Posts Tagged ‘‘The Rise and Decline of the English Working Classes 1918-1990: A Social History’’

Don’t Be Mislead, May and the Tories Are Still Determined to Destroy the NHS

January 8, 2019

Okay, the papers today have been full of the plan May announced yesterday that would improve the NHS over the next ten years. Apparently they’re going to increase funding by 20 billion pounds above inflation by 2023, recruiting tens of thousands of new nurses and doctors.

Mike today posted a piece ripping apart these promises. He makes the point that the Tories haven’t fulfilled their existing targets to recruit more medical staff. They have also not stated where they intend to fund the money to pump into the NHS.

More sinisterly, one key part of the programme discussed by Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock in an interview with Sophy Ridge sounded like the government is planning to blame poor health on the patients themselves. Hancock said in the interview that the government intended to shift towards helping people to stay health, to stop them getting ill as much as curing them.

Mike makes the point that this sound very much like the claims that the DWP helps people by refusing them benefit. He’s right. I think there has already been discussion of schemes whereby obese people should be refused medical treatment for diseases or conditions brought on by the condition.

Mike also makes the point that the fundamental problem of the Tories’ NHS policy is continuing regardless of their new plans. This is the privatization of the health service. Mike writes

As for privatisation – with more than £8 billion spent on private companies that have been allowed to buy into the NHS by the Conservatives since 2012, concern is high that the whole service in England is being primed for sale, to be replaced with a private insurance-based system, as poor as the schemes currently failing the citizens of the United States. These fears are supported by the fact that current NHS boss Simon Stevens used to work for a US-based health profiteer.

This new 10-year plan, it seems, is setting out to do exactly what Noam Chomsky described when discussing the steps leading to privatisation: Strip the service of funds, make sure it doesn’t work properly, wait for people to complain, and then sell it to private profit-making firms with a claim that this will improve the service.

He makes the case that the NHS will be treated exactly as the other privatized utilities – energy companies, railways, water industry and airports – stripped of funds, sold off, and owned by foreign firms to provide them with profits.

This also is true. Private Eye has reported how the Tories and New Labour were lobbied by private healthcare providers determined to gain access to the NHS, including the American private healthcare insurance fraudster, Unum.

He concludes

So you can look forward to a future in which you are blamed for any health problem that arises, and forced to pay through the nose for health insurance (that probably won’t cover your needs or won’t pay out at all, to judge by the American system).

It seems the Tories’ 10-year plan for the NHS is to trick you into an early grave.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/01/08/new-tory-nhs-plan-is-to-tell-you-your-health-problems-are-your-fault/

The Tories have been determined to privatise the NHS since the days of Margaret Thatcher. She wanted to privatise it completely, but was stopped by a cabinet revolt. She nevertheless wanted to encourage Brits to take out private health insurance and began cutting and privatizing NHS services. This was continued under John Major by Peter Lilley, who invented the Private Finance Initiative in order to help private corporations gain access to the NHS. It carried on and was expanded even further by Blair and New Labour, and has been taken over and further increased by the Tories since the election of Cameron back in 2010.

If it continues, the NHS will be privatized, and the quality of Britain’s healthcare will be what is in the US: appalling. The leading cause of bankruptcy in America is inability to pay medical costs. Something like 20 per cent of the US population is unable to afford private medical insurance. 45,000 people a year die because they cannot afford healthcare treatment.

A year or so ago a Conservative commenter to this blog tried to argue that the Labour party had not established the Health Service and that the Tories were also in favour of it. Now it is true that the welfare state, including the NHS, was based on the Beveridge Report of 1944. Beveridge was a Liberal, and his report was based on the information and views he had been given in turn by civil servants and other professionals. But the Health Service itself was set up by Aneirin Bevan in Clement Attlee 1945 Labour government. The Health Service’s ultimate origins lay in the 1906 Minority Report into reform of the existing healthcare services by Sidney and Beatrice Webb. The Socialist Medical Society had been demanding a nationalized system of healthcare in the 1930s, as had the Fabian Society, and this had become Labour policy in that decade. And later in the 1950s, after the NHS had been established, the Tory right again demanded its privatization on the grounds that it was supposedly too expensive. Even now this is the attitude of right-wing historians and politicians, like Corelli Barnet, who has said that the reason why Britain was unable to modernize its industry after the War like the Germans or French was because the money went instead to the NHS.

