Monday, December 27, 2010

Cuban Medical Brigade - Honour

By Nina Lakhani

The Indpendent

They are the real heroes of the Haitian earthquake disaster, the human catastrophe on America’s doorstep which Barack Obama pledged a monumental US humanitarian mission to alleviate. Except these heroes are from America’s arch-enemy Cuba, whose doctors and nurses have put US efforts to shame.

A medical brigade of 1,200 Cubans is operating all over earthquake-torn and cholera-infected Haiti, as part of Fidel Castro’s international medical mission which has won the socialist state many friends, but little international recognition.

Observers of the Haiti earthquake could be forgiven for thinking international aid agencies were alone in tackling the devastation that killed 250,000 people and left nearly 1.5 million homeless. In fact, Cuban healthcare workers have been in Haiti since 1998, so when the earthquake struck the 350-strong team jumped into action. And amid the fanfare and publicity surrounding the arrival of help from the US and the UK, hundreds more Cuban doctors, nurses and therapists arrived with barely a mention. Most countries were gone within two months, again leaving the Cubans and Médecins Sans Frontières as the principal healthcare providers for the impoverished Caribbean island.

Since 1998, Cuba has trained 550 Haitian doctors for free at the Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina en Cuba (Elam), one of the country’s most radical medical ventures. Another 400 are currently being trained at the school, which offers free education – including free books and a little spending money – to anyone sufficiently qualified who cannot afford to study medicine in their own country.

John Kirk is a professor of Latin American studies at Dalhousie University in Canada who researches Cuba’s international medical teams. He said: “Cuba’s contribution in Haiti is like the world’s greatest secret. They are barely mentioned, even though they are doing much of the heavy lifting.”

This tradition can be traced back to 1960, when Cuba sent a handful of doctors to Chile, hit by a powerful earthquake, followed by a team of 50 to Algeria in 1963. This was four years after the revolution, which saw nearly half the country’s 7,000 doctors voting with their feet and leaving for the US.

The travelling doctors have served as an extremely useful arm of the government’s foreign and economic policy, winning them friends and favours across the globe. The best-known programme is Operation Miracle, which began with ophthalmologists treating cataract sufferers in impoverished Venezuelan villages in exchange for oil. This initiative has restored the eyesight of 1.8 million people in 35 countries, including that of Mario Teran, the Bolivian sergeant who killed Che Guevara in 1967.

The Henry Reeve Brigade, rebuffed by the Americans after Hurricane Katrina, was the first team to arrive in Pakistan after the 2005 earthquake, and the last to leave six months later.

Cuba’s constitution lays out an obligation to help the worst-off countries when possible, but international solidarity isn’t the only reason, according to Professor Kirk. “It allows Cuban doctors, who are frightfully underpaid, to earn extra money abroad and learn about diseases and conditions they have only read about. It is also an obsession of Fidel’s and it wins him votes in the UN.”

A third of Cuba’s 75,000 doctors, along with 10,000 other health workers, are currently working in 77 poor countries, including El Salvador, Mali and East Timor. This still leaves one doctor for every 220 people at home, one of the highest ratios in the world, compared with one for every 370 in England.

Wherever they are invited, Cubans implement their prevention-focused holistic model, visiting families at home, proactively monitoring maternal and child health. This has produced “stunning results” in parts of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, lowering infant and maternal mortality rates, reducing infectious diseases and leaving behind better trained local health workers, according to Professor Kirk’s research.

Medical training in Cuba lasts six years – a year longer than in the UK – after which every graduate works as a family doctor for three years minimum. Working alongside a nurse, the family doctor looks after 150 to 200 families in the community in which they live.

This model has helped Cuba to achieve some of the world’s most enviable health improvements, despite spending only $400 (£260) per person last year compared with $3,000 (£1,950) in the UK and $7,500 (£4,900) in the US, according to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development figures.

Infant mortality rates, one of the most reliable measures of a nation’s healthcare, are 4.8 per 1,000 live births – comparable with Britain and lower than the US. Only 5 per cent of babies are born with a low birth weight, a crucial factor in long-term health, and maternal mortality is the lowest in Latin America, World Health Organisation figures show. Cuba’s polyclinics, open 24 hours a day for emergencies and specialist care, are a step up from the family doctors. Each provides for 15,000 to 35,000 patients via a group of full-time consultants as well as visiting doctors, ensuring that most medical care is provided in the community.

Imti Choonara, a paediatrician from Derby, leads a delegation of international health professionals at annual workshops in Cuba’s third city, Camaguey. “Healthcare in Cuba is phenomenal, and the key is the family doctor, who is much more proactive, and whose focus is on prevention … The irony is that Cubans came to the UK after the revolution to see how the NHS worked. They took back what they saw, refined it and developed it further; meanwhile we are moving towards the US model,” Professor Choonara said.

Politics, inevitably, penetrates many aspects of Cuban healthcare. Every year hospitals produce a list of drugs and equipment they have been unable to access because of the American embargo which prevents many US companies from trading with Cuba, and persuades other countries to follow suit. The 2009/10 report includes drugs for childhood cancers, HIV and arthritis, some anaesthetics, as well as chemicals needed to diagnose infections and store organs. Pharmacies in Cuba are characterised by long queues and sparsely stacked shelves, though in part this is because they stock only generic brands.

