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Day 1.

Assembled with loads of other retirees and marched to the winter gardens with the Branch Banner. Pictures of the event with me holding the Branch Banner were loaded on the Facebook pages.

On our return to the Winter Gardens, Parliament opened by the Mayor of Blackpool who couldn’t stay because he had a follow on engagement. Then after the opening remarks from the chair, Ken Douglas, a number of speakers addressed us on various matters.

Mick Newton from the Mineworkers Union about he state robbery of £8 Billion from their pension fund and a warning that other funds are under similar threat, so beware.

Karen Lucas a NW Unison RO spoke about the Initiative campaign which arise due to the Austerity Deficit Funding crisis in social care and warned about checking that where investment is made in companies it should be ethical as at the moment the Hedge Funds are takin huge sums out of the system to fund their profits for their investors, many of whom are offshore clients. We need to ensure Private Equity is booted out into touch.

Dr Gemma Carney fromQueens Belfast talked about a number of issues demonstrating the media bias against “pensioners” and the need for collective action to address the neo liberalism and ageist agenda. Political and ideologically driven to generate a divide between the generations. She was particularly scathing about the alleged research from the Resolution Foundation (Lord Willets) which was not research but a series of assertions that were “self evident”.

This is the same person who with the TUC has jointly published a report advocating the abolition of the “Triple Lock” protection of the state pension, which is the lowest amongst the OECD countries and worse than Mexico. People may remember Margaret Thatcher’s government abolished it and although reinstated by a Labour Government it has devalued by over 30% and never caught up. The Treasury are talking about applying taxation to future pensions and where there is an occupational pension reducing the state pension pound for pound. This has major implications for future pensioners

 Day 2.

Session on Social Care: Time to. Bring about real change.
David Bridson stated that there were real cuts across the board and that as a consequence 1 in 5 people were not receiving the meals they should and that 1 in 7 not receiving individualised care to which they were entitled.

Care generally was failing and the quality falling due to cost constraints. After 20 years of consultation the Govt are about to produce a Green Paper (Don’t hold your breath as it continues to be delayed and Theresa May on the Andrew Marr show  on Sunday used the phrase “in due Course”)

It “promises” to address the issues of shared responsibility and the demands for a better, fairer, qualitative system based on an individuals needs not budgetary constraint., however we will need to wait and see exactly what it contains.

Dame June Clark said that over a period of over 20 years much has been written and said but little done to address a system that was heading towards a greater crisis every year. There is an urgency to address these issues but the elephant in the room is the funding issue. Who funds it and how.

In Scotland the issue is clear due to the legislation that was introduced following devolution in 2014. It is free at point of need and the assessment is an integrated assessment of individual need. There is nothing in England and little prospect of legislation.

This will remain the case until and unless it can be made a mainstream political issue with a co-ordinated and unambiguous voice from all groups forcing whichever Government to take the necessary actions necessary to address the funding gaps, lack of integration and power struggles between two major competing budget holders, Health and Local Authorities.

Title: The NHS 70 Years old and still going strong?

Drs Mark Taylor and Brian Fisher were the speakers, the first a Consultant in Geriatrics and the Second a GP who is the Chair of the Socialist Health Association.

Mark talked about terminology, which was perceived as negative and derogatory by older people, causing distress and anxiety for some. However there are moves to change these and whilst there has been movement during the last 70 years there is still some way to go. He stated that the NHS, cradle to grave, does provide value for money and is seen as the best amongst the OECD nations. The USA with its privatised scheme is viewed as the 11th and outcomes are far better in the UK than the USA.

He expressed concern about the political decisions that denied entry to 2300 Doctors to the UK at a time of much need. As a consequence the drive to move patients from hospital to the community due to ideological forces has increased in pace.

He said that privatisation is taking much needed funding out of the NHS and that if a real cost benefit analysis was completed it would show that pound for pound the NHS remaining in Public Funding streams was the most efficient way of delivering care whether at home or in the hospital.

Patients today are less likely to just agree with the package offered but do research using social media and the Internet to look for potential solutions and argue for these rather than “stock” packages of care based on budgetary constraints. It should be patient centred not disease centred and offer control and choice.

Age demographics have shown the increases in life expectancy for a long time the fact that there will be more people over the age of 65 living to their 80’s has not just happened and successive Governments have dodged making decisions about resolving the growing crisis. The Austerity Agenda is making things worse by being ideologically driven rather than evidence based. Evidence regarding patient outcomes and value for money based on cost effective treatments.

Brian returned us to the founding principles of shared risk, social justice and free at the point of need that underpinned the legislation that brought the NHS into being and reminded us that GPs and Consultants were given concessions that enable them to remain as “contractors” providing a service to the NHS rather than being employees of the NHS. ( My note. Remember the Tories voted AGAINST the introduction of the legislation)

Patient outcomes between different classes have improved most markedly for the working and middle classes and as a consequence their are more people living longer from these groups. The current attacks on the Welfare State are driven by Ideology not evidence and have drained the inward investment in the NHS.

The drive for Privatisation and the Austerity Agenda has created ineffective internal markets and forced hospitals and GPs to compete for patients. The funding for acute care has risen 1% since 2009, which is, represents a gap of at least 16% and social care has decreased by over 10%. The funding for 65+ has decreased by 26%. The UN views this as a breach of the Older Populations Human Rights.

The Government plans to cut hospital beds by 20% under the guise of moving people back in to the community hides the fact that Social Care is almost 100% privatised and failing. Mental Health Services are in an even worse state with people waiting over 60 days for assessment on average.

Due to self-harming and other factors it is estimated that at least 30 Thousand deaths could have been avoided had services been funded appropriately and in place.

What is needed is a National Health and Care System that is both funded and regulated at a national level.

Day 3.

Sadly Mark Serwotka PCS General Secretary was rushed into hospital so was unable to address the meeting.

Bianca Todd of the Ron Todd foundation who is Ron Todds daughter talked about Grenfell and we observed a minutes silence out of respect for the 72 lives lost so unnecessarily on that day. She talked about the total lack of action by Theresa May and her Government in bringing the perpetrators of the tragedy to justice. She reminded us that approximately 34,000 winter deaths was totally unacceptable and that if ever we are to achieve social justice for older people we need to grow a movement based on socialism and its founding principles.

Dot Gibson talked about succession planning, letting go of the reins and growing the movement. The collective life experiences in the room were real, could be used and built upon and as a collective could be a very powerful force. Because the Government doe not perceive older people as contributing to the creation of wealth or the economy they don’t attach any value to us. This is demonstrated by their agendas, which are affecting older people disproportionately, look at the scandal of 34,000 winter deaths.

Jan Short talked about the scandal of rising funeral costs in an industry that is unregulated and where many “local” firms are in fact part of a global corporate entity because they have been bought up. Families are going into debt because of the rising costs. ( I note that the Govt have introduced another £100 death tax for second examination of a body).

She talked about the impact of Zero hours contracts on the pension provisions and stated the TUC needed to step up to the mark on the issue. She was also scathing about the TUC Collaboration with Lord Willets and not contesting the recommendations of the report advocating the abolition of the Triple Lock protection for the State pension scheme.

There will be a lobby of Parliament in October dates TBC.

Parliament closed with a song.