Tag Archives: Owen

The real saboteurs are the Tory Brexiters destroying the NHS | Owen Jones

Who are the real saboteurs? Is it those who want Brexit to be properly scrutinised by parliament to prevent a disastrous deal which could wreck the economy and shred social provision? Those were, after all, the saboteurs who needed crushing according to the Daily Mail when Theresa May called her calamitous snap election. Or are the real saboteurs those who – through bigotry, twisted ideological zealotry and outright stupidity – are damaging the fabric of the public services we all depend on?

Britain’s National Health Service is propped up by 12,000 doctors from the European Economic Area. Without them, our most treasured national institution – which brings us into the world, mends us when we are sick or injured, cares for us in our final moments – would collapse. So it should be of some concern to us, to put it mildly, that nearly half of them are considering leaving the country, and a fifth have already made actual plans to do so.

What a twisted irony. The leave campaigners made a calculated decision to win the EU referendum with a toxic mixture of lies and bigotry. One of the most striking falsehoods was an extra £350m a week for the NHS after we left: instead it’s being emptied out of desperately needed doctors.

And can you blame them for wanting to leave? We’ve now had years of vitriolic scapegoating of immigrants to deflect responsibility from the banks, the tax-dodgers, the unaccountable corporations, the poverty-paying employers, the rip-off landlords, the neoliberal politicians, and all the other vested interests who have unleashed misery and insecurity upon this country. The positive contribution of immigrants was all but banished from public discussion. The campaign reached a crescendo during the referendum, with immigrants variously portrayed as potential criminals, rapists, murderers and terrorists, validating every bigot in Britain and resulting in a surge in hate crimes on the streets. I wonder why European doctors don’t feel particularly welcome right now?

This is about the worst possible time to haemorrhage doctors. The NHS is enduring the longest squeeze in its funding as a proportion of GDP since its foundation; it’s being fragmented by marketisation and privatisation; it’s under growing pressure because of decimated social care budgets while citizens continue to live longer. Plunging morale – because of privatisation, staff shortages and cuts – is affecting all doctors, regardless of where they’re born: a recent study suggested two-thirds are considering leaving. The consequence? We’re having to look abroad for more doctors. This is a recurring irony of Conservative rule. After the first five years of the coalition government, drastic cuts to nurse training places led the NHS to look for one in four nurses abroad.

How have we allowed the bigots and xenophobes of our unhinged tabloid press and political elite to inflict so much damage? Rather than making our live-saving foreign doctors feel unwelcome, surely we should be focusing on how we can tax the booming wealthy individuals and big businesses so we can invest more in our NHS? It should be abundantly clear who the real saboteurs are. They have already inflicted incalculable damage to our social fabric, our public services, our economy, and our international standing. The question is: how do we prevent them from inflicting even more damage?

Owen Jones is a Guardian columnist

The real saboteurs are the Tory Brexiters destroying the NHS | Owen Jones

Who are the real saboteurs? Is it those who want Brexit to be properly scrutinised by parliament to prevent a disastrous deal which could wreck the economy and shred social provision? Those were, after all, the saboteurs who needed crushing according to the Daily Mail when Theresa May called her calamitous snap election. Or are the real saboteurs those who – through bigotry, twisted ideological zealotry and outright stupidity – are damaging the fabric of the public services we all depend on?

Britain’s National Health Service is propped up by 12,000 doctors from the European Economic Area. Without them, our most treasured national institution – which brings us into the world, mends us when we are sick or injured, cares for us in our final moments – would collapse. So it should be of some concern to us, to put it mildly, that nearly half of them are considering leaving the country, and a fifth have already made actual plans to do so.

What a twisted irony. The leave campaigners made a calculated decision to win the EU referendum with a toxic mixture of lies and bigotry. One of the most striking falsehoods was an extra £350m a week for the NHS after we left: instead it’s being emptied out of desperately needed doctors.