Antonio Fernandez, from the Ministry of Public Health, said: “We make 80 per cent of the drugs we use. The rest we import from China, former Soviet countries, Europe – anyone who will sell to us – but this makes it very expensive because of the distances.”

On the whole, Cubans are immensely proud and supportive of their contribution in Haiti and other poor countries, delighted to be punching above their weight on the international scene. However, some people complain of longer waits to see their doctor because so many are working abroad. And, like all commodities in Cuba, medicines are available on the black market for those willing to risk large fines if caught buying or selling.

International travel is beyond the reach of most Cubans, but qualified nurses and doctors are among those forbidden from leaving the country for five years after graduation, unless as part of an official medical team.

Like everyone else, health professionals earn paltry salaries of around $20 (£13) a month. So, contrary to official accounts, bribery exists in the hospital system, which means some doctors, and even hospitals, are off-limits unless patients can offer a little something, maybe lunch or a few pesos, for preferential treatment.

Cuba’s international ventures in healthcare are becoming increasingly strategic. Last month, officials held talks with Brazil about developing Haiti’s public health system, which Brazil and Venezuela have both agreed to help finance.

Medical training is another example. There are currently 8,281 students from more than 30 countries enrolled at Elam, which last month celebrated its 11th anniversary. The government hopes to inculcate a sense of social responsibly into the students in the hope that they will work within their own poor communities for at least five years.

Damien Joel Suarez, 27, a second year from New Jersey, is one of 171 American students; 47 have already graduated. He dismisses allegations that Elam is part of the Cuban propaganda machine. “Of course, Che is a hero here but he isn’t forced down your neck.”

Another 49,000 students are enrolled in the El Nuevo Programa de Formacion de Medicos Latinoamericanos, the brainchild of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, who pledged in 2005 to train 100,000 doctors for the continent. The course is much more hands-on, and critics question the quality of the training.

Professor Kirk disagrees: “The hi-tech approach to health needed in London and Toronto is irrelevant for millions of people in the Third World who are living in poverty. It is easy to stand on the sidelines and criticise the quality, but if you were living somewhere with no doctors, then you’d be happy to get anyone.”

There are nine million Haitians who would probably agree.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Brilliant Anti Cuts Video - By False Economy

Those who haven’t yet visited the new False Economy website will have missed this excellent video in support of their crowd-sourced anti cuts campaign. Great writing, high production values and eye catching kinetic typography make for compelling viewing:

Directed by Lucian Evans and presented by actor Sam West, we hope this isn’t the last such project from the False Economy team.

It makes most party political broadcasts look like BTEC media studies coursework.

Political Scrapbook

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Lib Dem's - Nowhere to Run

Liberal Democrat conference cancelled over protest fears
Friday 03 December 2010

Fears over student protests have forced the Liberal Democrats to abandon a regional party conference planned for Saturday 4th December 2010.

Demonstrators had planned to target the event to voice their anger over the Lib Dems' ditching of a general election pledge to oppose tuition fee rises.

It had been set to take place at a north London school but party bosses were forced to look for somewhere else when the head teacher raised security concerns.

When the second venue (Royal Horticultural Halls in Vincent Square), said the same thing, the whole thing was pushed back to February.

"It has been postponed because of the venues' fears for security," a party spokesman said.

Fiona Edwards, a spokeswoman for protest organisers the Free Education Campaign, said the Lib Dems were "running scared."

"This reflects the fact that they are feeling the pressure from these student protests. They are running scared but we will keep chasing them down."

Ms Edwards said they had been expecting up to 1,000 people but were not sure whether any protest would go ahead now.

"It is a shame that they won't engage with students on this issue," she added.

MPs will vote on increasing fees 9th December. The Liberal Democrats continue to agonise over whether to vote for the plan.

The party is deeply divided, with some determined to vote against the measure in line with election promises.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, the target of much student anger, has refused to say how he plans to vote

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thora Silverthorne - Progressive Nursing Leader - 100th Anniversary

Thora Silverthorne 25th November 2010 will mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Thora Silverthorne. To celebrate this event a wreath will be laid at Reading Town Hall and a remembrance event will be held in the Thora Silverthorne rooms at UNISON Offices in Reading.

Thora Silverthorne

Nurses’ leader and International Brigader,

Thora Silverthorne was born in Abertillery on the 25th November 1910. She was the daughter of George Richard Silverthorne, a miner at the Vivian & Six Bells Pit and Sarah Boyt of Bargoed. Her early years were spent at 170 Alma Street, Abertillery, she secured a scholarship to Nataglo County School (Hafod) and attended the local Baptist church run by Pastor Rev Ivor Evans. She joined the Young Communist League at 16 and, when she was old enough, the Abertillery Communist Party. Her father was a founder member of the local Communist Party and active in the miners union. Thora chaired meetings with prominent speakers such as Arthur Horner, the miners’ leader. "Everyone in Abertillery talked politics," she was to say of these times.

With her mother’s early death, as one of seven children, she was forced to leave Abertillery for England. Initially she worked as a nanny for the local Labour MP, but also fitted in selling the Daily Worker to the local railwaymen.

