Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Sackers Charter 1982

Stephen Halpern (Health Service Journal)

Senior trade union officials have accused 'maverick managers' in the NHS of using the DHSS (Department of Health & Social Security) memo to regional personnel officers on managers and union activity as a justification for clamping down on trade union officials.

The accusations were made by Nupe officials at a press conference held to explain the union's position on the dismissal of deputy head porter Conway Xavier, from Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Last week Mr Xavier's appeal to the hospital Board of Governors was dismissed. A planned picket at the hospital on the day of the appeal was cancelled by the union because of lack of support.

Mr Xavier was dismissed for neglect of essential duties', unauthorised absences from duty, disregard for his management responsibilities and failure to 'behave with commitment or loyalty to local management'.

Nupe claims that his dismissal was the result of a campaign of victimisation against Mr Xavier and that tills is being extended to other union officials at Great Ormond Street and associated hospitals.

At the press conference Nupe divisional officer. Harry Barker, said he was 'worried about the repercussions of the memo.

He added that the memo was without doubt the background to Mr Xavier's case.

He also claimed that health service managers didn't support the use of the memo and also the way in which Mr Xavier's case was handled.

"We are conscious that many senior administrators in London are concerned at the way the management handled the situation", he said.

Mr Barker and other Nupe officials said that although most NHS managers didn't feel the need for guidance to deal with conflict of loyalty between management and trade union responsibility some 'maverick managers' were using the memo to deal with trade union activity.

The Hospital Administrator at Great Ormond Street, Austin Lythe, strenuously denied the memo had in any way been never ' been any conflict of the memo had in any way been connected with Mr Xavier's case.

He said there was no victimisation campaign against trade union officials at the hospital and he hadn't even heard of the memo until after the question of Mr Xaviers conduct was being considered

Mr Lythe said there was no reason why industrial relations at the hospital shouldn't be excellent. He hoped that the hospital would be able to get on with its job of looking after sick children.

While Nupe's accusations against the management of Great Ormond Street are not supported, their claim that most managers do not feel the need for central support and guidance is accurate.

Regional personnel officers are believed to have told the DHSS that guidance was unnecessary and this view is backed by Martin Beardwell, chairman of the National Association of Health Service Personnel Officers, who told the Journal:

'The NHS has years of experience of trade union within the management structure. theres never been sny conflict of interest that cant be coped with Most personnel officers in the NHS are members of a trade union and never have any difficulty negotiating with members of their own union" he added

Mr Beardwell described the type of guidance referred to in the memo' as 'quite superfluous'.

Since the existence of the memo was first publicly revealed by the Journal on 12 December, it has caused a storm of controversy in several areas, with the exception of NHS managers for whom it was meant.

Shadow health spokesman, Gwynneth Dunwoody. has raised the matter in Parliament and Secretary of State, Patrick Jenkin, has said he refuses to withdraw it.

The memo has also caused a storm at COHSE, where the assistant press secretary, Chris Perry, left his job in protest at the union's response to the memo, General secretary, Albert Spanswick, decided to protest privately to Patrick Jenkin rather than making the matterpublic.

circa 1982-83

The "Sackers Charter" as the memo was referred to was the result of some managerial staff such as those in South West London who became involved with the campaign to save st Benedict's Hospital.

Two COHSE officers were suspended over the alleged leaking of the "Sackers Charter" to the press

see also articles in Daily Mirror and Hospital worker

Conway Xavier was a prominent Afro-Caribbean NUPE health activists member of the Communist Party but later joined the NCP

Britannia Hospital (1982)

Britannia Hospital
Film Review
COHSE Shop Steward, Willesden Ambulance Station, London Ambulance Service

Britannia hospital, the new film from Lindsay Anderson who made "If", is a satirical
attack on the society of the 1980s.

It is set in a decaying hospital which is due to receive a royal visit. Outside is a picket of
hospital workers, shown by the film as completely callous.

Inside the star attraction is a research centre, in which a mad professor is attempting, Frankenstein like, to build a new human being. When the royal visit finally takes place, the mob outside erupts, the Special patrol group (Riot Police) are brought in and everything seems set for a violent final scene as in "if" But the battle between the classes is suddenly ended by the intervention of the professor.

He Invites the demonstrators to sit beside royalty In his lecture theatre. In a brilliant
speech he outlines the way in which capitalist society is falling apart and presents his new human being as the solution.

The film leaves you with a mixture of emotions, more quest ions than answers, wondering how much of it was serious and how much a wind up.

The film echoes the demoralisation and increasing bitterness of Thatcher's Britain.
Poverty Is contrasted with the wealth of the professor's research centre, funded by a Japanese pharmaceutical company.

The media are characterised by an investigative reporting team who get stoned on magic mushrooms while watching in awe and wild laughter scenes from Vietnam and the Brixton riots.
The bourgeoisie are portrayed by the hospital administrator, who becomes increasingly desperate and, in the end, is prepared to kill to protect what he holds dear. The outcome is unclear.

