End The HIV ‘Crisis’ in Lewisham

End the HIV Crisis in Lewisham this World AIDS Day’s theme is end inequalities, end pandemics and end the corrosive stigma

This World AIDS Day theme is ‘End Inequalities. End AIDS. End Pandemics.’ Many who have supported their friends, lovers, family members and colleagues living with HIV have experienced and challenged the corrosive stigma that still exists against people living with HIV. This year marks 40 years since the first cases of AIDS were reported. Since that time, where investments have met ambition, there has been huge progress, particularly in expanding access to treatment. By June 2021, 28.2 million people had access to HIV treatment, up from 7.8 million in 2010, although progress has slowed considerably according to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). 

World AIDS Day message from the United Nations on colliding pandemics

“The red light is flashing. Progress against AIDS, which was already off track, is now under even greater strain as the COVID-19 crisis continues to rage, disrupting HIV prevention and treatment services, schooling, violence-prevention programmes and more. And make no mistake: AIDS remains a pandemic. To stop it we urgently need a bolder view of pandemic response that is capable of tackling the inequalities prolonging the AIDS pandemic. Many of these missing pieces to fight HIV are also allowing the COVID-19 pandemic to continue and leaving us dangerously unprepared for pandemics of the future,” says Winnie Byanyima, UNAIDS Executive Director.

In the UK the National AIDS Trust has said that we are at a crucial point in the fight against HIV.

It is now scientifically possible to end new cases of HIV by 2030. In January 2019, the UK government promised that it would meet this goal. The HIV Commission’s report has now provided a route map. After months of delay, the government is starting to draft its HIV action plan. NAT says: “We cannot afford to delay this any more.”

“Any HIV Action Plan is worthy of its name must genuinely start the process of ending new cases of HIV and support people to live well with HIV and AIDS.”

The Elton John AIDS Foundation has a project which operates across Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham. This focuses on increasing HIV testing, and re-engaging with people who have stopped HIV treatment. It has helped provide additional HIV testing in University Hospital Lewisham A&E department, primary care settings, and in community organisations, as well as recall of those who are no longer in treatment. Some 115 Lewisham residents living with HIV have received treatment and care since the project started in November 2018.

I has campaigned with the NAT and local HIV organisations like Metro for many years. Earlier this year, I wrote to Matt Hancock who was then, Secretary of State for Health, about the need for action.

Letter-to-Matt-Hancock-HIV-AIDS-2021-AH-headed

During the 1990s Lewisham did not have a specialist hospital based sexual health clinic. Following a successful campaign led by the voluntary sector, the local Community Health Council and LGBTQi+ groups a new clinic was opened at University Hospital Lewisham. The Alexis Clinic is much in demand as Lewisham’s centre for treating outpatients and inpatients with HIV in a confidential, comprehensive and patient-centred manner.


The Alexis Clinic provides a wide range of services for adults aged 16 and there are 850 registered patients. More than 50 per cent of them are heterosexual and most are of African origin. Many live on the poverty line and struggle with mental health problems. The Alexis Clinic say that the biggest challenge facing its clinical team is the issue of stigma.

Rates of HIV in Lewisham are amongst the highest in the country – figures from PHE accessed 290721

The rates of HIV infection in Lewisham need to be seen in the context that the UK maintains the largest HIV epidemic in western Europe. Lewisham as a London borough has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the country, with 1,693 diagnosed.

Recently published research in Ireland around stigma and HIV, in the well respected National AIDS Manual, concluded that despite improved access to HIV treatment and prevention, the Irish HIV epidemic remains a significant public health concern, with annual increases in the number of infections. In 2019 the number of new diagnoses of 11 per 100,000 was much higher than the European average of 6.2. The rise in HIV infections coincided with significant health funding cuts since 2008. People living with HIV continue to feel stigmatised and this impacts upon health in varied ways, such as not seeking out healthcare services.

Perhaps, there needs to be some research into how the public discourse around HIV and the media coverage of it is having an impact on HIV treatment, care and prevention in the UK?

HIV and AIDS non governmental organisations promote the positive advances in medicine – and these are real and beneficial. However, there is still a question of whether we are reaching those who need support. As the researchers in Ireland put it: “Whose ‘health’ counts in a politics ‘that produce conditions of systematic negligence’, which disproportionately affect individuals with less access to power?”

To redress the balance, then access to advocacy and support service for individuals with HIV – and other conditions – needs to be prioritised.