She then followed her sister into nursing at the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford and was involved in Communist Party activities in the city. She participated with her close friend Christopher Hill in the October Club. The health needs of the hunger marchers that passed through Oxford on their way to London were tended to by her “helping her self to bandages and dressings on the wards”. She recalled that “Their feet were often in particularly bad state.”In 1935 Thora secured a Sister’s post at Hammersmith hospital and worked closely with Dr Charles Wortham Brook and his wife, also a nurse, Iris. In 1935 Thora secured a Sister’s post at Hammersmith hospital and worked closely with Dr Charles Wortham Brook and his wife, also a nurse, Iris.and joined NUCO Guild of Nurses

At the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War she volunteered to nurse, and was "elected" Matron at Granen hospital, caring for many anti-fascist German soldiers in the Thaelmann Centuria. The International Brigader, Michael Livesey, died in her - arms a memory she never forgot. Later, she was herself drafted into the International Brigade.

On her return she married Dr Kenneth Sinclair-Loutit, who she had met in Spain, where he was the medical unit's administrator They lived at 12 Great Ormond Street. Loutit was elected as a “unity front” Councillor prior to the War for Holborn, London. Her involvement as sub editor of Nursing Illustrated led her to establish a nurses union (The National Nurses Association). This was a consciously progressive union for nurses in direct competition with the reactionary (Royal) College of Nursing. The RCN and hospital managers attacked her as “not being a registered nurse” or “paid by Moscow”, during the late 1930s. With the help of Communist Party nurses such as Nancy Blackburn (Zinkin), the Association ran a very high profile campaign to highlight the poor pay and conditions of nurses. The Association latter amalgamated with NUPE. Bryn Roberts, the General Secretary of that union was a native of Abertillery and a man whom Thora admired.

After the war she became a union official in the Civil Service Association. As Secretary of the Socialist Medical Association, she met Attlee and other Ministers to discuss the establishment of the NHS in 1948. She married Nares Craig (a relative of Lord Craigavon)  a member of the CP’s architect group (also Cambridge night climber) and retired to Llanfyllin, Powys, North Wales for 25 years. Clive Jenkins and Frank Cousins were regular visitors there. Thora returned to London, to be close to her daughter Lucy Craig/Best (a Haringey Labour Councillor), a few years before her death on 17th January 1999.

The funeral service at Marylebone cemetery on 25th January heard `the Valley of Jarama’, `The Internationale’, Cwm Rhondda and a recording of the Welsh hymn “Land of my fathers” by Paul Robeson

Keep The NHS Working

UNISON Keep our NHS Working and NHS Together Lobby of Parliament Summer 2006.

Pat McManus (Central Middx) , Desiree Clark and the late Lesley Kumarasamy
(Kingston Primary Care Trust).

A Tribute to Lesley Kumarasamy,

UNISON Rep Kingston PCT

Longest surviving member of Kingston PCT of 33 years!

It is with deep sorrow and sadness that we have to say goodbye to a very special person who lost her life suddenly with cancer and died at Kingston hospital on Saturday 6th January 2007. The funeral was at Kingston Vale on Saturday 13th January where many tributes were made to her life. She leaves her husband, Kumar, two daughters Eleanor who is married to Dan, and Erin. She also leaves her mother, Alison who is in her eighties. Hundreds of mourners attended to pay their respects to a kind, caring and exceptional lady.

Lesley was well known throughout the local community of Tolworth an active member of St George’s church in Hamilton Avenue where she had many friends and helped in the Sunday school

She joined Kingston PCT on 24th September 1973 and had worked there for an amazing 33 years. She started as an Occupational Therapy (OT) assistant in the Day Hospital for Older People, running therapeutic groups such as reminiscence, cookery, arts and crafts and, yes, a bit of basket weaving! Following further training Lesley continued her work as an OT Technical Instructor on the in-patient rehabilitation wards. She really enjoyed her work with older people and always promoted the value of OT. She also valued her friends and colleagues very highly and enjoyed being part of the OT and Ward Team.

Lesley is remembered in her superb OT uniform of green trousers, white tunic and “dangly earrings”…

Lesley was extremely hard-working and recently represented OT as the union steward for Unison where she met many new friends including Desiree Clark who recalls the day they went to the Unison AGM at Tolworth hospital five years ago to find out who their local rep was only to be told “there isn’t one so maybe you would both like to join”. That was the moment when a great friendship and bond began including signing up new members, giving advice and support to members, representing staff side at meetings, rallying in Brighton and Parliament against the recent NHS cuts, talks with the local MP, Edward Davey, about the changes happening across the PCT and local community. Lesley also became her branch chair. She showed great enthusiasm, dedication and care in her work - above and beyond the call of duty.

Over the years she touched so many people’s lives and she was always smiling and never grumbled. She was a wonderful person who was generous and kind, but above all “genuine”.

Everyone will miss her dearly and she will be forever in our thoughts…….

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

UNISON 9/11 Ribbon and Badge

UNISON Nurses handing out 9/11 ribbons at 2002 TUC Congress at Blackpool

UNISON 9/11 Badge from September 2001 worn by London emergency services staff.

UNISON working with SEIU

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

Hayes Cottage Hospital Occupation 25th October 1983

Hayes Cottage hospital, West London. Occupied 25th October 1983 until late December 1983, when the local health authority backed down and the hospital was saved.

Marge Bayne and Sylvia Tebbenham led the Occupation for the staff members of COHSE and NUPE.

Northwood & Pinner Cottage Hospital was also occupied at the same time starting 26th October, led by the Matron Jean Carey COHSE member

This is a list of Hospital Occupations/Work in's
I have secured from various accounts.