The same commenter also claimed that Britain never had a private healthcare system. This is untrue. Many hospitals were run by local councils, but there were also private charity and voluntary hospitals. And these did charge for their services.

I’ve put up pieces before about how terrible healthcare was in Britain before the NHS. Here’s another passage about the state of healthcare for Britain’s working class between the First and Second World Wars, from Eric Hopkins’ The Rise and Decline of the English Working Classes 1918-1990: A Social History (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson 1991)

The health services between the wars were still in a rudimentary state. Insurance against sickness was compulsory for all workers earning less than 160 per annum under the National Insurance Act of 1911 but the scheme did not cover the dependants of the insured, and sickness benefits when away from work were still lower than unemployment rates. Further, the range of benefits was limited, and hospital treatment was not free unless provided in poor law infirmaries. Treatment in municipal hospitals or voluntarily run hospitals still had to be paid for. The health service was run not by the Ministry of Health, but by approved societies, in practice mostly insurance societies. As a system, it suffered from administrative weaknesses and duplication of effort, and the Royal Commission on National Health Insurance 1926 recommended that the system be reformed; the Minority Report even recommended that the administration of the system be removed from the societies altogether. In 1929 the Local Government Act allowed local authorities to take over the poor law infirmaries, and to run them as municipal hospitals. Not many did so, and by 1939 about half of all public hospital services were still provided by the poor law infirmaries. By that year, it would be fair to say that there was something resembling a national health service for the working classes, but it was still very limited in scope (it might or might not include dental treatment, depending on the society concerned), and although treatment by general practitioners was free for those by the scheme, as we have seen, hospital treatment might have to be paid for. (pp. 25-6).

This what the Tories and the Blairites in New Labour wish to push us back to, although looking at that description in seems that even this amount of government provision of healthcare is too much for those wishing to privatise it completely.

The Tories’ claim to support and ‘treasure’ the NHS are lies. May is a liar, and has already lied about putting money into the NHS. I remember how She claimed that they were going to increase funding, while at the same time stating that the NHS would still be subject to cuts. And I don’t doubt that she intends to take this plan anymore seriously. It doesn’t mean anything. Look how she declared that austerity had ended, only to carry on pursuing austerity.

Defend the NHS. Get Tweezer and the Tories out, and Corbyn and Labour in.

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Health and Safety Legislation and the Fall in Fatal Accidents at Work

March 15, 2016

One of the Tories’ favourite targets, shared with positive zeal by the right-wing press, is health and safety legislation. This they claim is a terrible burden on businesses, and has resulted in stupid, nonsensical rulings against even the most harmless and trivial pastimes. A few years ago, if you can remember that far back, there were reports that children were now no longer able to play conkers in school, unless they wore safety goggles.

Presumably the health and safety legislation being attacked is the body of legislation, which began with the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974, which stipulated that every firm must draw up rules governing safety at work, and brought a further eight million workers under the protection of the new regulations. This did have a significant effect in cutting down accidents at work, despite the fact that during the 1980s many firms decided to cut corners and failed to observe much of it during the depression. Eric Hopkins in his book, The Rise and Decline of the English Working Classes, quotes the Chief Inspector’s Report of 1985 on this:

Economic pressures have adversely affected working conditions in many premises, and an increase in the numbers of small firms and sub-contracting businesses, some of which have standards of safety and health which fall well below … what is acceptable, has added to the Inspectorate’s problems of source deployment. the recession has led many employers to economise on safety. Some firms have made safety officers redundant and passed responsibility for safety to personnel officers, line management or security officers with little or no experience in safety matters. (Pp. 210-211).