This is one of the many reasons that Lewisham needs an independent disability advocacy service. Since the Lewisham Association of People with Disabilities closed its doors in Bellingham in December 2018 there is no organisation to advocate and represent those with disabilities in Lewisham and the small budget of around £50,000 remains unspent. Politics is about priorities and this must be one of them – without delay.

In advance of World AIDS Day on the 1st December 2021, I tabled a formal question at Lewisham Council. The latest statistics available and the text of the reply

Cllr Alan Hall’s formal Question tabled at Lewisham Council meeting 24th November 2021

Taking up the need to address the “Crisis in HIV and AIDS in the UK, London and Lewisham” and pointing out that Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham all have high rates of HIV and AIDS, in fact among the highest in Europe, I urged Lewisham Council to do more work and to address the issue of racism that I raised on the floor of the Council Chamber last year 2020.

Cllr Chris Best, cabinet member for Adult Services said: “I am not proud of the statistics at all” and she agreed there was more that needed to be done.

The full exchange between can be viewed here

Cllr Alan Hall moves a motion about HIV and AIDS services – Lewisham Council November 2017

A report on transforming sexual and reproductive health for BAME communities in Lambeth Southwark and Lewisham published on 3rd November 2020 says:

“Mainstream services must look at the way racial and HIV discrimination intersects when caring for BAME service users, so they can provide efficient care for individuals who may be coping with social isolation, stigma from the community as well as racial discrimination: something that is not necessarily relevant to the rest of the HIV positive community.”

I have joined campaigners calling for more government action to end new cases of HIV in the UK by 2030. I say:

“There is a failure to act to end HIV. To end the prejudice, to end the stigma. In the Budget – earlier this year – the failure to allocate resources means that action is needed more urgently, if we are to put the country on course to end transmissions by the end of the decade. History will look kindly on those who show real leadership and financial commitment now. We need to fund the fight and take the decision to end new cases of HIV by 2030. We need real action now to end the colliding pandemics.”

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS said: “Ending inequalities to end AIDS is a political choice that requires bold policy reforms and requires money. We have reached a fork in the road. The choice for leaders to make is between bold action and half-measures.”

UN urges action to end HIV

Cllr Alan Hall was a trustee of the London Lighthouse, the pioneering HIV and AIDS hospice and centre in London.

Campaigners Say ‘Fund the Fight’ To End HIV

Cllr Alan Hall has joined campaigners calling for government action to end new cases of HIV in the UK by 2030. Lewisham has one of the highest rates of HIV infection in the country.

HIV charities and organisations formed a HIV Commission in 2020 and published a report on the 1st December 2020 which is World AIDS Day. The report found that HIV testing is crucial to ending new HIV transmissions in England by 2030.

“By increasing testing, we can stop HIV in its tracks and make sure more people can access life-saving HIV treatment. Yet, despite testing being cost effective and taking just minutes to do, access remains inconsistent.” – HIV Commissioners

In 2019, there were nearly 550,000 missed opportunities to test for HIV in specialist sexual health services, with over 252,000 incidents of an HIV test not even being offered.

“Every missed opportunity to test someone for HIV is a failure to them, and to the goal of ending new transmissions. Stigma is often a key factor in declining an HIV test, this is well documented, particularly for Black African communities,” the report’s authors said.

Russell T Davies, Olly Alexander and Callum Scott Howells from hit Channel 4 drama It’s A Sin have joined forces with long-time campaigner Sir Elton John have made a new film demanding that the UK Government ‘fund the fight’ to ensure its goal of ending new HIV cases by 2030 is achieved.

Russell T Davies, creator of It’s A Sin, said: ‘The show has had a bigger impact than we ever dared hope. My initial motivation was to tell stories of love and loss that had gone untold for far too long. But it’s clear how much has still to be done in 2021.

‘The response to what we created has been overwhelming, but too many people’s views and knowledge of HIV are still firmly rooted in the 1980s. If we can play even a tiny part in helping to change that while supporting the work of charities and activists to end new HIV cases in this country by 2030, then what a wonderful legacy that would be.’

Florence Obadeyi, who is living with HIV, said: ‘Getting tested for HIV while pregnant was one of the best things that ever happened to me. It meant my child was born without HIV because of interventions they can make prior to birth and means I was able to access the medication and support I needed to keep me well.

‘If I hadn’t decided to have a baby and been testing during standard prenatal checks, I don’t know how long it would have been before I received my diagnosis. That’s exactly why we need to see HIV testing happening across healthcare.’