Rainhill Asylum 1913
Radcliffe (Nottingham) Asylum 1933
Elizabeth Garret Anderson Nov 1976 - 1978
South London Weir 1976
Cane Hill Hospital Sit in 18-21 August 1976
South Middlesex 1977
Plaistow Maternity 1977
Hounslow March 1977- Oct 1979
Bethnal Green July 1978
Brookwood May 1978
St Benedicts (Tooting) Nov 1978- Sept 1980
Etwall Dec 1979 - March 1980
St Georges (Hyde Park) Jan 1980
Longworth (Oxford) Dec 1980 Feb 1981
Princess Mary Feb-April 1980
St Marys Harrow Rd 1981
Brookwood 1982
Woodgreen & Southgate Oct 1982 - Dec 1982
Thornton View 5th Aug 1983-1985
Hayes Cottage Hospital Oct-Dec 1983
Northwood & Pinner Cottage Hospital Oct-Dec 1983
Botleys Park Dec 1983
Harpenden Memorial Hospital (Maternity) 2 weeks February-March 1985
South London Women's Hospital (Clapham) 26th July1984-1985
Neasden 1986
St Leonards, (Hackney) 3rd July 1984 - 16th July 1984
Wards at UCLH
NHS Direct Exeter 1st May 2012
NHS Direct Nottingham 5th July 2012

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

TUC Lobby 19th October 2010

Thousands of public sector workers have packed Central Hall to capacity with standing-room only as they protest against the coalition government's plans for huge cuts in public spending. Messages from the rally are giving us updates on events.

There was huge applause for Dave Prentis when he says make the banks pay. If there's money for them and for war, there's money for the poor and for public services. His call for a pay freeze for bankers went down well. Dave spoke up for communities and the public services they rely on.

Lizzie Louden a pupil at Leytonstone school is due to speak after Dave.

The TUC's Brendan Barber said those who did well from the boom should help pay for the bust they created.

'Cowardly' Tory MPs hide from their constituents

Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON, today branded Tory MPs as “cowards” for turning their backs on their constituents, to join a last-minute meeting convened by David Cameron.Dave Prentis said:“It is a sad day for democracy in this country. I am outraged that Tory MPs have turned their backs on their constituents, when so many have travelled hundreds of miles, to see them.“Many had made appointments months in advance and are armed with facts and figures about the damage that cuts will do to local people and services.“MPs should not be running from the truth and hiding in a meeting with Cameron. They should have the guts to come face to face with the constituents that they were elected to represent.“I am warning the Tories that they can run, but they can’t hide. UNSON members will track down their MPs and lobby them in their own constituency offices, until they get their message across.”

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Claire Rayners Last Words

Nurse: Claire Rayner

January 22 1931 - October 11 2010

Last Words

"Tell David Cameron
that if he screws up

my beloved NHS
I'll come back and

bloody haunt him!"

Thursday, September 09, 2010

NHS Direct - A Critical Victory


Commenting on reports that Health Minister Andrew Lansley has denied plans to shut down NHS Direct, Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON, said:

³This is great news for patients and for staff at NHS Direct. The service that NHS Direct offers is tried and tested and is of great value to the public, as the outcry over the threat of closure shows. The service provides a reassuring voice for worried parents in the middle of the night and is a well of advice that the public can tap into 24 hours a day. Andrew Lansley should not have put nurses and staff in fear of their jobs in this way

³I am sure staff will still be confused and worried that the Government may have another change of heart. I would like a guarantee from the health minister that the 1,300 nurses working for NHS Direct will still have a job there this time next year.²

Michael Walker, UNISON national Officer for NHS Direct Staff, said:

³This sounds like fantastic news and a victory for common sense. It shows the effectiveness of the Unions campaign against the threat to axe NHS Direct. There has been a real groundswell of opposition from the public, with thousands of people signing a petition against the closure.

³The service employs 3,400 NHS dedicated specialist nurses and professionals and provides expert help - taking more than 27,000 calls a day. It successfully takes the pressure off the emergency services and from busy GP surgeries.

³However, I think we still need to be vigilant. I want to hear more detail of Andrew Lansley¹s announcement today, to make sure that staff and the valuable service they provide, are truly protected in the longer term."

"UNISON congratulates NHS Direct staff and their union reps for getting behind the campaign and making their views known to the public"

UNISON 0845 355 0845

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Lib Dem's to Axe 1,000 Nurses

Lib Dem's to Axe 1,000 Nurses

at NHS Direct

Gail Adams UNISONhead of nursing said

"NHS Direct is a ground-breaking success story that has taken pressure off the emergency services and provided much needed advice and support to people.

"Private call centres with unqualified staff can never replace this excellent service, that provides vital, immediate support such as during the swine flu outbreak that saw scores of people die."

NHS Direct UNISON Official Michael Walker added:

"Not one Coalition party stated they would scrap NHS Direct in their manifesto. There is no mandate for cutting this service . If the government attack NHS Direct, what else is next? What other NHS cuts are they hiding? It is time for Cameron and Clegg to come clean about their real plans for our NHS."

"If the Lib Dems get their way 1,000 registered nurses, many of whom are disabled, will be sacked if this plan goes ahead".

"The shocking truth is this is the front line, these are real registered nurses and they are now facing the sack".