And can you blame them for wanting to leave? We’ve now had years of vitriolic scapegoating of immigrants to deflect responsibility from the banks, the tax-dodgers, the unaccountable corporations, the poverty-paying employers, the rip-off landlords, the neoliberal politicians, and all the other vested interests who have unleashed misery and insecurity upon this country. The positive contribution of immigrants was all but banished from public discussion. The campaign reached a crescendo during the referendum, with immigrants variously portrayed as potential criminals, rapists, murderers and terrorists, validating every bigot in Britain and resulting in a surge in hate crimes on the streets. I wonder why European doctors don’t feel particularly welcome right now?

This is about the worst possible time to haemorrhage doctors. The NHS is enduring the longest squeeze in its funding as a proportion of GDP since its foundation; it’s being fragmented by marketisation and privatisation; it’s under growing pressure because of decimated social care budgets while citizens continue to live longer. Plunging morale – because of privatisation, staff shortages and cuts – is affecting all doctors, regardless of where they’re born: a recent study suggested two-thirds are considering leaving. The consequence? We’re having to look abroad for more doctors. This is a recurring irony of Conservative rule. After the first five years of the coalition government, drastic cuts to nurse training places led the NHS to look for one in four nurses abroad.

How have we allowed the bigots and xenophobes of our unhinged tabloid press and political elite to inflict so much damage? Rather than making our live-saving foreign doctors feel unwelcome, surely we should be focusing on how we can tax the booming wealthy individuals and big businesses so we can invest more in our NHS? It should be abundantly clear who the real saboteurs are. They have already inflicted incalculable damage to our social fabric, our public services, our economy, and our international standing. The question is: how do we prevent them from inflicting even more damage?

Owen Jones is a Guardian columnist

The real saboteurs are the Brexiters destroying the NHS | Owen Jones

Who are the real saboteurs? Is it those who want Brexit to be properly scrutinised by parliament to prevent a disastrous deal which could wreck the economy and shred social provision? Those were, after all, the saboteurs who needed crushing according to the Daily Mail when Theresa May called her calamitous snap election. Or are the real saboteurs those who – through bigotry, twisted ideological zealotry and outright stupidity – are damaging the fabric of the public services we all depend on?

Britain’s National Health Service is propped up by 12,000 doctors from the European Economic Area. Without them, our most treasured national institution – which brings us into the world, mends us when we are sick or injured, cares for us in our final moments – would collapse. So it should be of some concern to us, to put it mildly, that nearly half of them are considering leaving the country, and a fifth have already made actual plans to do so.

What a twisted irony. The leave campaigners made a calculated decision to win the EU referendum with a toxic mixture of lies and bigotry. One of the most striking falsehoods was an extra £350m a week for the NHS after we left: instead it’s being emptied out of desperately needed doctors.

And can you blame them for wanting to leave? We’ve now had years of vitriolic scapegoating of immigrants to deflect responsibility from the banks, the tax-dodgers, the unaccountable corporations, the poverty-paying employers, the rip-off landlords, the neoliberal politicians, and all the other vested interests who have unleashed misery and insecurity upon this country. The positive contribution of immigrants was all but banished from public discussion. The campaign reached a crescendo during the referendum, with immigrants variously portrayed as potential criminals, rapists, murderers and terrorists, validating every bigot in Britain and resulting in a surge in hate crimes on the streets. I wonder why European doctors don’t feel particularly welcome right now?

This is about the worst possible time to haemorrhage doctors. The NHS is enduring the longest squeeze in its funding as a proportion of GDP since its foundation; it’s being fragmented by marketisation and privatisation; it’s under growing pressure because of decimated social care budgets while citizens continue to live longer. Plunging morale – because of privatisation, staff shortages and cuts – is affecting all doctors, regardless of where they’re born: a recent study suggested two-thirds are considering leaving. The consequence? We’re having to look abroad for more doctors. This is a recurring irony of Conservative rule. After the first five years of the coalition government, drastic cuts to nurse training places led the NHS to look for one in four nurses abroad.

How have we allowed the bigots and xenophobes of our unhinged tabloid press and political elite to inflict so much damage? Rather than making our live-saving foreign doctors feel unwelcome, surely we should be focusing on how we can tax the booming wealthy individuals and big businesses so we can invest more in our NHS? It should be abundantly clear who the real saboteurs are. They have already inflicted incalculable damage to our social fabric, our public services, our economy, and our international standing. The question is: how do we prevent them from inflicting even more damage?