Campaigners say that the funding should be included in the Comprehensive Spending Review on Wednesday 27 October where public spending will be allocated for the next three years.

Local Councils fund HIV work through their public health departments. The local NHS deliver much of this work.

Dear Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid,

Fund the fight to end new cases of HIV by 2030

Lewisham has one of the highest rates of HIV and AIDS in Europe.

Every week 80 lives in the UK are changed forever because they are diagnosed with HIV. 

It has now been 40 years since the first cases of HIV were reported and, despite huge medical advances which mean HIV is thankfully no longer a death sentence, preventable cases of HIV are still happening. 

It doesn’t have to be this way. The government has the power to change this in the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review – you can help to end the HIV epidemic in the UK. It has been nearly 1,000 days since Department for Health and Social Care Ministers committed to doing this by 2030. The clock is now ticking.

Millions of people in the UK watched Channel 4’s drama It’s A Sin, seeing the agonising destruction HIV/AIDS caused so many lives in the early days of the epidemic. This show galvanised thousands of people to test for HIV – many for the first time.

Now the government needs to play its part. That’s why I’m writing to you both to ask that you seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity to change countless lives.

Across the UK, there are at least 6,600 people who are living with HIV but are not diagnosed. There are still over half a million people who leave a sexual health clinic but don’t test for HIV. And there are still people who are being diagnosed so late that their health is irreversibly impacted. 

At the Dispatch Box on World AIDS Day 2020, the Chancellor underlined the government’s commitment to ending the domestic HIV epidemic within the decade:

‘As we remember those we have lost to HIV and AIDS, we also remind ourselves of the need for further action. I am proud that this Conservative Government’s policy is to end new HIV transmission by 2030—a commitment reaffirmed today at the launch of the HIV Commission.’

Now I ask you both to turn these words into action.

We need the government to fully fund its new HIV Action Plan as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review. The government promised to ‘build back better’ after the COVID-19 pandemic; now is the time to do this in the fight to end HIV. 

Here’s what must happen: 

  1. Expand HIV testing. Everyone needs to know their HIV status be able to get HIV treatment if needed. Free at-home testing all year round and tests in hospitals and GPs in areas of high rates of HIV in England.
  2. Greater support for people living with HIV. Regardless of where someone lives in the country, they should have access to life-saving treatment, mental health, and support services, so they can enjoy healthier lives.
  3. Increased funding for HIV prevention. More people need to be aware of and have access to the HIV prevention drug PrEP. 
  4. New national HIV prevention programmes and campaigns. These must inform and educate people about the realities of HIV in 2021, stopping HIV stigma including Undetectable=Untransmittable messaging.

Action now will have huge impact and put the country on course to end transmissions by the end of the decade. History will look kindly on the leadership and financial commitment that was made to fight to end new cases in this way.

I urge the government not to miss this opportunity. Fund the fight and take the decisions required to end new cases of HIV by 2030. We need action now.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Alan Hall

London Borough of Lewisham

 

Fund the HIV Action Plan

Serious Cock Up By Health Secretary

Lewisham residents will know that the Secretary of State for Health can act unlawfully. We remember the Lewisham Hospital closure attempt when Jeremy Hunt’s hospital cuts were ruled illegal. Now we have a serious, costly cock up by the current incumbent.

The Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock acted unlawfully said Mr Justice Chamberlain in the High Court in a case concerning competition and contract procurement rules. The contracts included personal protective equipment, PPE, needed for the Covid 19 pandemic response. Reports estimate that the value of these contracts run into “hundreds of millions of pounds.” The court judgement mentions contracts in the billions.

The legal challenge was brought by the Good Law Project described as a not for profit organisation specialising in governance. The ruling says that the Government acted unlawfully by failing to comply with their Transparency Policy and that “there is now no dispute that, in a substantial number of cases, the Secretary of State breached his legal obligation to publish Contract Award Notices within 30 days of the award of contracts.” In response to the Judgement, Jolyon Maugham QC, Director, Good Law Project said:

“We shouldn’t be forced to rely on litigation to keep those in power honest, but in this case it’s clear that our challenge pushed Government to comply with its legal obligations. Judge Chamberlain stated that the admission of breach by Government was “secured as a result of this litigation and at a late stage of it” and “I have no doubt that this claim has speeded up compliance”. It begs the question, if we hadn’t brought this legal challenge, what other contract details would have remained hidden from view?”