2,300 NHS dedicated specialist nurses and professionals are available on NHS Direct 24 hours a day.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

SOS - Save NHS Direct


The Guardian states that Conservative Secretary of State for Health has let slip that the Coalition is to scrap NHS Direct for a cheaper service.

The proposal is to replace 3,000 dedicated specialist nurses and health professionals with a cheap private call centre, with no access to a nurse.

Private call centres with unqualified staff can never replace this excellent service, which provides vital immediate support such as during the swine flu outbreak which saw scores of people die.

NHS Direct UNISON Official Michael Walker states:

"Not one Coalition party stated they would scrap NHS Direct in their manifesto. There is no mandate for cutting this service . If the government attack NHS Direct, what else is next? What other NHS cuts are they hiding? It is time for Cameron and Clegg to come clean about their real plans for our NHS.

Join UNISON's campaign to Save NHS Direct.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Don't Let Nurses Freeze - Kingston Nurses Demonstration

Dont' Let Nurses Freeze

Kingston hospital’s decision to freeze front-line nursing posts will hit patient care hard as well as adding to the burden on existing over-stretched staff, said UNISON nurses at the hospital . The nurses condemned moves to cut the number of nurses on wards as part of a jobs freeze at the hospital, saying that it flies in the face of pledges to protect front-line NHS staff.

The Trust management have stated that they will not replace nurses who leave unless they are “critical”.

Michael Walker, Lonson Nursing officer for UNISON slammed the proposed cuts as “putting patient care at risk” saying:

“ it is outrageous that overworked nurses are being expected to cover for nursing posts that are not filled. UNISON believes that the cuts will put lives and patient care at risk. The Coalition Government told us that they would not cut front line services, and yet at Kingston - Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s local hospital - this is exactly what we are witnessing - nurses are very much frontline service”.

Nora Pearce, UNISON Nursing & Midwifery Convenor at the hospital said:

“The NHS has a very high turnover of nursing posts; nurses cannot simply be expected to pick up the work of posts no longer filled without compromising the care we provide.

“I urge those implementing the cuts to take serious consideration of our concerns and reverse this decision”

(pics) Kingston Nurses Demonstration 23 June 2010

Monday, June 21, 2010

COHSE Nurses - No Cuts 1980

Excellent and widely used COHSE Nursing poster dating from circa 1980-1982

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Bad Hotel - San Fran Boycott

see also

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Muriel Coult - Forgotten Heroine Of Equal Pay Struggle

Muriel Coult

Muriel Coult was an active member of the Civil Service Clerical Association (the union is today, along with other merging partners, part of PCS, the Public and Commercial Services Union. She was described in the official history of the union as being a "woman who had shown exceptional energy on the Youth Advisory Committee".

She won much praise and admiration for her pioneering trade union education courses during the war. "In spite of enemy action, transport difficulties and the complications caused by evacuation and other war time problems, she made a great success of organising weekend schools in many parts of the country. So much so that many other unions followed CSCA initiative."

Muriel was elected to the Union's National Executive Committee in 1937, a position she held until 1944, when she became a full time official, taking the title of `Assistant Secretary’. But, despite Muriel's energy and commitment, she became increasingly marginalised within the union because of her openly left-wing views and membership of the Communist Party, especially after right wingers captured the union in 1949.

However, this did not stop Muriel Coult playing the leading role in organising the union’s campaign for Equal Pay. The campaign was started on
11th February 1953with a debate on Equal Pay in the House of Lords, moved by Lord Pethick-Lawrence, who had played a part in the original suffragette movement.

This was followed up with a much-copied photo opportunity; on Valentine’s Day 1953, Muriel Coult and two other union representatives delivered a huge valentines card, with an Equal Pay slogan on it, to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with the words “remember your promise of 16th May - Be true to US on budget day”!

Muriel Coult urged union members to collect signatures in homes, offices, special meetings, factory gates, shopping centres, and anywhere else. The aim was for a million signatures. In the event they collected 700,000 and this was presented on Equal Pay Day 9th March 1954 to the House of Commons by Douglas Houghton (a Labour MP) and Irene Ward (a Conservative MP). Outside, flags were flying bearing the old suffragette colours of purple and white, and there were purple and white buttonholes, purple and white stickers, and purple and white handbills - all bearing the slogan "Equal Pay on Budget Day".

It being Budget Day, the Chancellor posed with his red box for the famous photography. At the last minute, a group of union members produced from under their coats banners promoting equal pay, thus securing considerable press and television coverage.

Finally a Civil Service Equal Pay agreement was reached on
18th February 1955, 35 years after the House of Commons first approved the principle of Equal Pay in the sector. It was introduced in stages, which was meant it would not be fully operational until 1st January 1961.

Even so, Equal Pay disputes continued. Famously in 1959, a "Typists’ revolt" broke out, after it was discovered that the few male typists employed in service were earning 25% more than the women typists at the Treasury. Delays in addressing this grievance led, two days after the Augusts Bank holiday in 1959, to a thousand, manly young women, marching down Whitehall, singing and chanting as they went, gathering in a meeting in Horse Guards Avenue,

Muriel Coult, who became Muriel Jamieson by marriage, retired from the union in 1963 to become a teacher.