Does the new technology of the research centre reconcile the class antagonism? Or does It merely make the dream of a socialist future practical?
Anderson was one of the Angry Young Men of the British cinema in the mid 1950s, sparking a revolution akin to that of John Osborne, George Devine and others in the theatre.

Has he now become as bitter and twisted as Osborne? Or is he, as puts it, simply 'a satirist' and a 'frustrated
romantic'? The fact that the film has been hyped to the hilt by EMI and pushed on to general release with almost frantic haste begs a question. Is it a coincidence that a film showing hospital pickets as inhuman and animal-like should be promoted in the middle of the NHS pay dispute?

You must decide if it is worth seeing.


Britannia Hospital, was a viciously anti union film as Anderson has had admitted.

The Film is actually based upon events during the anti private patient campaign at Hammersmith hospital and Charring Cross and the respective NUPE and COHSE branch Secretaries (
Jamie Fleming and Ester Brookstone) .

The truth was that low paid ancillary staff in these teaching hospitals had been treated as the lowest of the low by the Consultants and medical staff for years, by the late 1970's they had had enough and hitting the Consultants private patients was one way of getting back at them and securing some dignity (as well as making a point about equal access to health care).

The Hospital Consultants fought any attack on their lucrative private work with all the power they could muster, and smashed those involved in the anti private patients campaign, by lobbying at the highest government levels and regular denouncing the unions in the right wing press, There actions would ultimately lead to the contracting out (privatisation) of many ancillary services 1980s (and the filthy wards we have today)

Tony Ventham was then the acceptable face of the SWP in COHSE and generally well respected, but probably like the rest of us underestimated the anti union message of this film. Tony later became a lawyer.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Kick Over The Statues


All over Eastern Europe statues of Lenin are being taken off their pedestals (1999), dismantled and hauled off to be cut up. It is in the same vein that the nursing profession must, as we enter the new millennium, start to exorcise the myth of Florence Nightingale.

Not necessarily because Florence Nightingale was a very bad person, but because the impact of her legacy or more correctly the interpretation of that legacy has held the nursing profession back too long.

The Nightingale myth had from it’s earliest days been appropriated by the nursing hierarchy and the founders of the Royal College of Nursing who colluded with them, to use it to sell any vocational, self sacrificing ideal required for the good of the service and not the good of nursing.

As a result of the Nightingale myth, the leadership of nursing in Britain for the best part of this century has stressed "vocation" and subordination to the medical profession and cast nursing as somehow non political. We cannot progress until we break from the yoke of the Nightingale myth.

We must ask ourselves as nurses why it is that the medical professional still dominates health care. Why very few nurses are in the political arena (it is only with the 1997 General Election that we have had nurses elected to parliament). And why nursing trade unionism has not made more of an impact. A consequence of these failings has been that nurses remain professionally impotent and nurses pay lags behind that of other "organised" professions in the UK and nurses pay in other western nations.

The failure of British nursing to meet its potential, I would contend, is the ever present Florence Nightingale, whose views, whether based on myths or reality, has stopped nursing from progressing into a profession in its own right.

What is clear, is that the British establishment sought from the very origins of modern nursing to sanitise nursing, and ensure that its heroine would be acceptable: a white, English, middle class, protestant women. Florence Nightingale fulfilled this role admirably, unlike Irish catholic nurses such as Joanna Bridgeman and Jamaican nurses like Mary Seacole who made an equally important contribution to nursing during the Crimea War. Neither of these has been officially credited for their efforts.

It was Joanna Bridgeman who developed the system of nursing and management that Florence Nightinglae adopted, while the efforts of the black Jamaican nurse Mary Seacole in the Crimea were cold shouldered. What is equally interesting to note is that it was probably the Quaker, Elizabeth Fry, who has greatest claim to the title founder of modern nursing with her pioneering work at St John's hospital by her Institution of Nursing Sisters, a number of years before Florence Nightingale embarked upon her endeavours. So maybe international nurse’s day should be celebrated on her birthday, the 21st May.

Once the Nightingale myth and her status as a Saint had been confirmed by the British establishment, Florence Nightingale set about turning out her robotic acolytes from the St Thomas School of Nursing from 1860 onwards, soon capturing the role of matrons in most major hospitals.

Ehrenreich & English encapsulated this well in following quote:

‘Training emphasised character, not skills. The finished product, the Nightingale nurse, was simply the ideal lady …absolved of reproductive responsibilities. To the doctor, she brought the wifely virtue of absolute obedience. To the patient, she brought the selfless devotion of a mother. To the lower level hospital employees, she brought the firm but kindly discipline of a household manager accustomed to dealing with servants’.

Abel-Smith sates:

"The power (of matrons) was reinforced by the para-military organisation of the nursing staff and the rigid discipline imposed in the training schools. As Miss Nightingale said rather ominously "No good ever comes of anyone interfering between the head of nursing establishment and her nurses. It is fatal to discipline". The control of the matrons over her nurses was to play a crucial role in future attempts to enrol nurses in professional organisations or trade unions".

