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Don’t blame the Doctors…

It’s cuts and privatisation that has led to problems accessing GP appointments, queues and shortness of time in front on the family doctor.

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Southern Water is bad for your health

Cllr Candy Gregory with SONiK’s new banner


Health campaigners claim that Southern Water is threatening the health of people in Kent — and have called a mass protest against the company on Saturday 23 October in Margate.

The protest follows an incident earlier this month in which beaches around Thanet were closed to swimmers after the company admitted pouring untreated sewage into the sea.
Save Our NHS In Kent (SONIK) are calling for the water company to be brought back under public ownership and to be made directly accountable for their impact on health and the environmental.A spokesperson for SONIK said: “Year after year Southern Water has pumped raw sewage into the sea off the coast of Kent. These poisonous discharges pose an enormous risk to public health — they must be stopped.”
Raw sewage, the campaigners point out, bring many, potentially deadly, risks to human health.
“Sewage contains a host of bugs and parasites, including campylobacter, salmonella, E-coli and listeria, which can not only make people ill but also may kill them.”
“It’s extremely likely, for example, that these sewage discharges have resulted in the contaminated shellfish which have been discovered along the south coast. Eating them can result in prople getting the potentially fatal norovirus.”
And this is not a question of unfortunate accidents, according to the campaigners — they claim Southern Water are KNOWINGLY exposing people to these health risks.
The SONIK spokesperson said: “This isn’t something accidental — Southern Water knows exactly what it’s doing. It is periodically flooding our sea with these poisons because this maximises its profits.
“In July we learnt in court that the company wilfully and knowingly discharged untreated sewage into the sea 7,000 times between 2010- 2015. More than that, we also found out that they tried to cover up what they’d done, concealing important documents from the Environmental Agency’s investigators and trying to stop them entering treatment facilities. As a result the company was fined a record £90 million.”
“This is the most appalling and disgusting form of criminal capitalism and must be stopped. And it’s absolutely not enough to just fine them — water companies like Southern Water are private monopolies and make huge profits. The fines are nothing to them.This company and others like them, should be taken under public control immediately and be held directly accountable for the impact of their actions on our health and environment.”
“We need to protest against this disgusting, deadly company in the strongest terms. Bring your own banners, placards or posters and come to Margate harbour on Saturday 23 October.Make your voices heard!”
Protestors will assemble at 12 noon at Margate Harbour Steps on Saturday 23 October.
Note to editors: Southern Water made over £200m in profits in each of the last three years. Its Jersey-based owners Greensands Holdings are controlled from the Cayman Islands. For more information or interviews ring 07989070843.

. Come along and join a protest initiated by SONiK. All welcome.

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3% is an insult

NHS workers and unions have responded to the government’s confused, last-minute announcement of an “insulting” 3% pay rise with outrage. After inflation, the proposed pay ‘rise’ amounts to about 0.6%. The government has left many NHS staff – such as junior doctors – out of the proposed rise in pay. This means that they’re getting yet another real terms pay cut.

Unhappy with the pay deal, nurses and trade unions are considering industrial action. As nurses and unions have highlighted, this really is a kick in the teeth after a decade of underfunding, privatisation, falling wages, and the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

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SONiK WILL CALL FOR “A BETTER NHS” ON SATURDAY

THIS Saturday, 3 July from noon, health campaigners will call for a better NHS for patients and staff.

The protest, organised by Save Our NHS In Kent, will take place outside Margate’s QEQM hospital.

Candy Gregory of SONIK said: “Our protest is about patient safety, pay justice for NHS and social care workers and the end of the privatisation of the NHS.”

Candy, who is a registered nurse and local Thanet councillor, has been bitterly disappointed at the government’s response to Covid.

She said: “I was disgusted, too, by the behaviour of Matt Hancock and by the dismissive attitude of his colleague’s wrong-doing. While instructing the population to isolate and deny access to even close family, Mr Hancock appeared to ignore his own rules. This all points to a deep hypocrisy and deceit in government at the highest level. His resignation letter infuriated those who have lost loved ones by minimising the impact that such a loss in a badly managed pandemic caused.”

Candy is also scathing about how the Department of Health and Social Care has been governed.