The Government had argued that this was about “technical” breaches of the legal regulations on public contracts that allow agreements to be entered into without tender for reasons of extreme urgency brought about by unforeseen events. But regulation 50 of the public contracts regulations specifies that a contract award notice (CAN) must be published not later than 30 days after the contract award.

Ignorance by officials of the Transparency Policy, was no defence when the Judge ruled that “The Secretary of State acted unlawfully by failing to comply with the Transparency Policy” and that “there is now no dispute that, in a substantial number of cases, the Secretary of State breached his legal obligation to publish Contract Award Notices within 30 days of the award of contracts.”

According to the BMJ, this is important because publication is designed to “serve a vital public function and that function was no less important during a pandemic,” Mr Justice Chamberlain said. “The secretary of state spent vast quantities of public money on pandemic related procurement during 2020. The public were entitled to see who this money was going to, what it was being spent on, and how the relevant contracts were awarded.”

Compliance with the regulations would have allowed the Good Law Project “to scrutinise CANs and contract provisions, ask questions about them and raise any issues with oversight bodies such as the National Audit Office or via MPs in Parliament.”

The National Audit Office had said: “While we recognise that these were exceptional circumstances, there are standards that the public sector will always need to apply if it is to maintain public trust.”

Jolyon Maugham QC, Director, Good Law Projected concluded by saying: “This is a victory for all of us concerned with proper governance and proof of the power of litigation to hold Government to account. But there is still a long way to go before the Government’s house is in order. We have now written to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care detailing what needs to be done to improve procurement processes and ensure value for British taxpayers.

In the House of Commons on 24th February, the Shadow Health Minister, Justin Madders, MP said:

“Why has the Secretary of State not come to Parliament to explain himself? Is breaking the law such a common occurrence in Government nowadays that it does not warrant an explanation from those responsible? The Government’s approach to procurement during the pandemic has been marred by a toxic mix of misspending and cronyism. We all understand that the Department was and is dealing with many pressing issues, but transparency is important, and accountability matters. Of course, we need to remember why there was such a rush to get PPE in the first place—it was because the Government had ignored the warnings and allowed stockpiles to run down. The pandemic has been used too often as an excuse for standards to slip, but it really should not need saying that transparency goes hand in hand with good government.”

The Good Law Project needs public support to continue this work. You can donate here

‘Moral Duty To Protect The NHS’

Cllr Alan Hall has written directly to the Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board, Liz Truss calling for the Government to protect the NHS in any trade deal and prohibit secret trade deals. This is after the House of Lords amended the Trade Bill with a new clause dubbed the ‘NHS Protection Amendment’.

Without the heroic sacrifices of those that work in our health service, we would have been so much worse off in this pandemic. The NHS protection amendment is a good way to say thank you to our NHS and its staff.” – Cllr Alan Hall

The letter explains that the NHS protection amendment would prohibit the sale of NHS patient data to private companies, protect the terms and conditions of employment of NHS workers, prevent US pharma companies hiking the prices of drugs sold to our NHS, and guarantee that decisions that affect our NHS are made by the relevant UK authority, not by a foreign court.

Campaigners hailed the passing of the amendment a “significant defeat” for the government and a “massive victory for people power” according to the Morning Star. Lobby group We Own It delivered a petition with more than 300,000 signatures to the Lords on the morning of the vote.

Jan Savage a member of Keep Our NHS Public’s subcommittee on free trade agreements said: “It was clear from the debate on the Trade Bill that Lords were impressively well-informed, partly because of the efforts of organisations like Trade Justice Movement, Global Justice Now, We Own It and, not least, Keep Our NHS Public members.”

However, she also warned: “The Trade Bill will return to the Commons shortly, where – infuriatingly – it is likely that the amendments will be thrown out. However, it’s clear that there is now significant support for Parliament to have a more decisive role in approving trade deals and protecting the NHS.”

We Own It are asking people to write to their MPs now.

The Conservative MPs in the House of Commons have voted down the new clause when the measure was before them in July 2020. The campaign succeeded in the House of Lords, will MPs back this now? This is a crucial vote.

Full text of the letter:

Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade and Minister for Women and Equalities
The Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP

Dear Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP,

On Tuesday 19 January, the House of Commons will vote on amendments added to the Trade Bill by the House of Lords. I am writing to ask you and the Government to vote for the NHS Protection amendment.

I was appalled to hear that Conservative MPs voted against the NHS protection amendment – New Clause 17 – in July last year because the government promised to keep the NHS off the table in trade deals. If our NHS is truly off the table, MPs should have no difficulty putting NHS protection into the law. Surely, there is a moral duty to protect the NHS?

