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Supporting the NHS

Physiotherapists, like so many others working in the NHS across the UK, are facing a tough and uncertain time at the moment. the CSP has been working hard to raise members’ concerns at national and local level.  Frontline explains our campaigning in England.

Physiotherapists may not all share the same political outlook on life.

But all care passionately about patient services, whether in the NHS or in the private sector. 

Whether it’s through formal motions to the Annual Representative Conference, debates at CSP council, or through a recent member survey, the message is loud and clear: you are worried about what’s happening to healthcare. 

CSP’s member survey in March 2011 showed that 80.5 per cent of respondents did not agree with the government’s reform proposals for England. A further 16.2 per cent weren’t sure whether they were a good thing or not.  Staff from all functions within the society have been working hard to ensure your concerns get across and that we give government a consistent and powerful message from physios.

On the policy front

Since the government set out its plans to reform the NHS in England, in July 2010, the society has responded to numerous consultation documents and several health select committee inquiries. The CSP has briefed MPs on the Health and Social Care Bill at various stages in the Commons.

Donna Castle, head of public affairs and policy at the CSP, explained:

‘The level of debate and consultation has been constant since last July. It is very unusual for a bill to have its progress through parliament halted for further consultation; it shows just how effective the opposition to the reforms has been that the government felt this was necessary.’

Donna has been poring over the bill. She knows that CSP members are not opposed to innovations that improve patient care.

‘But,’ she says, ‘what we know members do question is making such revolutionary and costly changes at a time when the NHS in England is being required to make £20 billion efficiency savings in the next five years.’

‘Despite our objections, we nonetheless engage in the debate,’ says Lynne Stockbridge, CSP director of campaigns and communication. ‘We have pushed three main messages about our concerns:
that expanded competition, including the ‘any qualified provider’ approach, will be a risk to patient care
that allied health professions should have representation on any new commissioning structures, at both national and local level that the proposals for education and training will not be sufficient to provide an adequate physiotherapy workforce.

Taking part in the listening exercise

CSP knows that members want the society to try to influence key people in this debate, among them Professor Steve Field who chairs the NHS Future Forum, the body leading on the listening exercise about the reforms in England.

The society responded to the listening exercise, in May, and chief executive Phil Gray wrote personally to Professor Field about his concerns. He also attended two listening exercise events, along with CSP chair Ann Green.

In addition to lobbying at national level, the society has encouraged members to respond individually to the listening exercise. CSP provided a briefing paper to help – see a copy of the CSP briefing:
NHS listening exercise at www.csp.org.uk/nhsreforms

CSP member Claire Marshall, head of physiotherapy at Heatherwood and Wexham Park (pictured), is a member of the NHS Future Forum. The CSP is in regular contact with Claire, sending her briefings.

Meanwhile Matthew Wyatt, a CSP member in the London region, and two other London CSP members attended a meeting with the prime minister, David Cameron, on 19 May to put across their concerns. Mr Wyatt asked what plans he had for improving the nation’s health in the long term, beyond balancing the NHS’s books.

Lobbying MPs

Individual members of CSP have played a key role in lobbying their own MPs. Since the Health and Social Care Bill came out in January, more than 800 members have used the email campaign tool on CSP’s website to send a personal message to their MP about the bill. Many may have made direct approaches to their MP.

Phil Gray and Donna Castle have met a number of MPs to discuss the reform proposals, including shadow health secretary John Healey, shadow health minister Derek Twigg and John Pugh MP, who represents backbench Liberal Democrats on health issues.

All MPs were sent a detailed briefing outlining the CSP’s concerns around the Health and Social Care Bill before it was debated in the House of Commons for the first time.

The CSP has worked with several MPs to table a series of parliamentary questions asking about the impact on the proposed reforms on different aspects of physiotherapy care.

Using the power of the press

We’ve used various ways of getting our message across to the general public through the pages of the national press. Our member survey results were covered in The Observer, The Guardian and Health Service Journal. Phil Gray has carried out a letter writing campaign to the main broadsheets, with letters published in The Guardian and The Independent.   He was also a signatory to a joint-unions letter published in The Times in January, just ahead of the official publication of the Health and Social Care Bill.