Muriel Coult surely deserves much better recognition today for her role in developing trade union education and even more importantly in securing the first real acceptance that Equal Pay in the Civil Service ought to be addressed, a fact which had repercussion's far beyond the Civil Service as the issue began to secure a foothold of attention in many, many other workplaces.

It is a scandal that in 2010 many women have still not secured Equal Pay. According to the Fawcett Society, Women working full-time earn on average 17%less per hour than men working full-time. For women working part-time compared to men working full-time the gap is 36% per hour – rising to 45% in
London. But, without women such as Muriel, perhaps the scandal might be even worse than it is!

Source: the history of CPSA by Eric Wigham
Michael Walker

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Why Florence Nightingale Must Die

Today, according to the International Congress of Nurses (ICN)

Is International Nurses Day

It is presently held on the birthday of Florence Nightingale

This is our response:-

Kick Over The Statues

By Michael Walker UNISON Nursing Officer for Nursing Times April1999

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 RCN General secretary 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

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tories: I Warn You !

"I warn you. I warn you that you will have pain – when healing and relief depend upon payment. I warn you that you will have ignorance – when talents are untended and wits are wasted, when learning is a privilege and not a right. I warn you that you will have poverty – when pensions slip and benefits are whittled away by a government that won’t pay in an economy that can't pay. I warn you that you will be cold – when fuel charges are used as a tax system that the rich don't notice and the poor can't afford.

I warn you that you must not expect work – when many cannot spend, more will not be able to earn. When they don't earn, they don't spend. When they don't spend, work dies. I warn you not to go into the streets alone after dark or into the streets in large crowds of protest in the light. I warn you that you will be quiet – when the curfew of fear and the gibbet of unemployment make you obedient. I warn you that you will have defence of a sort – with a risk and at a price that passes all understanding. I warn you that you will be home-bound – when fares and transport bills kill leisure and lock you up. I warn you that you will borrow less – when credit, loans, mortgages and easy payments are refused to people on your melting income.

If Margaret Thatcher wins on Thursday, I warn you not to be ordinary. I warn you not to be young. I warn you not to fall ill. I warn you not to get old."

Neil Kinnock General Election 1983

Join The Resistance: No Cuts

Friday, February 12, 2010


Morning Star 11th February 2010

By Will Stone

Shocking research published in a major new report has revealed that people living in England's poorest areas die seven years younger on average than those in its richest communities.

The Marmot review shows that although life expectancy has risen overall in both poor and rich areas, distinct inequalities remain.

Along with a lower life expectancy the report also finds that for poorer areas a greater proportion of people's lives will be spent unwell.

The government-commissioned report, published by epidemiologist Sir Michael Marmot of University College London, estimates that up to 202,000 early deaths could be avoided if the NHS spent more to tackle these inequalities.

He also called for an increase in minimum wage to allow everyone the opportunity for a healthier lifestyle.

Professor David Hunter, an expert in health management at Durham University, said: "There are few votes in health inequalities. There must be a real political commitment at all levels because a fairer society will benefit all.

"As politicians of all hues become increasingly preoccupied with securing electoral advantage, it is questionable whether this important report will receive the careful and considered attention it deserves."

The report warns that doing nothing to tackle these inequalities would cost the economy more, accounting for £33 billion spent every year.

It calls for NHS spending on preventing illness with more money going to initiatives such as helping people to stop smoking.

Professor Mike Kelly, of the National Institute for health and Clinical Excellence, also argues there needs to be a shift away from medical interventions that treat existing illnesses to those preventing them developing in the first place.

President of the UK Faculty of Public Health Professor Alan Maryon-Davis added: "This report is not just about fairness and opportunity - essential though these things are. It is also about hard-nosed investment in preventive strategies that really pay off."

Health Secretary Andy Burnham welcomed the report and agreed that more work is needed to tackle inequalities.

"It's not right that where we live can dictate the state of our health," he said. But many are asking the government exactly what it plans to do.

Haringey TUC chairman Keith Flett, whose area includes some of the poorest areas in the country including Tottenham's Northumberland Park, said: "The really big question posed is what is going to be done about decent jobs and wages and the impact this has on people's lives?"

He added that people in Tottenham were literally dying because they were poor



Hugh Faulkner & Barbara McPherson

Socialist Medical Association and Sigerist Society

Before the war, many valuable studies were made of the class incidence of disease and its relation to real wages and housing conditions. John Boyd Orr, George McGonigle and John Kirby, Richard Titmuss, Julian Tudor Hart and Wright, Wilkins and Marrack published facts and figures which became known widely throughout the Labour movement.

Since the war, however, the belief has been fostered that class differences have greatly decreased. The myth is spread that the rich are taxed out of existence, that slumps have been charmed away by Keynesian economics, and that the Welfare State gives us all an equal chance. This supposed happy state of affairs does not, unfortunately, survive the cold light of the Registrar-General’s Report.(i)

It is clear that the general health of the people as a whole has improved. A male child born in Britain today can expect to live sixty-seven years, whereas in 1901 the expectation of life was only forty-nine years. Many factors have played a part in this.

The development of public hygiene, a continuous period of full employment, the elimination of some of the worst slums, advances in medical treatment and its greater availability to the whole population, have all contributed. This improvement in general health which exists in Britain, and also in some of the more technically advanced countries, is by no means true of the entire world (ii).