Moral duty to protect the NHS

The NHS protection amendment would prohibit the sale of NHS patient data to private companies, protect the terms and conditions of employment of NHS workers, prevent US pharma companies hiking the prices of drugs sold to our NHS, and guarantee that decisions that affect our NHS are made by the relevant UK authority, not by a foreign court.

Without the heroic sacrifices of those that work in our health service, we would have been so much worse off in this pandemic. The NHS protection amendment is a good way to say thank you to our NHS and its staff.

I would also like you to vote for the scrutiny amendment to the Trade Bill to stop trade deals being signed in secret. Our MPs should be able to scrutinise trade deals to ensure that our NHS is not being chopped up and sold off in secret.

Please vote for the NHS protection amendment and the scrutiny amendment to the Trade Bill after all, scrutiny helps make better decisions.

Cllr Alan Hall

Serious Concerns about Plans to Reorganise the Public Health System

Cllr Alan Hall has joined public health professionals, campaigners and charities in signing a joint statement to the Government on Public Health Reorganisation.

The statement is endorsed by a wide range of leading health organisations, including the Association of Directors of Public Health, the Faculty of Public Health, the Royal Society for Public Health, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, the BMA, the SPECTRUM public health research collaboration, the Smokefree Action Coalition and the Richmond Group of health and care charities. The statement warns that:

“Reorganisation risks fragmentation across different risk factors and between health protection and health improvement. Organisational change is difficult and can be damaging at the best of times and these are not the best of times. A seamless transition from the current to the new system is essential.”

Professor Maggie Rae, President of the Faculty of Public Health said:

“Reorganisation of Public Health England (PHE) brings with it a real risk that some of the critical functions of PHE will be ignored. The pandemic has shone the light on the health inequalities that exist in the country and it is clear that those with the poorest health have been hit hardest. Scaling up, not down, the health improvement functions of PHE is a prerequisite if the Government is to deliver on its commitments to ‘level up’ society; increase disability-free life years significantly, while reducing inequalities; to improve mental health; increase physical activity; reduce obesity and alcohol harm; and to end smoking. Ensuring there is adequate funding, a robust infrastructure and sufficient public health expertise to deliver at national, regional and local level, is fundamental.”

A letter has been published in the British Medical Journal, the full text is here:

Dear Editor

Over 70 organisations and alliances committed to improving health and reducing inequalities have endorsed a joint statement which we have sent to the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Health and the interim leadership of Public Health England (PHE). This sets out the principles we all agree must underpin the reorganisation of the health improvement and wider functions of PHE.
We are deeply concerned that the Government’s plans for the reorganisation of health protection in the UK currently pay insufficient attention to the vital health improvement and other wider functions of Public Health England (PHE).

Chronic non-communicable diseases are still, and will remain, responsible for the overwhelming burden of preventable death and disease in this country. The communities hit hardest by COVID-19 are those suffering most from inequalities in health and wellbeing. It is a false choice to neglect vital health improvement measures, such as those that target smoking, obesity, alcohol and mental health, in order to fight COVID-19.

Reorganisation is difficult at the best of times and these are not the best of times. Avoiding fragmentation and ensuring seamless transition from the current to any new system is essential.
At this time of global pandemic and recession, health improvement is not a ‘nice to have’ but an essential component of a successful response to the challenges we face.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Nicholas S Hopkinson
Respiratory Specialist, Imperial College London, Chair of Action on Smoking and Health, on behalf of the Smokefree Action Coalition
Imperial College, London SW7

Professor Maggie Rae
President of the Faculty of Public Health

Professor Linda Bauld
Chair of Public Health at the University of Edinburgh and Director of public health research consortium SPECTRUM

Nicola Close
Chief Executive, the Association of Directors of Public Health, on behalf of the Public Health Network

Neil Tester
Director, The Richmond Group of Health and Care Charities

Sir Ian Gilmore
Director, Liverpool Centre for Alcohol Research, and Chairman, Alcohol Health Alliance UK

Caroline Cerny
Obesity Health Alliance Lead

Dr Peter English
BMA public health medicine committee chair

and others to view the full statement see here

Cllr Alan Hall has campaigned for better public health and an end to cuts to public health budgets for many years see press comments here and here

Lewisham Public Health Publish Covid-19 Plan

Lewisham Council has published a COVID-19 Outbreak Prevention and Control Plan setting out how the Council will work with partners, including Public Health England, to prevent, identify and manage any COVID-19 outbreaks in Lewisham and ensure that residents and communities are protected.

