Sunday, June 08, 2008

Keep the NHS Working Campaign

The UNISON NEC on Wednesday received a report on campaigning activity in defence of the NHS during 2008 which covered, among other areas, the following;

NHS Next Stage Review – UNISON submission

In January, UNISON provided written evidence to Junior Health Minister Lord Darzi’s NHS Next Stage Review. The response highlighted a number of practical solutions to problems around issues such as Agenda for Change and the implementation of the Knowledge and Skills Framework. It also included more ambitious recommendations, such as reintegrating purchaser and provider functions, and alternatives to markets in primary care. In addition, officers have taken a number of opportunities to engage with the review at stakeholder events, NHS values seminars and private meetings with Lord Darzi.

The submission also addressed the issue of an NHS constitution, which is an increasingly likely prospect as we approach the 60th anniversary of the NHS. UNISON argued that the constitution has the potential to be a useful device for restating the founding principles of the NHS in a modern format, but that, for it to be a truly worthwhile exercise, it needs to be legally binding on all providers of healthcare. This would give patients, staff and the public the confidence that their NHS remains sacrosanct even when reforms are taking place, and would provide a bulwark against any initiatives to break up the NHS that future governments might embark upon.

NHS Constitution Survey

In an initiative to engage with UNISON members over the future of the NHS, we undertook a survey to canvass members’ views – both as NHS workers and as NHS users. The survey asks members to comment on the key principles that they would want included in an NHS constitution. It was launched at health conference and closes at the end of May. An analysis of the responses will be the subject of a briefing and press release at National Delegate Conference. The results will be used as evidence to support UNISON’s position when lobbying government and employers to secure adequate protections for health workers faced with reorganisation or upheaval due to the impact of continuing NHS reforms.

NHS 60th Anniversary – UNISON campaign to Celebrate and Defend

This year sees the 60th anniversary of the founding of the NHS on 5 July 1948. The 60th anniversary is a citizenship issue, of direct relevance to the whole membership and UNISON both at national and regional level, is undertaking a range of activities to acknowledge this important milestone.

UNISON commissioned a commemorative booklet - “@ 60: What is so Good about the NHS?” produced by the NHS Support Federation and copies were sent to all branches.

A national recruitment campaign has been launched and will run for a number of weeks leading up to 5 July. Adverts will appear in health-related journals and on websites. Campaign posters and birthday cards are being produced and will be available for branches to order from end of May.

We are sponsoring a limited edition re-print of Nye Bevan’s ‘In Place of Fear’ with a new foreword by Gordon Brown, PM and a message from Dave Prentis. The book sets out the arguments for creating a free NHS, and the principles it adheres to are still as relevant today as they were sixty years ago.

We are working jointly with the Nye Bevan Society to hold a seminar to mark the 60th anniversary, which will look at the founding principles of the NHS, how it has progressed since 1948 and what the future holds. Speakers include Karen Jennings, UNISON’s Head of Health, Alan Johnson, Health Secretary, and a speaker from Breakthrough Breast Cancer to give a user perspective.

Branches have been provided with key campaign messages to assist them with local publicity and awareness-raising. In addition, articles and features will be placed in UNISON’s internal publications (E-Focus, InFocus, U Magazine, Labour Link News) as well as a range of external health and occupation specific journals. There will also be a dedicated UNISON web page with information, resources and helpful links.

Separately questions were asked at the NEC meeting about UNISON’s continuing support for victimised health service activist Karen Reissmann – I am looking forward to hearing Karen speak at our Conference in Bournemouth as her commitment to our Union in continuing to be active in spite of having been unjustly dismissed for opposing privatisation of health services is an inspiration.

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