Lobbying local councillors

We’ve encouraged members to contact local councillors in England about their concerns at the possible impact of the reforms on patients in their area.

If the reforms go through, local councillors will have a much greater role in healthcare at a local level, so it is important for CSP members to engage with them.

Talking to Lords

CSP officers have sent briefings to more than 40 members of the House of Lords who have an interest in health issues, and have met Baroness Thornton, who speaks for Labour in the Lords, CSP President Baroness Finlay of Llandaff and Lord Kennedy of Southwark to discuss the Health and Social Care Bill.

CSP director of employment relations and union services Lesley Mercer joined representatives of other health unions to meet crossbench peers in the Lords. Baroness Masham of Ilton, past president of the CSP, subsequently raised CSP issues about the role physios play in care of people who have injuries or disabilities in a debate in the Lords.

Working with other unions

Many of the CSP’s concerns are also shared by the other main health unions including Unison, Unite and the British Medical Association.

Lesley Mercer met health secretary Andrew Lansley and Oliver Letwin, minister of state for policy, at a TUC-organised meeting where she was able to raise members’ concerns about the ‘any qualified provider’ initiative,  competition and cuts to posts and services.

CSP staff also attended a parliamentary reception in March under the banner of the TUC ‘All Together for the NHS’ campaign and Lesley attended a Social Partnership Forum workshop on the listening exercise

with Steve Field and other members of the NHS Future Forum.

Many CSP members took part in the joint union ‘All Together for the NHS’ day on 1 April, Demonstrating in many town centres, outside hospitals and MPs’ offices.

Working with the Allied Health Professions Federation

Chief executive Phil Gray and chair Ann Green, along with AHPF colleagues, met members of the NHS Future Forum and health minister Earl Howe to express their concerns at the reforms, particularly at the lack of AHP representation on commissioning bodies

The Federation wrote to David Cameron, Andrew Lansley and health select committee chair Stephen Dorrell reiterating this concern. The CSP also signed a joint letter to the media on this issue.

Working with the Royal Colleges

The society has met regularly with representatives from the Royal Colleges, including Physicians, Nursing, Obstetricians, Radiologists, Paediatrics, GPs, Optometrists, Surgeons and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society to share information about lobbying activities.

Keeping members informed

Frontline magazine, the CSP website and e-bulletin have run regular articles about the work that’s been going on. You can find a summary at www.csp.org.uk/nhsreforms

At local level stewards have been spreading the CSP message as well as helping mobilise members.

Action by members

An estimated 700 members – an historically record turn-out - took part in the TUC’s March for the Alternative rally on 26 March when CSP member Vickie Yeardley, regional steward for London North, spoke at Hyde Park.

‘I’m proud of all my work colleagues and I’m proud of the NHS,’ Vickie told the crowd, to a roar of approval. ‘But I fear for its future, which is why I’m here today.’

What now?

There is still a long way to go before the Health and Social Care Bill, which paves the way for the reforms, becomes law – so it’s going to mean continued work both at national, local and individual member level.

‘If you just do one thing,’ says Donna Castle, ‘email your MP about the reforms and tell them how you feel about what’s happening to your patients. We’ve prepared a template for you, but would encourage you to personalise it with your own experiences before you send it.’ The template is available at www.csp.org.uk/nhsreforms

‘If you have a bit more time, find out when your MP is next holding a surgery and speak to them personally. Hearing directly from people who know and care about the NHS will have a real impact.’

Chief executive Phil Gray believes the CSP has made a very significant impact on the debate:

‘The CSP, including members locally, have raised the profession’s serious concerns about the impact on the delivery of patient care and the whole future of the NHS,’ he said. ‘I am confident this will result in changing their proposals for the better.’

In the next issue of Frontline, we’ll look at how members across the UK don’t have to take the cuts lying down – that there is something you can do, with the support of the CSP, to support patient services.

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