Local authorities have been responsible for improving the health of their local population and for public health services including most sexual health services and services aimed at reducing drug and alcohol misuse since the Government transferred responsibility from the NHS in April 2013

As the public health service was transferred, Chancellor George Osbourne, with a sleight of hand cut £200 million in year from the public health budgets of local councils in June 2015. The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges said: “This cut will have a direct impact on people and communities who rely on this funding, and it will have a direct impact on the NHS which will have to pick up the pieces by treating preventable ill health. The Faculty of Public Health’s own analysis suggests the eventual ‘knock-on’ cost to the NHS could well be in excess of £1bn. By any measure then, the planned move is a false economy.”

At the time in Lewisham, Councillor Alan Hall wrote in response to the Government: “Plans to reduce public health allocations in year directly contradicts the statement in the NHS plan: ‘the future health of millions of children, the sustainability of the NHS, and the economic prosperity of Britain all now depend on a radical upgrade in prevention and public health.’

He added: “Imposing public health savings of this order within year will undermine our effectiveness and reduce our capacity to work with our NHS partners in prevention and public health and so will damage the long-term partnership needed to achieve public health goals.”

On top of this, many of the services delivered through the public health spend via Local Authorities fund clinical NHS care. Cutting this funding reduces NHS revenues so it is misleading to suggest that the NHS budget is being protected.

The tories continued to cut public health budgets but this March, in the midsts of the Covid-19 pandemic they belatedly announced an increase of £145 million on the public health grant 2019/20.

The Faculty of Public Health said: “Though an increase, further funding will be needed to reverse years of cuts to public health services and FPH has long called for a £1 billion increase for the public health budget. This will allow our members to restore public health services and protect and improve the health of the public, both during and beyond the current COVID-19 crisis.”

Lewisham Council’s public health service continues to provide a vital service. Their plans have defined “an outbreak” as is two or more suspected and/or confirmed cases associated with the same setting and with onset during a 14-day period.

A London-wide definition of a community cluster of COVID-19 is in the process of being
agreed. The following working definition has been adopted locally in Lewisham, in the interim:
“A community cluster is identified when 3 or more household member(s), living in the same
Middle Layer Super Output Area receive a positive test result for COVID-19 within a 7 day period and those people are not already known to be linked to a complex setting that is already the subject of an outbreak management plan (e.g. a care home, school, workplace etc).”

An outbreak in a complex setting can be regarded as taking place in a setting that has a number of complicating factors including:

  • vulnerable staff/residents/communities affected
  • the potential to result in a large number of cases/contacts
  • likelihood of requiring prolonged support for ongoing outbreak management.
    A number of action cards including standard operating procedures have been developed for
    outbreak management in complex settings for London.

Lewisham Public Health team will be part of the NHS Test and Trace service. This will provide a vital infrastructure to support this existing outbreak prevention work by scaling up the capacity to test, trace and isolate cases and contacts of COVID-19. The service was launched on 28th May 2020, to provide a comprehensive national contact tracing service for COVID-19 in England involving national, regional and local partners.

The team have launched a 7 day COVID-19 case rate for Lewisham in comparison to London and England.

7 day COVID-19 case rate (per 100,000) 
Reported from 8-14 August

LewishamLondonEngland
5.39.112.2
The numbers showing today – 21st August 2020

Full details are here

Thanks And Thoughts On NHS Birthday – Pay Careworkers the Living Wage

Campaigners and Lewisham residents offer thoughts and thanks to the NHS.

The Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign has launched a new video on the 72nd Birthday for the NHS on Sunday, 5th July 2020. The Campaign say: “In the middle of a global pandemic, with 65,000 deaths in the UK, some thanks and thoughts on the NHS 72nd birthday.” The Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Choir provide the atmospheric backing track ‘And so it goes’ from their album Something Inside So Strong.

On this day, The Observer reports that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rushi Sunak refuses a £10 billion cash injection as Ministers have been warned that a second surge of Covid 19 infections let alone the now usual ‘winter pressures’ will leave the NHS “crippled” and “perilously unprepared”.

The Government promised that the NHS would receive “whatever it needs” and NHS bosses claim that this pledge is to be broken now.

Further claims that the Government’s chronic underfunding of the NHS will inevitably lead on to the fragmentation and privatisation of the NHS have been made.