She said: “Why did so many people with connections to Hancock received jobs within his department or get lucrative contracts making many of them millionaires — all on the back of public money?”

She added: “Why did Hancock, for example, turn his back on established manufacturers of personal protective equipment and instead give work to on his own contacts although these people had no previous experience? This is an absolute scandal.”

As part of its effort to uncover the facts about the government’s response to the pandemic SONIK is fund-raising for the public inquiry called for by the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice campaign. 

Candy said: “The resignation of Matt Hancock should by no means be the end of this. The prime minister, it is clear, was well aware of what was happening — he called Hancock “hopeless” after all — and he should  definitely now himself consider his own position.”

The SONIK protest is part of a day of national action called by health campaigners. It will start outside Margate’s QEQM hospital at 12 noon.

Cllr Candy Gregory, Left, front, and campaigners at QEQM
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Candidates’ pledge for NHS

CANDIDATES IN MAY 2021 KENT COUNTY COUNCIL ELECTIONS WHO SIGNED SONIK’S HOSPITALS PLEDGE

Save Our NHS In Kent (SONIK) asked people taking part in the Kent County Council elections in May to sign a pledge to fight the closures of accident and emergency, stroke and maternity care in east Kent NHS hospitals. 

The full pledge is at the end of this document. Seventeen candidates signed up, their details are below, including name, party and area they stood for.  

SONIK contacted all candidates in East Kent with the pledge either directly through their email addresses or indirectly through their party offices, apart from two who we could find no contact details for.  

CANDIDATES WHO SIGNED THE SONIK PLEDGE

Martyn Pennington, Liberal Democrat, Birchington and Rural

John Finnegan, Liberal Democrat, Margate

GREENS

Guy Pullen, Green, Tenterden

Hilary Jones, Green, Ashford Rural West

Dawnie Nilsson, Green, Ashford Rural South. 

Steve Campkin, Green, Ashford East

Geoff Meaden, Green, Ashford Rural East

Liz Wright, Green, Ashford Central

Thomas Pizzey, Green, Ashford South

Sarah Gleave , Green, Dover North

Becky Wing, Green, Ramsgate

LABOUR

Aram Rawf, Labour, Broadstairs 

Karen Constantine, Labour, Ramsgate 

Mark Hopkinson, Labour, Ramsgate

Barry Lewis, Labour, Margate

Rob Yates , Labour, Birchington and Rural

WOMEN’S EQUALITY PARTY

Kanndiss Riley, Cliftonville 

THE CANDIDATE’S PLEDGE

“If  I am elected a Kent county councillor in May 2021 I pledge to undertake all paths available to me to stop closures of A&E, stroke and maternity care in east Kent NHS hospitals, including:

—Accept nothing less than three excellent hospitals for east Kent, with their own emergency stroke units and accident and emergency departments plus full maternity – these hospitals being at Margate, Canterbury and Ashford.

—Refuse to accept any policy, argument or vote which provides anything less than the above

—Refuse any party whip, diktat or ruling which asks me to accept anything less than the above

—Lobby in an open letter all MPs and councillors in east Kent from my party, to take all available steps to ensure we have three excellent hospitals in East Kent and a stop to the proposed A&E closures, as described above, and also to lobby the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to stop the closures.”

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Hands off QEQM

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Dear Matt Hancock

As Thanet residents and residents of Kent we are asking you to save the stroke unit at QEQM Hospital (Margate) and not cut the number of stroke units in the county by half. 

We do not think that people in the deprived area of Thanet, with already poor health, should have to travel a one hour (minimum) journey by ambulance when suffering a stroke. Stroke is a highly time sensitive condition that kills or leaves patients seriously disabled and often dependent on full-time care.

At the onset of a stroke, every second counts. Patients need to be seen as quickly as possible. Until recently Thanet’s 150,000 residents could reach an acute stroke care unit within a 10-15 minute drive; once the Kent & Medway stroke plans are implemented it will be a ONE HOUR journey on bad roads. If ambulance response time, loading and hospital admission are taken into account, it could be a total wait of nearly two hours from Thanet to Ashford.

Patients in Greater London have an average journey time of approximately 18 minutes; all journeys to a HASU are less than 30 minutes in the capital. 
Kent and Medway’s six stroke units should NOT be cut by half to just three. 

