Direct Action leads to cancellation of “How to Sell and Market Successfully to the NHS” Conference
Companies were invited by conference organisers Business Sorted to “discover how you could be eating a slice of the cake whilst others are still looking in the shop window!... [T]o grow your business and increase profits [this is] one seminar you can’t afford to miss.” (1)
Following a well-publicised call out for a protest from NHS direct action campaigners “Axe the Act” (2), the seminar was cancelled.
Local anti-cuts and NHS campaigners including members of Stroud Against the Cuts and Cheltenham Against Cuts, attended the protest. These local anti-cuts groups have been fighting their own anti-privatisation campaign to ‘Keep Gloucestershire’s NHS Public’, including High Court action (3). Campaigners point to the increasing risks of NHS privatisation, especially since the passing of the Health & Social Care Act.
Chris Moore, a co-ordinator of Stroud Against the Cuts said: “We want the private sector to stay out of our NHS – staff and the general public want to keep it publicly owned and accountable, but it is clear to achieve this we need to keep fighting.”
Speakers at the conference included Jan Bergman, “Transformation Director at University Hospitals Bristol”, who boasts of “leading a £26m savings programme”. The results of this transformation can be seen in staff shortages on the wards and nursing staff being forced to work 12 hour days. Concerns are already being expressed about the impact of such moves on care-delivery and staff wellbeing.
James Beecher, chair of Stroud Against the Cuts, said “Claims of huge ‘savings programmes’ in the NHS really mean cuts which damage patient care and staff conditions. Constant re-organisation of the NHS is sucking money from frontline services, and is an unnecessary distraction when independent studies show the NHS is among the most effective and efficient healthcare systems in the world”. (4)
Bob Tredegar from the organisers Axe the Act said, “This protest is a sign of things to come. Groups like UK Uncut and Boycott Workfare have popularised the idea that these are legitimate and effective places to protest. Companies which seek to profit from the NHS will face similar actions, both where they have a high street presence, like Virgin (5) and at their anonymous sounding conferences, seminars and trade fairs where deals are stitched up out of sight of democratic view.”
Business Sorted advertised this event by quoting a Laing & Buisson report that anticipated 20% private sector ‘penetration’ of the Community Health Services NHS market over the next 5 years (6). This echoes the view expressed by Cameron health advisor & KPMG analyst Mark Britnell, who told an American conference of private healthcare companies in 2010 that “The NHS will be shown no mercy and the best time to take advantage of this will be in the next couple of years.” (7)
Campaigners said they welcomed the decision of Tortworth Court Hotel in Wotton-Under-Edge to cancel the event.