Interestingly, in the video a resident reflects by saying:

“Stop using Covid as a cover to push through a restructuring of the NHS without public consultation.”

Periodically, when cash has been tight in the NHS proposals surface to downgrade Lewisham Hospital’s A&E Department.

Brian Fisher, a retired Lewisham GP, in the video says: “We continue to defend you [NHS] and fight for publicly funded social care.”

In that spirit, Cllr Alan Hall has written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak supporting Citizen’s UK asking for social care workers to be paid the London Living Wage locally.

Time to pay care workers a London Living Wage

Citizen’s UK say: “Careworkers have been on the frontline of the UK’s fight against COVID-19, but a Real Living Wage would put them at the heart of our economic recovery too. Increasing pay to £9.30 an hour (£10.75 in London) would enable a million low-paid workers to start spending in local businesses and communities up and down the country.”

The text of the letter is below.

Dear Chancellor Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP,

On the 72nd NHS Birthday, I am writing to you as a constituent to ask for your support for Citizens UK’s Living Wage for Careworkers Charter, which aims to ensure careworkers are paid the real Living Wage of £9.30 an hour (£10.75 in London).

Those in the social care sector are at the frontline of the fight against Covid-19 and I know in our community so many care recipients and their families value their vital work.

We have all been ‘clapping for carers’ on Thursday evenings in recognition of the danger they face, and yet they are often paid the minimum wage (also known as the National Living Wage) of £8.72 an hour.

Citizens UK is calling for the UK government to invest the £1.4 billion that the Resolution Foundation estimates it would cost for every care sector worker, who delivers publicly–funded care, to be paid the real Living Wage of £9.30 per hour. This would allow careworkers to live with greater dignity and to escape from poverty pay.

We know that the public, commissioners of social care such as local authorities, employers of care workers, and recipients of care would all like care workers to be paid the real Living Wage, but to do that we need additional investment from the UK Government.

I really hope we can also count on your support for our campaign. Please let me know whether or not we can add your name to Citizens UK’s Living Wage for Careworkers Charter, which you can find below.


Citizens UK’s Living Wage for Careworkers Charter:

We all rely on the one million careworkers on the frontline of the UK’s fight against the pandemic. Careworkers have worked tirelessly throughout Covid-19 to look after the most vulnerable in our society – and have found themselves at risk, often without adequate PPE, and without the esteem afforded to NHS workers.

Over half of frontline careworkers earn below the voluntary Living Wage of £9.30 an hour (£10.75 in London) and are struggling to keep their heads above water.

As careworkers, care recipients, care commissioners, council leaders, politicians and community leaders, we all agree that no careworker deserves poverty pay. We have applauded careworkers on Thursday evenings – now is the time to match our applause with a guarantee that they will earn enough to live a decent life.

We call on the UK Government to provide the £1.4 billion in additional funding so that every care sector worker that delivers publicly funded care can be paid at least the voluntary Living Wage of £9.30 an hour (£10.75 in London).

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Alan Hall

End The Hostile Environment Now

The Human Rights charity Liberty has branded the new Immigration Bill part of the “hostile environment“.

Liberty’s Gracie Bradley said: “It’s impossible to have a hostile environment which doesn’t result in human rights abuses – and expanding it is nothing to be proud of. The Government could use this Bill as an opportunity for redemption, to learn the lessons of the pandemic, and to ensure there’s no repeat of Windrush. But it will only achieve that by ending the hostile environment and redesigning the immigration system so that humanity, dignity and respect sits at its core.”

The Government has set out proposals for a 6-month grace period for EU nationals which extends the programme for settled status until June 2021. During this period, EU nationals who have not been granted settled status will be subject to the current “hostile environment” provisions which exist for non-EU nationals.

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants say that the responsibility for immigration enforcement falls on businesses, public services and ordinary citizens and its structure encourages the targeting of ethnic minorities and those who look or sound ‘foreign’. Those without documentation are denied access to housing, healthcare, employment benefits and bank accounts. Given that most people in the UK without documents have a legal right to be here, it inevitably causes huge amounts of harm to people.

The hostile environment means that employers, landlords, NHS staff and other public servants have to check your immigration status before offering you a job, housing, healthcare or other support.

By including the NHS this leads to a public health risk as some people will be afraid to access healthcare. Clearly, this is critical during a pandemic.

