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A Magazine for Sheffield

Last month I awoke in hospital, dazed and staring at a calendar which seemed to show 1 April.

But this was no joke. I'd crashed off my bicycle and was ambulanced for emergency surgery. Northern General Hospital saved my life. The staff were caring, professional and clearly working very hard. This isn't just a hymn of praise to the NHS. It's a whole symphony, a crescendo-crashing “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” for the fantastic health service that set my bones and sent me on my ride to recovery.

Years ago I read NHS plc by Allyson Pollock, which details a historic and terrible onslaught of 'reforms' destabilising and pushing it towards the cliff-edge of privatisation. I saw the NHS as the last woolly mammoth pursued by fierce Neanderthal healthcare corporations, cruelly determined to bring it down. They've held conferences for decades, plotting privatisation. People don't want it extinct, so the secret method is death by a thousand trivial cuts. When it lays exhausted, its 'rescue' by Healthcare Inc might seem like a blessed release.

In the days when New Labour raised health spending, it vastly expanded layers of management and business consultants for gimmicks like 'marketisation'. Now, during the longest known budget freeze, and plans for more massive cuts, I fear the worst.

Theresa May re-appointed Jeremy Hunt, who The Guardian called 'Minister for the visible deterioration of the NHS'. He's united 80-90% of the overworked junior doctors against him in the first ever all-out NHS strike by trying to impose seven-day working, which sounds logical unless you hear the truth. A&E is already 24/7, obviously, but Hunt's cunning plan is a divide-and-rule trick based on dubious evidence, harming equalities and whistleblower protections and stretching work patterns to exhaustion.

It angers me to see that private hospitals can afford full-page adverts in Sheffield newspapers, and the TV urging claims for medical negligence. Most health trusts have inescapable debts. Hunt responded with a threat of imposing fines. How will that help? The ridiculous PFI method of 'public-private' funding has plunged the flagship Barts and Royal London into special measures. It's one way to ruin the NHS, as London GP Dr Youssef El-Gingihy spells out in How to Dismantle the NHS in 10 Easy Steps.

The Cabinet's full of millionaires, protected and blinded by luxury from seeing life at our level. Under profit-driven healthcare, people suffer and the well-off get good treatment. Full stop. Within this generation the NHS could be killed at their hands, like a pile of ivory, worth a fortune – dead. The NHS logo will be all that's left, stuck on the plastic elephants provided by the private sector.

Like the joke about blindfolded people touching an elephant, no-one can fully appreciate the whole NHS. I hope that each person who comes into contact, like I did, commits to the fight for people before profit. Locally there's Sheffield Save Our NHS. Nationally, Health Campaigns Together unites the resistance. Britain led the world with a noble idea when it created the NHS. We can't let it die, can we?


26-28 Aug | Unstone Grange, Derbyshire

Get closer to our ancestors' balanced and nutritious diet with expert guidance on foraging edible wild plants and open fire cooking techniques. This weekend offers a selection of workshops including yoga, barefoot running or walking, and therapies to balance the body's energies, all in beautiful rural surroundings.


Mon 29 Aug | 10.30-5.30pm | Norfolk Heritage Park, S2 2PL

Free Bank Holiday Monday fun for all the family on the edge of the city centre. Street entertainers, music and dance, shows of horticulture, cars, dogs, birds of prey - you name it. Sheffield City Council doing us proud, in partnership with The Friends of Norfolk Heritage Park, University of Sheffield and the National Fairground Archive. )

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