He also gives the comparative statistics for fatal accidents at work between 1975 and 1985. These are as follows.

1975
Factories … 231.
Construction… 181.
Docks and Warehouses…15
Total … 254.

1985
Manufacturing … 100
Construction … 95
Service Industries … 59
Total… 427

Mike over at Vox Political reported the other day that the Tories are planning to shift the burden of proof for accidents at work from the company to the victims, in order to cut down on the number of people successfully suing their employers for industrial injuries.

As this shows, the Health and Safety Legislation has succeed in cutting down on the number of accidents at work. If the Tories succeed in getting it scrapped or significantly reduced, it will mean more workers will suffer injury and permanent disability at work, without any chance of recompense from the guilty employers.

Unemployment and Health in the 1980s

March 15, 2016

Earlier this morning I put up a piece urging people to look at an article on Mike’s blog, over at Vox Political, in which he discusses composing and sending in a form letter from claimants with depression. This, he argues, would make the connection between benefit sanctions and increased rates of depression and anxiety irrefutable. Despite numerous protests and warning from disability and mental health groups, and the medical profession, Ian Duncan Smith still refuses to accept that his wretched welfare reforms are pushing people into suicide and depression. As I said, he has no arguments against this. When pressed, he simply blusters about his beliefs, or goes into a huge rant about how no-one else is doing anything to solve the problem of long-term unemployment. He did this when he appeared on an edition of Question Time with Owen Jones, when the author of the classic book on the demonization of the working class took the bald brute to task for his callous and destructive policies. A foam-flecked angry rant followed.

Psychologists have presented statistics showing that over a quarter of a million benefit claimants have been pushed into depression and anxiety because of the DWP’s sanctions regime. 590 have died in poverty, of neglect, starvation and horrifically by their own hand. This on its own should be sufficient proof that IDS’ policies aren’t working. But it isn’t. Hence the need, so Mike argues, for the form letter.

In support of Mike’s argument, I quoted a piece from Eric Hopkins’ social history, The Rise and Decline of the English Working Classes 1918-1990. He notes that in the depression of the 1930s, two unemployed men committed suicide every day. Later in the book he discusses the depression of the 1980s. He states that ‘How far real depression was suffered is impossible to quantify, and would depend on individual circumstances’. He also states that

(U)nemployment in itself does not appear to have contributed much to sickness rates. The Economist Intelligence Unit 1972 survey found that the unemployed were no more likely than the employed to visit the doctor, though slightly more on average were liable to have a long-standing illness; and there were higher rates of chronic sickness among manual workers who (as we have seen) were more subject to unemployment than skilled workers. (P. 20).

However, the Economist Intelligence Unit published some statistics in 1982 that shows that people’s self-respect and mental health were being damaged by unemployment.

About a fifth of those interviewed (19 per cent) confessed to being miserable or unhappy since losing their jobs; 17 per cent to being restless and bad-tempered, 15 per cent to being less patient and tolerant, and 13 per cent to being easily upset or snappy. Interviewees often mentioned becoming more aggressive, emotional and ashamed. As for material disadvantage, 13 per cent said they had been affected very badly, and 24 per cent that they were affected ‘fairly badly’; 32 per cent said they had not been affected at all (presumably they had been on low wages). Answers on this topic varies according to length of unemployment; of the long-term unemployed, 20 per cent said they had been badly affected, and 30 per cent affected ‘fairly badly’. (P. 218).

My guess is that if IDS is basing his denials on anything other than simple belief, it’s the statistics from the 1980s, as these would seem to confirm his own prejudices that no-one was being harmed by unemployment. Like most of the Tories, he believes that the unemployed are simply idle and workshy, and need to have a good dose of poverty in order to force them to get a job or work harder.