Owen Jones is a Guardian columnist

Ant McPartlin has no reason to apologise. His addiction is not his fault | Chris Owen

The weekend brought the news that Ant McPartlin, one half of Ant and Dec – PJ of PJ and Duncan fame – has checked into rehab for addiction problems with alcohol and drugs. He’s to spend a couple of months in recovery, where – hopefully – he’ll come out armed with the knowledge of how he became unwell in the first place, and how he can keep himself safe and sober in the long term.

He has got the initial major obstacle tackled, as he freely admitted: “The first step is to admit to yourself you need help.” However, what was most disheartening from the news stories that came out were the lines that followed: “I feel like I have let a lot of people down and for that I am truly sorry.”

As someone who has spent time in rehab for drink problems, I can tell you that it’s absolutely key to tackle this element of shame that is currently in his mind. Let me be clear: no more than someone suffering from cancer has he let anyone down. Not friends, family, colleagues, fans, or himself. He’s unwell, pure and simple, and he needs to go somewhere where he can get well – safely – and where he can learn the techniques he needs to remain safe and sober in the future.

When I first went into rehab, after nearly a decade of alcohol abuse, the first thing I was told in my first therapy session (of which McPartlin will have plenty), was: “You’re not a bad person trying to be good, you’re an ill person trying to get, and remain, well.” I can’t understate how important this was.

Addiction is often intertwined with mental health issues which stem heavily from self-esteem, so to be told you’re neither an idiot nor a terrible person, just an unwell one was an enormous weight to lift off my shoulders. It’s not anyone’s “fault” that addiction takes hold, but it’s way too often seen as self-inflicted, selfish, and wantonly self-destructive when this is far from the truth.

While I was still drinking I suffered from depression, anxiety and stress – all of which I tried to medicate through drinking every night until I fell asleep. Sadly, all this does is set you up for a day of panic, stress and anxiety the day after. Addiction is frequently cyclical, and we’ve seen from the developments with McPartlin that this seems to have happened here too – painkillers turned into dependency and drink started to play a part in numbing senses and pain. Such a process though isn’t his fault, and so he mustn’t think he’s let anyone down in developing an addiction.

Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly in I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here!


‘Ant McPartlin is one of the most recognisable smiling faces of Saturday schedules.’ The duo in I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here! Photograph: ITV UK

His very public announcement of his issues is highly commendable. There are regularly people who are prominent in the public eye going into rehab, but with McPartlin it seems different – he’s not an ageing rocker, nor a reality-TV show celebrity whose star is in the wane. He’s one of the most recognisable smiling faces of Saturday schedules – people my age grew up with him and Dec from their Byker Grove days, and the pair have become family favourites. As such, the awareness he’ll raise through going public can, you’d hope, only encourage others suffering to seek help. Knowing it’s not just you that is going through this is hugely important; knowing there are others who feel your pain and have the same trouble coping with life sometimes.

But he should not be apologising to anyone, nor saying he’s let them down. If we continue to treat addiction as something self-inflicted then other people still suffering might not ask for help – they’ll just keep hiding, with the shame that keeps them drinking, taking drugs, gambling, or whatever their vice might be, still firmly in control of them.

Relinquishing this control is not a simple, straightforward affair – as rehab will show McPartlin. I’ve been sober seven and a half years now, but I still have to be as careful as the first day I came out from rehab, I can’t let my guard slip. I also need to keep an eye on when the mental health problems and the shame might be creeping back – and then use the techniques I learned in rehab to stop them spiralling.

I still wonder, however, whether I’d have asked for help sooner if I knew it was OK to be unwell, and being an addict didn’t make me a bad person. Hopefully McPartlin can address similar demons too, but the public, media and those around him need to help remove the blame and shame mentality, and enable more people to seek help sooner.

Labour has shifted focus away from the NHS crisis. For what? | Owen Jones

The NHS is in crisis: a “humanitarian crisis”, in the words of the Red Cross. The service is Labour’s invention; at this moment, it should be the party’s focus. A pledge of £350m extra a week for the NHS was critical to the triumph of leave in the EU referendum. It was second in importance only to immigration. As Vote Leave campaign director Dominic Cummings put it: “Would we have won without £350m/NHS? All our research and the close result suggests no.”