All densely populated areas of the county should have access to acute stroke care within a maximum journey time of 30 minutes. That means the proposed three HASUs are not enough, and the current reconfiguration plans must be scrapped.

We call on you to: 
1. Read Save Our NHS in Kent’s Stroke Report, which can be downloaded here:bit.ly/2NdADsH

2. Scrap the plans in order to stop the closures from going ahead. The decision is now in your hands, the plans were referred back to you by local government and the ball is in your court. We are all waiting for your decision following the IRP’s review. You are duty bound to act on that report, and to make a decision based on the merits of the Kent & Medway stroke plans. Yourself and the Prime Minister have committed to growing, not cutting the NHS – so please scrap these unnecessary and dangerous closures.

We also ask you to take note of these key points:

A) The clinical studies quoted by NHS bosses to support the cuts, if read in full, actually undermine their case.

B) According to local NHS bosses, the main driver for these cuts is a lack of trained staff, but we have revealed that East Kent Hospitals have done the bare minimum to attract the staff needed.

C) These plans have been evangelised as an improvement to stroke care, but there will be no real change in the service aside from differently organised care, which could be implemented in situ. The introduction of Mechanical Thrombectomy is not included in the current plans – despite the public and politicians being given the impression that it would.

D) Studies show that closures of emergency and acute care units lead to an increase in mortality – https://bit.ly/32HWilc

E) The claims about poor stroke performance at QEQM are based on a manipulation of the data.

F) The proposals do nothing about prevention or rehabilitation of stroke. Public Health experts (KHPO) have pointed out that the money would be better spent on prevention rather than this costly reconfiguration.

Locals have made their opinion abundantly clear – WE DO NOT ACCEPT THAT OUR STROKE UNITS WILL BE CLOSED! 

Save Our NHS in Kent (SONiK) on behalf of the residents of Thanet, Kent and Medway

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Back the Whistleblowers

SONiK whistleblowers image

Topic: SONiK Whistleblower Event
Time: Sep 9, 2020 06:00 PM London
Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84449638209?pwd=dWtDUE1FZEkyWkE4cUwwclNhTkVpdz09
Meeting ID: 844 4963 8209
Passcode: 474626
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Why We Are Against Merger of CCGs

The plan to merge all of Kent’s CCG’s (Clinical Commissioning Groups) into one for all of Kent.
CCGs organise all NHS care at a local level. They decide how to spend the money, how care will be delivered, they make commissioning decisions and have legal responsibility to deliver care as per the NHS institution. There are currently eight CCG areas in Kent: Canterbury/coastal; Ashford; West Kent; Thanet; South Kent Coast; Medway; Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley; and Swale.
WHAT IT MEANS:
– It will further disenfrachise an already disenfranchised area – Thanet – and will lessen the local patient voice for all areas. we have already seen how Thanet’s needs concerned were steamrollered by the Kent HOSC regarding the stroke plans.
– Decision making and commissioning will all happen at a Kent and Medway levelonce this happens, not at a Thanet level, or an Ashford or Canterbury level as it does now.
– Thanet has VERY different needsand concerns compared with wealthier west Kent, and needs it’s own decision makers who understand the needs of this area.
– Accountabilityis getting more remote with this change. Accountability will be lessened. Thanet people feel like their voices are lost already.
– Monthly meetings are likely to be held at rotating venues; previously all meetings of the CCG were held at the TDC offices in Margate. Now they could be in Sevenoaks, Tonbridge, Ashford, Dartford, Maidstone, Sheppey etc…
– The merger process locally has been mishandled and the CCG have failed in their duty to consult
 – The merger process has also been questioned at a national level, and campaign groups have sought legal advice regarding the legality of proceeding without consultation. We hope that the mergers are halted.
 
The letter is attached and also pasted below:
 
————————————————-
 

PLEASE ENSURE THE FOLLOWING ARE ALL IN RECEIPT OF THIS CORRESPONDENCE:
FAO: Clive Hart, Dr Jihad Malasi,
Caroline Selkirk, Glenn Douglas,
and Michael Ridgwell

COMPLAINT: The decision to merge Kent’s eight CCGs into one
In reference to the Thanet CCG Extraordinary Mtg of Thanet CCG Governing Body (26.09.19)

At the meeting yesterday of the governing body of Thanet CCG, the members present were asked to agree to the merging of Kent and Medway’s eight CCGs into one ‘super CCG’ for all of Kent and Medway, covering approximately 1.8 million patients.