The problem for using the stats from the 1980s in this way is that conditions are now rather different. Those statistics come from a time when there were either no, or a much less rigorous system of benefit sanctions. The conditions unemployment benefit could be received was being cut. For example, I can remember that one of the conditions Maggie scrapped was unemployment provision for those going on holiday. However, it wasn’t quite like the absolute denial of income there is now, although there were certainly justifiable fears at the time that this would be the final result. And undoubtedly, many people were suffering genuine poverty.

The Gentleman Ranker is also basing his claim on discredited arguments about the existence of a dependency culture, largely coming from the American Republicans. When I found a booklet published by his moronic Social Justice Centre a few months in a second hand book shop, many of the arguments seemed to be based on experience in America. The blurb on the back declared that when benefits had been cut in America, welfare dependence had fallen in some cases by 40 per cent. That’s entirely possible, of course. It doesn’t, however, tell you whether those people then got a job, or if they just starved to death or subsisted on scraps from friends and relatives. And IDS can’t tell you either. All he does is rant about how it’s ‘what he believes’. Well, Smith can also believe that the Earth is flat, and Maggie was a titan of political insight and acumen, but that doesn’t make them true either.

The overwhelming evidence is that benefit sanctions are pushing the unemployed and disabled into anxiety and the ‘malignant sadness’, as the scientist Lewis Wolpert described depression in the title of his book on it. And it shouldn’t surprise anyone, given the statistics from the Economist Intelligence Unit on the way unemployment was affecting people’s minds and moods. But the evidence of statistics and medical professionals is, apparently, not enough to sway the mind of Ian Duncan Smith. This says all you need to know about the rationality of this government, and Smith’s own glaring unfitness for office.

Vox Political: Let’s Create Form Letter Showing that DWP IS Pushing Claimants to Suicide and Self-Harm

March 15, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has posted an article suggesting a way benefit claimants may refute the DWP’s denial that stress over benefit sanctions is pushing people to suicide, self-harm, depression and severe mental illness. He suggests that claimants should sign a form letter stating that this is occurring, and provides a specimen that he thought up this past weekend. The idea came to him after he was told by a friend of his with mental health problems that he was thinking of ending it all because of the stress put on him by Ian Duncan Smith and his wretched department of bullies and frustrated jobsworths. He admits it’s a bit ghoulish, and the specimen isn’t perfect. Nevertheless, he wants your input.

It is scandalous that aIDS and his fellow Tories should believe that there could ever be any doubt about the disastrous effects unemployment and fears about income have on the health, including the psychological wellbeing, of the unemployed. Eric Hopkins, in his book, The Rise and Decline of the English Working Classes, notes the terrible toll unemployment took on working people’s health during the great depression of the 1930s. He writes

Psychological illness due to feelings of depression was certainly common among the out-of-work. In 1932, an average of two unemployed men committed suicide for every day in the year. In the period 1921-31, suicides among men under twenty-five years of age rose by to per cent (though some of these might have taken their own lives even if they had been at work).

When high unemployment hit in the 1980s, there was a spate of suicides. These included a number of cases were young men left suicide notes explaining that they had decided to end it all because they couldn’t find a job. These were widely reported on the national news. Psychiatrists and medical professionals have repeatedly told the government, again and yet again, that people are dying of neglect and suffering a terrible decline in their mental health because of the DWP’s sanctions regime.

But aIDS refuses to accept any of this. And when challenged to offer any facts refuting it, he just waffles and blusters about his beliefs. Well, I’ve got my own beliefs about Ian Duncan Smith. I believe he’s a bully, a coward and liar. And I have more facts on my side than he has on his, whatever he chooses to believe.

Mike’s article is worth reading, and he would like feedback. Please do so. We need to make our case as strong and as explicit as possible. His piece is at

Let’s strip away DWP deniability of benefit claimant deaths