I’m not going to join the Twitter outrage over the Labour leadership declaring last night that it was “not wedded” to the right of Europeans to freedom of movement. We on the left sometimes fail to appreciate the distance that exists on immigration between us and the wider population. Name your demographic group: 18- to 25-year-olds, black and minority ethnic Britons, Londoners, Scots – all decisively report a desire to reduce immigration.

Does that mean Labour just blindly tails public opinion? No: that’s not what leadership is. Labour can credibly argue that the economy comes first and membership of the single market is the party’s priority. But it needs, at the very least, a language that reaches a public that overwhelmingly wants less immigration: basically, it must not make most Britons feel as though the party is flashing a V-sign in their face.

But Labour has now shifted the focus away from the NHS crisis, and for what? It is difficult to match what was trailed yesterday and what Jeremy Corbyn has said in his round of interviews today. The leader’s message on radio and TV was not, let’s say, very clear. Many supported Corbyn because they felt he would bring clarity: no more wishy-washy, middle-of-the-road, vacillating leadership. Fists would be swinging, there would be unequivocal opposition to the Tories. Today the leadership has antagonised many of its natural supporters, who are furious about what they see as concessions on freedom of movement; but those who take a different view on immigration will have heard little from Corbyn today that resonates with them.

More puzzlingly, Corbyn floated a proposal for a maximum level of earnings. As tax justice crusader Richard Murphy puts it: “A practical policy on high pay is to deny a company corporation tax relief on payment of all salaries of more than 10 times UK median wage.” This is a workable proposal that Labour should certainly explore and – I would argue – adopt. But why today? First you distract from focusing on the NHS with immigration, then you distract from your immigration distraction. Labour needs a clear vision backed up with clear messaging, not randomly throwing proposals into the ether.

As I’ve written before, the risk with the NHS is it becomes Labour’s crutch, and clearly it needs a much wider vision. But the NHS is currently in crisis. The government is under pressure over it. Labour should be hammering away at this uncompromisingly, and parking everything else. The Labour leadership has been privately discussing a big red bus to Copeland in advance of the byelection, emblazoned with a Labour promise to implement the £350m per week NHS pledge. This is a good idea, but Labour’s Treasury team worries about costs. On this policy – at this time – surely a Corbyn leadership can afford to throw a bit of caution to the wind?

There are some ardent Corbyn supporters who believe leftwing writers should not be making these sorts of public criticisms. The rest of the media have it covered, after all. But the Tories should be on the defensive on everything from Brexit to the NHS. Instead, they are currently, shamelessly, getting away with it all. Labour should be honing a clear, straightforward message, and sticking to it. Time is against them. They only have so many opportunities, and they need to seize them.

Gay men are battling a demon more powerful than HIV – and it’s hidden| Owen Jones

It had been three years since I’d met up with my first boyfriend – let’s call him Steven. When he walked into a Brixton pub in June, it was a shock. I’d first met him well over a decade ago, and back then he was sporty, a bit of a health freak: other than the usual occasional student alcohol binge, relatively strait-laced. This Steven had dilated pupils, red marks on his arms, and his head jerked erratically as he spoke manically. He was addicted to crystal meth, and had an abusive relationship with other drugs and alcohol.

Steven’s story is all too revealing about a silent health crisis afflicting gay men. The words “health crisis” in conjunction with “gay men” normally conjures up the HIV catastrophe that decimated the gay and bisexual community in the 1980s. In the developed world, HIV is no longer the death sentence it once was, although the treatment can cause health complications, and in the UK an estimated 6,500 men who have sex with men live with undiagnosed infections. A far greater menace is mental distress – impossible to disentangle from a society riddled with homophobia – and the drug and alcohol abuse that can follow.