As a witness to this, I noted that the governing board members did not give a clear and resounding yes, but there was a hesitant and mumbled yes from most. A few kept quiet, and when asked if there were objections, said nothing. So the plan has been approved and the application will be made on Monday.

Please reconsider
I hope you will reconsider this hasty move, as it will result in far less of a patient voice for Thanet, less accountability, and it will remove the powers that Thanet currently has to commission its own NHS services as it sees fit. Thanet has starkly different needs from those of west Kent, and this change will result in the further disenfranchisement of Thanet’s NHS patients.

Take for example the Thanet CCG meeting held yesterday. Ten minutes were set aside for questions from the public (which was much appreciated). Myself and several others asked questions and had them answered, it ran over a little, and in the end we had most of our questions covered in approximately 15 minutes. Think about how this would work after a merger of eight CCGs; if you were to allow sufficient time at monthly meetings in the same way, for all areas, it would require two hoursto be set aside. This is hardly practical.

It is not acceptable to withdraw the contact with the public, the opportunity to ask questions face to face, and the current relative accessibility of meetings. Thanet locals will find it very difficult to attend meetings if they are going to be held in different locations each month. Imagine someone on a low income and with little free time making the journey to Sevenoaks, Ashford, Tonbridge or Maidstone from Thanet. The cost and additional time needed will make it a great deal more difficult, if not impossible for most people in Thanet, and in particular the seldom heard voices that you are supposed to cater for.

Kent is a large geographical area, and the demographics vary greatly from the wealthy areas to the poorer ones. This change does not suit us and it won’t benefit us.

Accountability in NHS decision-making has been shown to be lacking already in the current system (the consultation regarding the review of acute stroke services being an example). This change will weaken it further.

Legality, and scant consultation
We also question the legality of the merging of CCGs. It has come to light that a merger of this type requires a twelve week consultation, and that the scant ‘engagement’ process that you have undertaken thus far falls significantly short of consultation requirements. Legal advice has been sought by other campaign groups confirming that CCG mergers require full consultation by law. You must be aware of this – therefore, we ask that you halt your application as there is a question mark over its legality.

How Thanet CCG arrived at the conclusion that it has adequately consulted on this
In Thursday’s meeting held in public, Caroline Selkirk stated “Thanet voted for this as did the other CCGs”. Dr Jihad Malasi explained that a ‘double majority system of voting” had been used. It was explained that this had involved asking both GP practices and the patient population; and 75% of both had consented to the merger. After the meeting I asked Clive Hart, Dr Neden and Dr Malasi to explain what this meant, and learned that 75% of GP practices had approved the decision, which is self explanatory – but the ‘patient population’ part is less so. It actually means that some of the GP surgeries asked their patient participation groups (PPGs), and got to a figure of 75% consent that way. That is effectively just asking a handful of people. I asked if the process had been minuted or documented in any way: it hadn’t. We also don’t know if the PPG groups sent out advance warning that this consultative action would be taking place. We know that at least one did not (the Eastcliff Practice in Ramsgate).

The fact that neither patients nor GPs agreed 100% is of course a concern. Even more worrying is the reliance on asking attendees at PPG meetings and using only this as the only measure of patient opinion. Given the following factors, this is beyond unacceptable:

– Most patients do not even know what a PPG is
-It is a self-selecting group
– The groups are not representative of the population
– The sample size is minute
– The groups appear not to have been given prior notification of what was happening at the meetings
– No notes, minutes or any other documentation is available

A Letter from Thanet District Council
I attended he meeting with three Thanet District Councillors: Cllr Gregory (Salmestone), Cllr Farrance (Salmestone) and Cllr Rawf (Beacon ward). They were very surprised to learn that Thanet district Council had sent a letter approving the plans for a merged CCG. Cllr Farrance is on a TDC committee where the matter was discussed, and has no memory of consent being arrived at. Those councillors and SONiK will be following this matter up.