No wonder Ann Widdecombe (supported by Christine Hancock) called for the return of the Matron at last year’s Tory party conference.

Florence Nightingale supported the subordinate role of nurses to doctors, opposed registration of nurses, three year training of nurses, did not see mental health nurses as part of nursing, and had questionable success at her hospital in the Crimea, she also turned her back on the fine history of lay women healers, not to mention her opposition to women speaking in public..

Nurses are increasingly beginning to challenge the Nightingale myth. Today’s nurses, especially our UNISON nursing students are much more questioning, much more involved in campaigning and much more willing to stand up for their rights and pushing the bounderies of our professional role. This development can only be a good thing as nursing enters the new millennium.

Nurses of the world unite you have nothing to lose but your chains

By Michael Walker UNISON Nursing student Officer and Wendy Wheeler RGN RHV


Chris Hart Behind the mask

Jane Salvage the politics of Nursing

Barbara Ehrenreich & Deirdre English Witches, Midwives & Nurses

B.Abel Smith A history of the nursing profession

Katherine Williams Sarah Gamp to Florence Nightingale - Rewriting Nursing History

It (nursing) started from a Quaker lady whose name has hitherto been almost exclusively claimed by prisoners, but she (Elizabeth Fry) must now be accepted as the founder of sick nursing BMA Journal 19 June 1897

By Michael Walker & Wendy Wheeler 1999 (Nursing Times)

see also UNISON Health Conference debate 1999

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Moez Montani - COHSE Central Middx Hospital - Brent

Moez Montani - Brent

Region 6 mourns the death of a true friend and colleague, Moez Motani, at the age of 30
years. He had been Secretary of Brent COHSE Branch for the past 11 years. Moez was an ardent fighter against privatisation in the Brent district and his efforts, together with others, have prevented, so far, privatisation of ancillary services in that district. He always campaigned actively to prevent the closure of hospitals in the district, for example Neasden.

He enlisted the support of the residents of Brent, the community health council, and Brent Health Emergency in the fight to prevent cuts in local health services.
He had suffered from birth with Thalassaemia, a terminal disease, and also he was in constant pain and required frequent hospitalisation, but he continued to fulfill his role as an active COHSE Branch Secretary, always defending the interests of his members.

He was honoured by the Region in January 1985 by being awarded the Harry Short gold
badge, which is presented for outstanding achievement. His courage and determination was an example to us all and he will be sadly missed.

(Tribute by Ernest A. Brooke, Regional Secretary, North West Thames and Oxford Region)

Moez was a good man, good COHSE Branch Secretary a hospital technician at Central Middlesex , a Muslim from Indonesia

1982 Coventry - London 12% Bike Ride


health workers are biking to downing street as part of the action week, starting today 40 Coventry health service workers will carry their protest against the government's pay policy by bike to London.

They will leave Coventry today, calling en route at Banbury, Oxford, Hillingdon and arrive in Central London midday Friday.

Among the bike's are six tandems. The riders include nurses, ancillary and maintenance wor-
kers as well as professional and technical- staff drawn from Coventry's hospitals.

They will deliver a petition to No. 10 Downing Street and present a bill for £325,000 to Health Minister Norman Fowler.

This is the amount the Coventry District Health Authority would have rto find to meet the government's health service wage formula. It has already overspent on its budget.

"The truth is," says Lloyd Randall, secretary of the NUPE hospitals branch in the city,
"there is not a 6 per cent offer.

It is just 4 per cent and an offer to cannibalise the service to meet the other 2 per cent."


In addition to being divisive. the Tory government tactics will also mean the loss of up to 80
jobs in the city's hospitals.

The bikers will link up with local health service co-ordinating committees on their journey.
They are offerins to join picket lines at hospitals and speak at meetings. But they also hope
that other trade unionists will turn out in force to greet them.

They will be joined in London bv strikers whose seven week action has reduced the central sterile supplies depot to emergency only.

Nurses at the outpatients department oi the Coventry and Warwick Hospital, as well as
maintenance and boilerhouse workers in Walsgrave and other hospitals also plan to impose
sanctions in the coming week.

A meeting in Birmingham ot local health service union co- ordinating committees support-
ed calls from Coventry for the TUC to sharpen up the action on health service pay.


A resolution adopted "calls on the TUC health service committee to support a call for an ultimatum for an all-out strike from September 1 by all TUC health service unions, if an im-
proved offer is not made or if the dispute is not referred to arbitration."

Another resolution urges the TUC not to accept any offer which is not fully funded by central government. To do so, it says, would mean accepting cuts in the service.

There is; also a strong feeling that local co-ordinating committees should have more discretion over implementing accident and emergency cover. The TUC's code of conduct is seen as being so wide as to be ineffective in some areas.

There is a call for a review and a tightening up of the TUC's emergency cover procdures.