Steven has been clean for 66 days, has enthusiastically taken to treatment and volunteers at his local support group. But why – like so many gay men – did he succumb to addiction? When Steven came out, at the age of 15 years old, his parents drove him to a pseudo-clinic run by fundamentalist Christians to be cured of his homosexuality. But he doesn’t speak with bitterness. “I know they love me and they were doing the best they could,” he says. “They didn’t know what I needed, so they looked to their own experience, a culture that taught that if you were gay it was a disaster. You’d be lonely, you’d get Aids, you’d find life difficult. They felt they were trying to support me.”

The problem was far broader than his family, though. Coming out as a teenager in the early 00s meant almost inevitable bullying at school, a lack of awareness of where to find positive role models, and homophobic voices amplified by the media. “Taken together, it meant I was isolated and thought that I was the problem.” Internalising that shame at such a young age inflicts long-term damage – and explains much of his current turmoil.

It’s an issue covered by the former Attitude editor Matthew Todd in his utterly brilliant – and disturbing – recent book Straight Jacket. He identifies a number of problems that most gay men, if they were honest, would at least recognise: “Disproportionately high levels of depression, self-harm and suicide; not uncommon problems with emotional intimacy … and now a small but significant subculture of men who are using, some injecting, seriously dangerous drugs, which despite accusations of hysteria from the gatekeepers of the gay PR machine, are killing too many people.” He lists a disturbing number of gay friends, acquaintances and people in the public eye who struggled with addictions and took their own lives.

The statistics are indeed alarming. According to Stonewall research in 2014, 52% of young LGBT people report they have, at some point, self-harmed; a staggering 44% have considered suicide; and 42% have sought medical help for mental distress. Alcohol and drug abuse are often damaging forms of self-medication to deal with this underlying distress. A recent study by the LGBT Foundation found that drug use among LGB people is seven times higher than the general population, binge drinking is twice as common among gay and bisexual men, and substance dependency is significantly higher.

Why? As Todd puts it: “It is a shame with which we were saddled as children, to which we continue to be culturally subjected.” The problem gay people have isn’t their sexuality, but rather society’s attitude to it. It is “our experience of growing up in a society that still does not fully accept that people can be anything other than heterosexual and cisgendered [born into the physical gender you feel you are]”. There’s the weight of centuries of hatred and bigotry, with legally enforced discrimination only dismantled in very recent times. All gay and bisexual men – as well as women and trans people – grow up hearing homophobic and transphobic abuse. “Gay” is a word used in the playground as the repository for all that is bad. Popular films and TV programmes have largely lacked sympathetic, well-rounded LGBT characters, often resorting to crude homophobic tropes. Even the inability to hold hands with someone you love in almost any public space is a reminder that a depressingly large chunk of the population still rejects you. Coming out – a process that isn’t a one-off, but a wearingly repetitive event in different contexts – involves constant stress. And for those who think it’s all inevitably getting better, since the EU referendum, there’s been a 147% rise in homophobic hate crimes.

Society has damaged – and continues to damage – LGBT people. That’s not to overstate the case (and focusing on my experience as a gay man): being gay does not mean being in a state of misery. As Todd puts it, there are lots of contented, successful gay people, and progress in recent times has been astonishing, including equal marriage. Coming out is like coming up for air for the vast majority of LGBT people: the alternative is so much more miserable. But this is a health crisis that is not spoken about enough: the toxic combination of mental distress, drugs and alcohol abuse.

It is a crisis that is not being dealt with. Despite the government’s promises to grant mental and physical health parity of esteem, last year Mind reported an 8% real terms drop in mental health services funding since 2010. Cuts, according to health thinktank the King’s Fund, have contributed to “widespread evidence of poor-quality care”. Many LGBT services in particular have been devastated: as the TUC pointed out in 2014, they were “already coping on a shoestring. Some have faced drops in up to 50%.”

Because of our internalised shame, LGBT people often find it difficult to talk about the problems we collectively face. The danger is always of reinforcing the damaging stereotypes that have already caused so much distress. But we have to confront a crisis that is damaging health and taking people’s lives. Society has to take responsibility, too: it is its continued refusal to treat LGBT people as equals that is causing so much pain. If Theresa May’s government really does want to prove it isn’t just a pound-shop Ukip tribute band, perhaps it should take this issue seriously and review David Cameron’s cuts. The lives of LGBT people depend on it.

