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Asian Voice Column: The NHS Shambles

Government’s NHS Proposals In Shambles




The Health and Social Care Bill, a big gamble and privatisation proposal of our National Health Serv ice, since its conception has met with growing criticism and been a complete shambles. Mounting criticism from all sectors recently forced the coalition government in announcing a so called ‘listening exercise’  which ended this week.

At the heart of the Government both Andrew Lansley the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister are determined to plough ahead in the face of widespread criticism. It is for these reasons there’s been no confidence in the so called listening exercise. A recent You Gov poll promoted by 38 Degrees members found that 95% of the public have no idea how to get involved in the listening exercise and only one in five think Lansley is genuinely interested in listening. Many more suspect that the “listening exercise” is at best what Dr Hamish Meldrum of the BMA describes ”a political device”, and at worst a sham. The dissatisfaction about the new consultation continues to be wide ranging and this includes the trade unions, professional bodies, health charities and patient groups who are deeply concerned about the direction of Andrew Lansley’s NHS plans. It is insulting for the Mr Lansley to rubbish genuine concerns as misunderstanding, or a “storm in a teacup”. The British Medical Association has been scathing on this issue saying “It’s rather ironic that on one hand the Secretary of State says his proposals are there to give doctors more say, more involvement, to listen to them and to let them run the service, and yet when we tell them his plans aren’t working, he doesn’t seem to want to hear what we’re saying.” The British Medical Association has called for a series of changes to the proposals and warned that the entire Health and Social Care Bill may need to be withdrawn.

As reported in my prevous writeups in Asian Voice,  London Assembly’s Health and Public Sevices committee of which I’m Deputy Chair,  has scrutinised the health reforms together with the changes in Public Health and raised its concerns on the issues concening governance and impact on London. I am of a firm view that the listening exercise now conclded is no more than public relations exervice on the part of both  Tories and LibDems in Government and they will eventually force through the proposals which are part of the Coalition Government’s masterplan to attack the welfare state and privatisation agenda for which they have no mendate from people of this country. This is an attack on the most vulnerable in our society and I condemn both parties in the Government.



Asian Voice: Police Cuts: A Boost To Criminals!


It is most extraordinary that Tory Party, the so called Party of ‘Law and Order’ now in government is forcing through 20% cuts to police budgets over the next 4 years. This situation is compounded for London by the fact that the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) is facing a budget shortfall of £170m this year.


Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper has quite rightly  brought to our attention that "Far from protecting frontline policing as ministers promised, over 10,000 police officers are being cut in the next few years alone and that's 10,000 fewer police officers fighting crime, solving serious cases, or keeping our country safe. Cutting so fast and so deep into police budgets is crazy. It is completely out of touch with communities across the country who want to keep bobbies on the beat." Even the centre-right thinktank ‘Civitas’ has warned  that cuts to the police would boost criminals.


Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s administration is no different when it comes to cutting police numbers and the budget. Last year, long before the coalition government started forcing through its draconian measures, the Mayor proposed a reduction of police numbers by 455 over the next three years and 5% cuts in police budgets Londonwide. The Mayor  has further frozen the recruitment of new police officers, which has resulted in the police estimating that they will have 900 fewer officers in March 2011 than they expected to have. This is the Mayor who pleadged ‘to spend less on press officers and more on police officers’ and ‘to redirect more resources to frontline policing’.


Mayor Livingstone introduced the Safer Neighbourhood Teams (SNTs) between April 2004 & April 2006 with dedicated teams of six officers in every single ward in London - an innovation that has been remarkably successful.  A report in 2008 demonstrated  that there is a positive association between SNTs and falling crime and increase in confidence in local police. To maintain the excellent work undertaken by the SNTs commitment to current level and composition of the current  model of neighbourhood policing is crucial and this was endorsed by the London Assembly in a resolution in March 2010.


In 2008 Boris Johnson at a Mayors Question Time stated “I fully support the Safer Neighbourhood Team model, and I am committed to ensuring that there at least 6 officers in every ward.” However now Mayor Johnson has backtracked on the commitment and refused to maintain the 3-2-1 model of neighbourhood policing and now believes any decision on policing structure is an operational matter for the Commissioner!


At the local level, within my constituency of Brent and Harrow, the Metropolitan Police have continually improved the quality of life for the boroughs' citizens over the last decade. I feel therefore that it is a backwards step for 19 police officers to be lost in Brent this year due to the Mayor's freeze in recruiting and similarly Harrow is set to lose 11 police officers in the coming year. I find this situation extremely worrying requiring police to choose which crimes they tackle with reduced resources. I am told that the local police in Brent and Harrow is consulting on ‘flexible ways of working’. This in reality could mean Safer Neighbourhood Teams being taken away from ‘safer’ wards to ‘problem’ areas. If the ’flexible’ working approach was to be deployed it would be critical to ensure that the so-called ’safe’ wards do not end up being neglected areas wiping out the good work carried out over the past years and endangering strong partnerships with local communities.

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7th February 2011