The position in the overseas territories is quite different—in Burma, for example, the death rate actually rose from 32 per 1,000 in 1947 to 48 per 1,000 in 1949. In 1951, the U.S. Department of State gave figures showing that two-thirds of the world’s population had only half the expectation of life of the developed one-fifth (iii).

It is only just over a hundred years ago that Dr. Edwin Chadwick published his sensational report on the relation of ill-health to poverty (iv).

(i) The Registrar General’s Report: Decennial Supplement, I951: Occupational Mortality, Part I.

(ii) The Cost of Sickness and the Price of Health: Winslow, Geneva 1951.

(iii)U.S. Department of State (1950): Publication 3719: Economic Co-operation

Series 24.

(iv)The Sanitary Condition of the Labouring Population of Great Britain: Edwin Chadwick, London. Published by W. C. Lowes & Sons for H.M, Stationery Office, 1843

Things have improved, at least in the non-colonial countries, considerably since then. During this period two main things have happened. Firstly, the workers have forced improvements in their living conditions on the ruling class, have fought for and obtained better food, better houses, better hospitals and medical care, etc. Secondly, capitalism has gradually been forced to recognise that a minimum of health care for the working population is essential for efficient production. Capitalism made the “great discovery” that disease costs money. The result of this is seen in the steady improvement in the most developed capitalist countries in the infant mortality figures (except for war-time peaks) over the past fifty years.

The main lesson for socialists in the Registrar-General’s Report is that despite the general improvement in health, class differences in many diseases have remained remarkably constant.

The Report divides the population into five social classes:

Social Class I professional

Social Class II intermediate occupations

Social Class III skilled occupations

Social Class IV partly skilled

Social Class V labourer

In 1950 a labourer (Social Class V) was still five times more likely to die from bronchitis than his employer. He was 31 times more likely to die from pneumonia and more than twice as likely to die from peptic ulcer or pulmonary tuberculosis.

In 1950, 2,592 more men from Social Class V who were between twenty and sixty-four years of age died from bronchitis, pneumonia, gastric ulcers and tuberculosis of the lungs than would have been expected to die if they belonged to Social Class I. In other words, by raising the social conditions of those in Glass V to that of Class I, about 2,600 deaths from these four diseases alone could have been prevented.

In many other diseases the same story is revealed. In the first month of life, the death rate amongst children of Social Class V in 1921 was 1.6 times that of children in Social Class I; in 1950 the ratio was 1.7 to 1. For children aged four weeks to one year, the ratio in 1921 was 4.0 to 1 and in 1950 it was 3.8 to 1. In other words, nearly four times as many children per 1,000 from the lowest-paid workers’ families die between the ages of one month and one year as in the case of children of the upper classes, and this relationship was almost exactly the same in 1940 as in the bitter years after the first world war.

There are approximately 7,000 fatal accidents in British homes each year. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents puts bad housing as their principal cause, and thus a greater proportion of these accidents take place in the overcrowded, ill-repaired homes of the working class. For example, four times as many babies under one year are accidentally killed by suffocation in Social Class V than in Social Class II.

There are a few diseases where the death rate is higher in Social Class I—high blood pressure, diabetes, coronary thrombosis and diseases of the liver. Despite this, however, the mortality ratio(v) for men aged 20-64 in Social Class I in 1950 was 97, for Social Class V 118. The difference between the classes is particularly noticeable between the ages of thirty-five and forty-five, where the ratio is 83 for Class I to 143 for Class V. In other words, well over a third of the deaths of labourers in the prime of life could be prevented by a change of social environment.

These figures apply to men in different social classes, irrespective of the nature of their employment. Similar differences are shown by their wives. It is therefore likely that the differences in mortality are due to such general social conditions as income, food and holidays.

When we consider specific occupations, it is obvious that the risk of accident incurred by the man at the bench is far greater than that of the man in the director’s chair. Every year there are nearly a million accidents at work which lead to at least three days’ absence from work in each case. As a result of accidents at work, nearly 3,000 workers die every year and, of these, 750 are killed in the mines. In some occupations the workers are exposed to particular risks (apart from the notifiable industrial diseases). Thus a coal-face worker is four times more likely to die from tuberculosis than a farmer, and nearly twice as likely to die from pneumonia as a transport worker.

(v) The Standardised Mortality Ratio is the number of deaths occurring among men aged 20-64 in a given occupation, expressed as a percentage of the number of deaths that might have been expected to occur if the given occupation had experienced within each age group the same death rate as that of a standard population consisting of all occupied and retired men.

The figures in the Registrar-General’s Report refer only to deaths. It is always difficult to get a reliable picture of the incidence of ill-health not resulting in death, since sickness rates are rarely published. These, however, would probably show an even more striking class incidence, as many of the diseases showing an excess mortality in Class V—such as bronchitis, gastric ulcers, and tuberculosis—produce a period of chronic ill-health, sometimes of considerable duration, before causing death. Some of the few statistics available come from the U.S.A.(vi) Americans on the dole suffer over four times more from bone diseases than those with incomes of $5,000 a year or more. For rheumatism the ratio between these two groups was 3.69 to 1, for digestive diseases 3.4 to 1, for nervous diseases 2.87 to 1 and for degenerative diseases 2.68 to 1. These figures are particularly interesting as they show that there is a marked class difference in the incidence of certain diseases (diseases of bone, nervous and degenerative diseases) which, unlike tuberculosis, rheumatism and chronic bronchitis, are not commonly thought of as diseases of poverty.