In the UK, the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14. Hotlines in other countries can be found here

We should be ashamed of what we’re doing to Britain’s children | Owen Jones

A society should be judged by how it treats its children. A country that fails to invest in its children is imperilling its future. And that’s why we should all be alarmed by the crisis of mental health among Britain’s girls and boys – and the chronic lack of support to overcome it.

Nearly a quarter of a million young people are receiving specialist health care for mental distress, ranging from depression to eating disorders. Disturbingly, it is a crisis that is getting worse: Childline reports a doubling in five years of the number of children contemplating suicide. But the services simply aren’t there to support them. A Guardian poll finds that seven out of 10 specialist nurses believe mental health services for children and adolescents are inadequate, and 43% believe the services are actually getting worse. Overwhelmingly, a lack of nurses and delays in appointments are identified as the main culprits. The price of this failure is our children’s wellbeing – and, more horrifyingly, even their lives.

It is easier to diagnose a crisis than to cure it, of course. Part of the problem is the expectations society places on our children: changing them is necessary, but will not be easy. Research by Girlguiding finds that just 61% of girls and young women aged between seven and 21 are happy with their bodies, a sharp decline from 73% in 2011. That over a third of girls aged between seven and 10 say that they are made to feel their looks were the most important thing, or that 38% felt they were not pretty enough, is chilling. For those aged between 11 and 21, an astonishing 80% felt looks were the most important thing about them. Here are the consequences of a sexist society that imposes impossible standards that even little girls are expected to abide by.

Gender expectations damage boys, too. A rigid and unreconstructed form of masculinity is enforced, sometimes brutally, in the playground. Boys deemed to be insufficiently manly face being abused as “girls” or “gays”. Speaking about mental distress is certainly not seen as “manly” – it is “weak” – and that there are more boys in contact with mental health services is striking.

Yes, we need investment in services. But there must be a remorseless focus on what drives children to mental distress in the first place. Overcrowded and poor housing. Poor diet. Lack of exercise. Family conflict. The stresses of poverty, from internalised shame to being conscious of not having the same opportunities as other children. Consumer capitalism, which judges and defines children by what trainers they wear. An educational culture obsessed with exams. If we want a society that promotes happiness and wellbeing among children, these are all problems that have to be addressed. How tragic, then, that life is being made harder for children by both government policy and ever harsher attitudes and expectations. The children will suffer for it, and so will our country’s future.

The evidence of an NHS weekend effect is shaky | Letter from Neena Modi, David Owen, Robert Winston, Stephen Hawking and others

We call on Theresa May to act in the public’s interest and take immediate action over freshly disputed evidence surrounding a “weekend effect”. Department of Health documents leaked to the Guardian and Channel 4 News revealed NHS policy concerns from Jeremy Hunt’s own civil servants. His repeated claim about thousands of patients dying unnecessarily because of poor weekend hospital care “has not been helpful” in justifying new seven-day services. The internal briefing document proposed other means to vindicate his policy, but repeats the assertion that “eight independent studies have set out the evidence for a ‘weekend effect’ – unacceptable variation in care across the week”.

The evidence for these claims is not supported by reliable research. Of the eight “studies” cited by Hunt, only four are independently peer-reviewed, yet peer-review is essential. Three use data from the same population and are not independent, with just two from the last decade. The remainder are not peer-reviewed medical literature, being opinion pieces, the lowest form of clinical evidence. Critically, when his claims began, at least 13 independent, peer-reviewed papers were available to the secretary of state that refute his definition of a weekend effect.

Hunt has cherrypicked research, causing a devastating breakdown of trust between government and the medical profession. In making these claims without faithfully representing the evidence, he has obstructed fact and misled parliament and the public.

We call on Theresa May to commission an independent inquiry into the process behind these policies. It is wrong to waste precious resources, or lives, because of bad evidence. Like NHS treatments, health policy should be evidence-based to demonstrate clinical and cost-effectiveness. Additionally, we call for a pause on any policies or contractual reform driven by this evidence until it can be examined objectively and with rigour.