Other Concerns
– When the Thanet CCG governing body was asked by Caroline Selkirk if they agreed to applying for a merger, no show of hands took place. A few said yes. Not all said yes.
– The members of public in attendance asked that all governing body members give their full names, but many avoided this by giveing a partial name (no surname) or mumbling their name or role.
– The people of Thanet will be greatly disenfranchised by this change – even more so than they are currently. This cannot be emphasized enough. The NHShas a duty to allow and providefor adequate patient voice in decision making processes. This change will diminish that allowance.
–  Caroline Selkirk stated during the meeting that “the new strategic committee will commission on the basis of outcomes” We need to understand more about what this this means. The NHS constitution states that care must be provided on the basis of need. If any change is being made to that commitment then there must be full consultation and adequate publicity.
– We also heard that Glenn Douglas is retiring as the Single Accountable Officer for Kent and Medway and from his other role as Assistant Leader of Kent and Medway STP. Can you confirm if he is retiring from Kent and Medway NHS entirely, or only from those two roles?

Meeting Participants:
Can you confirm that these are the Thanet CCG Governing board members who took part in the meeting?
Sarah Vaux (Chief Nurse)
Caroline Selkirk
Dr Jihad Malasi (Clinical Chair, Thanet CCG)
Clive Hart (Lay Member, Patient Engagement)
Dr Sue Martin
Dr Susie Marsden
Antony May (Acting Company Business Secretary)
Dr Ash Peshen
Dr John Neden
Dr Gauri Jha (GP member, Westgate Surgery)
Maria Jackson, Independent Registered Nurse (dialled in)
Ivor Duffy, CFO (dialled in)
Mark Leutchford, Comms Mgr for EK CCGs (non voting?)

Please respond with answers to the questions and a confirmation regarding whether or not you will put the merger of Thanet CCG on hold or not.

Kind Regards,
Carly Jeffrey
(Save Our NHS in Kent campaigner and Ramsgate resident)

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What SONiK told Thanet District Council…

Statement by Save Our NHS in Kent (SONiK) to Thanet District Council, 5 September 2019

Everyone in this room should be aware that local health commissioners have decided to close the stroke unit at QEQM hospital. 

SONiK believes this decision has been taken in an attempt to save money rather than to address local need. 

People in Thanet are more likely to suffer a stroke, and be hospitalised as a result, than people in more affluent parts of Kent. SONiK believes it’s irresponsible to take health services away from those who need them most. 

We also fear that, if the stroke unit is allowed to close, this will be followed by other services – like the A&E and consultant-led maternity – and that QEQM will be seriously downgraded.

Working with the legal team that successfully challenged the downgrading of Lewisham Hospital, SONiK has prepared a case that will be heard in the High Court (likely in early December). We’re asking for QEQM to be considered as one of four sites for a hyper-acute stroke unit.

We had planned to ask you today to donate £5,000 to the £15,000 community contribution we were asked to raise by the Legal Aid Board. However, our fundraising efforts have been so successful that we don’t need to ask you for a contribution at this point. But we hope to be able to come back to you if the case goes to appeal.

For now, we want to alert you to three very serious points and to ask for help.

Firstly: The hospital trust is refusing to put in place measures to prevent early closure of the QEQM stroke unit, as happened recently in Tunbridge Wells. If our stroke unit closes before the promised new facility is ready at Ashford (2021 at the earliest), we’ll suffer the double whammy of having to travel further for the same service. 

We call upon TDC councillors to support us in asking the hospital trust to introduce incentives to prevent stroke staff from leaving before the new unit opens. 

Secondly: In order to judge the impact of time-critical conditions being treated outside Thanet, we need accurate end-to-end data that show what happens when 999-call patients have to travel further to access acute care.

We call upon TDC councillors to join us in asking the hospital trust to start recording these data as part of the Kent Stroke Review and the East Kent NHS reconfiguration.

Thirdly: In SONiK’s view, the stroke scrutiny process carried out by Kent County Council’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee was deeply flawed. An off-the-record meeting took place on 7 May between HOSC members and NHS champions of the stroke plans. Two councillors reversed their decisions as a result of this meeting, but the public will never have access to what was claimed or promised. This is neither accountable nor transparent. 

We call upon TDC councillors to make an official complaint to KCC and to ask them to commit to the eradication of private meetings from future scrutiny processes.