In the case of the old people, no complicated statistics are needed to appreciate that a human being cannot house, clothe and feed himself on 32s. 6d. a week in Britain today. In a large Liverpool hospital in one year there were thirty-nine cases of proved malnutrition out of 792 admissions (i.e., 2.8 per cent of all admissions).(vii) Of these thirty-nine cases, thirty-three were over sixty years of age and the malnutrition of the majority of these was shown to be directly due to poverty.

Apart from the Registrar-General’s Report, further information concerning social conditions and ill-health is available from a study, between 1945 and 1948, of all the admissions to a group of hospitals in Scotland.

In the county districts of Stirlingshire (excluding the burghs of Stirling and Falkirk) there is “a fairly close correspondence between the extent of overcrowding, the number of in-patients treated, the number of patient bed-days and the number of out-patients per 1,000 of the population”, and in Ayrshire, “it seems fairly clear that in the central districts, where housing conditions are worst, the hospital load was heaviest”. In Ayr burgh, hospital attendance both of in-patients and out-patients was nearly twice as common in the two most crowded wards as in the two least crowded.

(vi) U.S. National Health Survey (1935-46): Bulletin No. 9: Disability from Specific Causes in Relation to Economic Status. Washington 1948.

(vii) The Lancet, October 34, 1953, p. 860.

In addition, it was found that the required length of stay in hospital was much longer for those in the lower income groups than in the higher.(viii).

The figures used in this article are all taken from official sources or from scientific articles about health in Britain since the end of the war. No attempt has been made to deal with the appalling health conditions in the British Empire, conditions which are not sufficiently known in the Labour movement. It will require a separate article to consider the health situation in the Empire.

We do not need, however, to look further afield than this country to realise that it is still possible to buy good health if you have the money. Good food, adequate housing and sufficient leisure can be bought and they all contribute towards good health. Under capitalism only one section of the population has the full benefit of these necessities for health. It must be emphasised that although our present evidence shows that the conditions in which we live have a very great effect on our state of health, exactly how they act is not so clear.

Each disease does not have one cause and one cure; the individual reaction to disease also differs considerably. One thing is certain, however: if diseases are studied not as isolated occurrences but as part of the interaction between the individual and his environment, a deeper understanding of their cause will result.

Health has often been taken as synonymous with the absence of disease, or the ability to carry on at work or school. That this is a very stupid attitude towards health will be seen if any group of children are watched at play; it is easy to see that some have abundant energy, bright eyes, rosy cheeks. Others lack these signs of positive health. All men, women and children should have these attributes, but no amount of medicine, hospital beds or specialist doctors can alone produce them. The minor disorders that reduce health are usually so easy to prevent, so difficult to cure.

It is clear that environmental factors, living conditions, are just as important factors in the health of the people as medical care. of the living conditions of the whole population to that of the best there are today. Only Socialism can carry out this task. The working class have many allies amongst health

(viii) Hospital and Community. Nuffield Provincial Hospitals Trust, 1950.

One of the many contradictions of capitalism is that it cannot carry out the scheme of preventive medicine which is needed—the raising workers who are genuinely seeking to improve the health of the people and to fight against the misery and unhappiness created by disease.

Yet under capitalism, their efforts are frustrated at every turn by the conditions under which so many of the population live. The wage earners stay on at work in order to keep their families, so what started as a minor complaint becomes a major disability. At the present time there is an urgent need for more funds for research, for more convalescent homes and for more holiday homes which could prevent the onset of illness due to over-strain and over-work.

Patients are returned after hospital treatment and convalescence to the same grim conditions of overcrowding and poverty which have contributed so much to their illness. Old people are treated with bottles of medicine when what they need is money to buy adequate food and clothing.

Advances in medical technique are of concern to our movement, for they can contribute to the battle against disease. The discoveries of penicillin and the other antibiotics, the advances made in this country in such fields as anaesthetics and the surgery of the chest, are causes of real pride. They have contributed enormously to the lessening of suffering by the cure or alleviation of established diseases.

Yet these are only part of the story.

In 1955 health is still distributed unevenly among the various social classes. The Labour movement must fight for better health for the whole people. The figures quoted here show that it is possible, and that thousands of people die before their time (chance of birth still affects the individual’s health and length of life). Much can be done to improve the position now, but only under Socialism, when classes are abolished, can the basis be provided for positive health for the whole of the people.

Many allies can be won for the fight for Socialism by explaining these facts to honest and sincere people.

Health for himself and his family is one of the primary desires of the human being. The socialist health workers can lead the fight, present the figures and explain the issues, but only the agitation of the organised Labour movement will obtain the required results. We must reverse the attitude where so much minor illness is accepted as inevitable, and show that positive health is obtainable and will flourish under Socialism.


Hugh Faulkner & Barbara McPherson

April 1955


George McGonigle, (1888-1939) born Monkwearmouth near Sunderland, Medical Officer Stokton on Tees

John Kirby

Richard Titmuss (1907-1973) statistician at LSE advisor to the Labour Party

Sir John Boyd Orr (1880-1971) born Kilmarus near Kilmarnock Scottish Doctor and teacher, Member of Parliament Scottish Universities

Julian Tudor Hart 1927- born London, General Practioner, and Communist councillor Glyncorrwg, South Wales, Communist Party Health Advisory Committee