Dr Taha Nasser
Dr Ben White
Dr Hugo Farne
Dr Antonio De Marvao
Dr Rachel Clarke
Dr Margaret McCartney
Dr Philippa Whitford MP
Dr Phil Hammond Vice-president, Patients’ Association
Professor Alistair Hall Epidemiologist
Professor Trisha Greenhalgh Evidence-based practice
Professor Neena Modi President RCPCH
David Owen House of Lords
Professor Robert Winston House of Lords
Professor Stephen Hawking

Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

NHS dentistry is in a state of serious decay | Owen Jones

Finally, some outrage about the national scandal that is dentistry. The health of our teeth matters, but dentistry has long been a neglected arm of the NHS. The British Dental Association has just revealed that 600,000 people have made futile appointments with GPs over dental problems in a year, at a cost to the NHS of £26m. It’s a statistic that has provoked mockery – one person tweeted: “I wonder if the 600,000 people a year who go to the GP for dental care ask electricians to fix their roofs as well?” But it is not the patients who should be shamed – it is the government.

As the BDA points out, nearly one in five patients have postponed treatment because of fear of what it might cost. The government has slashed funding for NHS dentistry by £170m since the Tories first entered No 10, and it is expecting patients to make up the shortfall. This year, dental charges were hiked by 5%, and they’re expected to increase by the same amount next year. On the current trajectory, in 16 years’ time most of the NHS dental budget will be funded by patients rather than by central government. But the whole point of the NHS is that it should be free at the point of use, and treatment should be provided according to need, rather than ability to pay.


One in seven children haven’t visited a dentist by their eighth birthday

Even children, who are entitled to free NHS dentistry, are being let down by a system that is unable to provide enough dentists to cope with demand. Earlier this year, more than 400 dentists signed a letter advising that dental health was collapsing to “third world” levels in parts of Britain. “The NHS dental system in England is unfit for purpose,” was their stark warning. So severe is this crisis that more than 62,000 people – mostly children – end up in hospital every year because of tooth decay; half of adults haven’t seen a dentist in a two-year period; and one in seven children haven’t visited a dentist by their eighth birthday.

When dental charges were first introduced in 1951, Nye Bevan – the architect of the NHS – resigned from the government in protest. Sixty-five years on, the service is marred by underinvestment, excessive charges and a lack of NHS dentists. We should aspire to properly publicly funded NHS dentistry, free of rip-off charges. Tragically, we’re headed in the opposite direction. The teeth of lower-income Britons – particularly children – will suffer as a consequence.

Medical professionals who back Owen Smith for the Labour party leadership | Letters

As healthcare professionals we welcome Owen Smith’s bid to lead the Labour party and his commitment to the NHS. The NHS is at a crossroads, and under continued Tory control its future as a world-class, universal healthcare provider, free at the point of use, is at risk.

Owen will invest £60bn more in the NHS than the Tories and is calling for an immediate halt to Tory privatisation and the reversal of their catastrophic reorganisation.

At a time when accident and emergency departments are closing, junior doctors are striking to protect their patients and waiting times are soaring, the need for a Labour government has never been so clear.

Despite savage Tory cuts to public services and the risk of a faltering economy post-Brexit, the Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership is languishing behind the Conservatives in poll after poll. Owen leads Jeremy among the electorate, with 62% of people thinking he would make a better prime minister compared with Jeremy’s 38% in a recent BMG poll. It is Owen who can form a Labour government and deliver the leadership that the NHS and the country desperately needs.

It doesn’t matter how many thousands of supporters Jeremy addresses at rallies; if he cannot win over the millions of people who once saw Labour as their natural home, then the fate of our public services will be left to the Tories.

A Labour government is an essential step in providing the NHS with the resources and leadership it needs so we can deliver the world-class care that the people of the UK deserve.

