre at 52 Dunster Street, Northampton after 6.45pm and meeting marchers and sharing a vegetarian meal with them (solidarity cost to non-marchers £2)

Sunday, 24 August 2014


The deep felt concern over the NHS is a national passion and something I have written about here a couple of years ago. It's shocking that so much has changed in the NHS over the last few years with so little awareness of the changes and the impact that privatisation and selling off services have had. Quite incredibly there have been ward closures and lucrative contracts sold off to off shore bidders without much of a murmour NHS workers in general practice, in hospiatls and out in the community have seen their resources in real terms shrink whist at the same time experiencing a systematic onslaught by goverment, but the media and big business in an operation to erode trust.

This is why I'm so pleased to see the 999 call for the NHS campaign. The plan of marching across the country to support the NHS has already attracted a lot of national publicity. It's even more significant for me because it is an intiative that has been set up by a group of women just concerned about their families and their future without the support of the national health service that they have previously enjoyed.

I'm even more pleased that the campaign is coming to my town of Northampton on the evening of Monday September 1st. From what I hear, they will be coming into town at about 5.30pm and having  a rally on the square outside All Saints Church. Why don't you come and join them and show your support for the NHS. You can find out more about the campaign and the march to Bedford on Tuesday September 2nd here.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Race in the future - organising and support

Less than a handful of years ago there were close to 200 racial equality councils (REC's) in the United Kingdom. A recent survey undertaken on behalf of the East Midlands Racial Equality Consortium by Northamptonshire Rights and Equality Council has identified only 41 remaining historic racial equality councils in England, Scotland and Wales with only 33 of them in England. Most organisations have changed their name to take on the breadth of the equality act agenda although some remain as racial equality councils. Their activities still reflect doing one or more of discrimination advice, immigration advice, hate crime monitoring and good relations/community cohesion activity. Historic REC's in the devolved nations seem to be doing well and report good staffing and volunteer numbers. For instance, Edinburgh and the Lothians Regional Equality Council have 13 staff and SEWREC (South East Wales Racial Equality Council) have 20 staff. The functioning of REC's which have not gone under is very variable. Some are just existing with committed volunteers with no paid staff support at all.

Some areas of the country such as the North East and Cumbria have no historic REC's left.
Is it that there isn't a need? Is it because there are low BAME population numbers there? Or is it that the gap has been filled by generalist equality VCS organisations? There is evidence to show that the need for REC services is just acute in areas of low populations numbers. When our REC provided racial harassment support in Wellingborough and East Northants, the numbers of race hate incidents in both areas were often the same despite a very much larger BAME population in Wellingborough than East Northants. The indication was that if you lived as a BAME family in East Northants you were more likely to experience racism that if you live in the more urban and diverse area of Wellingborough. In Cumbria, the race disproportionality of stop searches even attracted the attention of the Equality and Human Rights Commission blowing apart the myth that racial equality advocates are only needed in areas where there are high BAME populations .

Could part of the picture be the erosion of the environments that REC's have traditionally worked in? Discrimination advice service users now have the added barrier of tribunal fees of at least £250. This situation has resulted in an 80% reduction in tribunal applications. That put together with the imposition of early concilliation by ACAS and the abolution of the Equality Act questionairre, send a cold, harsh message to communities facing discrimination and shout loud and clear that the odds are being stacked against them.

For those REC's working on issues of hate crime, the austerity agenda has meant massive cuts in investment in dedicated services like Hate Crime Units are well as other sources of support such as community safety partnerships and budgets. The message right across the country is that where in the past there was an acknowledgement that expertise was required to resolve such issues quickly and effectively, it is simply unaffordable now.

Immigration services are also seeing over the last few years the racheting up of criteria in the baying for blood of those trying to address the "immigration problem". The introduction of the £18,600 income threshold to bring over a single dependant relative has meant that migration of people uniting families is not a trickle but an occasional drip.

In this kind of operating environment, is it any wonder that REC's struggle? All the more reason to celebrate and support those that are still alive.

List of historical racial equality councils still functioning:


Barking and Dagenham Racial Equality Council
Ealing Equality Council
Enfield Equality Council
Haringay Race and Equality Council
Harrow Equalities Centre
Hounslow Race and Equalities Council
Kingston Race and Equalities Council
Rights and Equality in Newham
Redbridge Equalities and Communities Council
Sutton Centre for Equalities
Waltham Forest Racial Equality Council

East of England

Cambridge Ethnic Minority Forum
Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality

East Midlands

Charnwood Equality and Human Rights
Derby REC

North West

Cheshire Halton and Warrington Racial Equality Council
Manchester Community Relations Council
Preston and Western Lancashire Racial Equality Council

South West

The Council for Racial Equality in Cornwall
Plymouth and Devon Racial Equality Council
Wiltshire Racial Equality Council

West Midlands

East Staffordshire Rights and Equality Council
Rights and Equality Sandwell
Warwickshire Racial Equality Partnership

South East

Herts Equality Council
Kent Equality and Cohesion Council
Milton Keynes Equality Council
Alliance for Cohesion and Racial Equality

Yorkshire and Humberside

Equality Leeds
York Racial Equality Network


Central Scotland Equality Council
Edinburgh and the Lothians Regional Equality Council
Fairness Race Awareness and Equality Fife
Grampian Regional Equality Council


Rights Equality First
Swansea Bay Regional Equality Council
SEWREC South East Wales Racial Equality Council
The Valleys Regional Equality Council

North East


Sunday, 10 August 2014

It's about what's right

I've been thinking a lot about this. When people get involved in organisations, whether it be for work or otherwise, there isn't an ongoing consciousness about whether conduct or actions are legal or not. Those involved with activity for a broader aim, either trying to create a better world or working towards a value such as the freedom of expression, the law maybe a simply secondary consideration. There are some situations that where I might even agree with such an analysis.  In my younger years I was no stranger to direct action on issues like apartheid or the peace movement.
Reading this article about Ben Ashford and who while working for the Sun he picked up a phone examined the contents and "produced an 18-page dossier for his London bosses containing details of “saucy messages” and “X-rated photos” exchanged between the owner and a TV personality who cannot be named." He was instructed by his empoyers to make a "detailed search".
A large part of the article is focussed on the impact that the subsequent prosecution has had on Ben Ashford. Of course it is no surprising that journalists might be sympathetic to one another.  Whether another individual that had handled another persons property which was obtained from someone they knew not to be the owner of the property would have been dealt with in the same way is questionable. A large part of the article deals with the impact that the prosecution has had on Ben ashford with little if any consideration on the impact that his action had on the owner of the phone.
In the article Ben Ashford is reported as saying that senior staff at the Sun knew about the iPhone and he “trusted they knew what they were doing”.  His defence is one that I know others in a number of other organisations have used too. It consists of, "I trust the people more senior to me and they wouldn't do something or instruct me to do something unlawful". Other individuals who have used the defence, perhaps a driver who has been forced by his employer to drive over his regulated driving hours, or a estates staff at a care facility who is asked to restrain a patient without having clinical training on restraint are unlikely to be treated sympathetically if things go wrong.
The article illustrates how little the profession has learnt from phone hacking.  Generally the law does take a stand that individuals are responsible for their actions and should be held to account for them.  Those close to me will be aware about my own issues relating to criminal activity and breeches of my and others personal privacy. The consequence of this is that I am more keen to encourage others to be responsible for their actions.
However it's not just journalism that is under scrutiny. In time of austerity, more and more public services are taking dificult decisions with little time for checks and balances even for what is lawful. The real question is does any one care and who should be caring?