Nothing less will do. That’s why we are backing Owen Smith.
Dr Sarah Clark CT2 Medicine, London & Holborn and St Pancras CLP women’s officer
Dr Martin Edobor National chair, Young Fabians
Prof Liz Lightstone Professor of Renal Medicine, London
Dr Daniel McGuinness ST5 Nephrology, London
Mr Keith Seymour Consultant surgeon, Northumberland
Dr Reena Aggarwal ST6 Obstetrics & Gynaecology, London
Dr Ratesh Bajaj ST4 Cardiology, London
Dr David Jones Consultant intensivist and anaesthetist, Merthyr Tydfil
Dr Thomas Oates NIHR clinical lecturer, London
Dr Zoe Kantor Neonatology SHO, London
Lindsay Gordon Community nurse, Reading
Dr Lucy Bradbeer GP ST1, London
Ruth Hodson Theatre scrub nurse, north Wales
Karen Cousins Retired specialist nurse practitioner, Northumberland
Dr Brian Morrissey ST1 Radiology, Aberdeen
Dr Nicola West CT2 Medicine, London
Stephen Naulls Medical student, London & Cleethorpes CLP Youth Officer
Dr Chloe Fairbairns FRCA, anaesthetic registrar, Leeds
Dr Alexander Scott Consultant in anaesthetics and intensive care, West Yorkshire
Jenny Davies Specialist podiatrist, Cardiff
David Davies Occupational therapist, Merthyr Tydfil
Julie Wintrup Occupational therapist, Newbury
Dr Sarah Dickson ST1 ACCS, London
Dr Thomas Halstead GP ST1, West Cambridgeshire
Andy Hill Nurse assessor, Birmingham
Dr John Mullany ST3 Clinical Radiology, Liverpool
Dr Neeraj Singh ST7 Anaesthesia and Intensive Care, Eastbourne
Ivana Bartoletti NHS information professional, London
Maria Coleman Renal Nurse, Cardiff
Dr Thomas Fox ST6 Psychiatry, Bromley
Sam Charlton Student nurse, Preston
Dr Lynn Miller Consultant cardiologist, Fife
Dr Lucy Carter Clinical research fellow, Oxford
Nikki Williams Registered nurse, Cottingham
Bryan Neale Retired registered nurse
Alexandros Onoufriadis Research fellow, London
Vasanthi Prathapan Clinical trials manager and research nurse, London
Sharon Jones NIHR BioResource co-ordinator, London
Dr Marc Osterdahl CT2 Medicine, London
Dr Jeff Unsworth ST6 Acute Medicine, Liverpool
Julie Goldie Senior nurse, London
Anna Lynch Quality improvement nurse, London
Dr Michael Northend Haematology registrar, London
Dr Sophie Edwards Care of the elderly consultant, London
Dr Jane Roberts Consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist, London
Felicia Olney Psychotherapist, London
Dr Sebastian Kraemer Consultant psychiatrist, London
Dr Prathap Pillai Respiratory Medicine, London
Rhanya Chaâbane Clinical trials practitioner, London
Terry Baker Carer, UK
Bridget Langstaff Deputy regional manager, National Treatment Agency, PHE
Dr Justin Shute Psychiatry consultant, London
Paola Di Meglio Senior investigator scientist, Francis Crick Institute, London
Debbie Boyes Former registered nurse, Bridport
Dr Ben Caplin Senior clinical lecturer and honorary consultant, London
Lewis Atkinson Surgery services manager, Tyne & Wear
Monika Temple Retired nurse and DOH civil servant, London
Dr Iain McCullagh Consultant anaesthetist and intensivist, Newcastle
Joanne Barber Newly qualified nurse, Wigan, Wrightington & Leigh
Dr Rachel Stanbrook CT2 Medicine, Leicester
Curtis McLellan Student occupational therapist, Coventry
Gillian Black Retired nurse and former director of community nursing services, Lambeth
Dr David Owen Consultant physician, London
Dr Mike Mclaughlin A&E registrar, London
Dr Andrew Stein Consultant in renal medicine, Coventry & Rugby
Dr Harriet Nerva Core medical trainee, Croydon
Joseph Wright Senior IT manager, London Ambulance Service
Dr Sean Morris GP trainee, London
Laura Drake Health visitor, Bristol
Dr Tim Fallon Consultant ophthalmologist, London
Candida Coghlan Research nurse, International Centre for Circulatory Health, London
Dr Peter Dilworth Retired GP, Liverpool
Dr Harry Costello CT1 Psychiatry, London
Dr Sophie Nocton GP trainee, London
Dr Jane Young Consultant radiologist, London

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