As Parliament is debating these new immigration laws now, Cllr Alan Hall has joined campaigners and written to the Home Secretary, Priti Patel MP supporting the call for change:

“I am writing as your constituent to ask you to use the Immigration Bill to end the ‘hostile environment’ for migrants.

The hostile environment has embedded border controls in the heart of our communities and is destroying lives. Undocumented people in the UK can’t find a place to live, access employment, open a bank account, get a driving licence or receive benefits – forcing them into destitution and exploitation.

Data-sharing deals between essential services and the Home Office mean that people are afraid to send their children to school, or even get medical care when ill or report a crime because they may end up detained or deported.

The coronavirus crisis has further exposed the inhumanity of these policies. Having people in our country who are too afraid to seek medical help during a pandemic is a disgrace.

Meanwhile the Prime Minister himself has expressed shock at rules which stop many migrants from accessing basic public support.

After Brexit, three million more people will suddenly fall within the hostile environment and might too be locked up in immigration detention centres or removed from the country.

The Immigration Bill is an opportunity to prove we have learned the lessons of the Windrush Scandal. Please use it to end the hostile environment and redesign the immigration system with humanity, dignity and respect at its core.”

Hands Off Our NHS

Councillor Alan Hall has written directly to the Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board, Liz Truss calling for the Government to protect the NHS in any trade deal with the US.

Write to your MP now to support the NHS

“While our NHS staff are fighting coronavirus, please will you thank them by protecting our NHS from trade deals? Clapping isn’t enough.” – Cllr Alan Hall

Full text of the letter:

Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade and Minister for Women and Equalities
The Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP

Dear Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP,

In a global pandemic, our NHS is more vital than ever, and it has to be protected.

I’m writing because I am very concerned about the effect that a US trade deal will have on the NHS. Negotiations are already underway, despite the pandemic. The Trade Bill is back in Parliament this week, does it contain any measures to protect the NHS from trade deals? We need a legally binding commitment in the form of an amendment to the Trade Bill.

There are the five things that the Trade Bill needs to include if the NHS is to be properly protected:

  • Specific legislation for the NHS, all health-relevant services and regulation: Including a clause that the government will not conclude a trade agreement which alters the way NHS services are provided, liberalises healthcare further, or opens up parts of the NHS to foreign investment.
  • No use of negative listing: these clauses require that all industries are liberalised in trade agreements unless there are specific carve-outs. It is not always easy to define what services count as health services: for instance, digital services may seem irrelevant to health, but NHS data management and GP appointments are increasingly digitised. Negative lists therefore make it harder for governments to regulate and provide health services.
  • No standstill clauses or ratchet clauses: these provisions mean that, after the trade deal has been signed, parties are not allowed to reduce the level of liberalisation beyond what it was at the point of signature. This can make it difficult to reverse NHS privatisation.
  • No ISDS: Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clauses in trade agreements allow private investors to challenge governments over changes to domestic legislation. We need to be able to control our own laws.
  • No changes to drugs pricing mechanism: the US administration has publicly stated that they wish to use a trade deal to challenge the NHS’s drugs purchasing model, which keeps prices low. Medicines are vital to our health – there must not be any concessions on this in trade talks.

While our NHS staff are fighting coronavirus, please will you thank them by protecting our NHS from trade deals? Clapping isn’t enough.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Alan Hall

Ellie Reeves, MP for Lewisham West & Penge has written:

“The Government argues that a free trade agreement with the US can help create opportunities for UK businesses and benefit the economy. It says that its negotiating objectives call for any future agreement to protect the health service and uphold our high standards on food safety and animal welfare

However, I am concerned that the political situation in the US, alongside the UK Government’s strong desire for an agreement with President Trump will lead to a trade deal designed for the benefit of large American corporations. As you rightly note, this would have hugely significant implications for things such as our NHS, environmental protections and the food we eat.

The British public are clear: they do not want the NHS to be bartered as part of a trade deal. Unfortunately, I believe there are several areas where future trade agreements could threaten the NHS.

First, there is the risk that trade agreements could consolidate privatisation. Free trade agreements often lock in liberalisation measures such as privatisation. This could mean they force us to keep market liberalisation of the NHS, stopping a future Government from bringing services back in-house. The use of “negative lists” in trade agreements, where all services are open to liberalisation unless explicitly excluded, make this a particular concern.

A further concern would be the inclusion of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanisms. ISDS allows overseas companies to sue governments outside of the domestic court system for actions that they believe violate their rights as investors. The threat of being sued under ISDS for bringing a service back in-house, for example, could deter the Government from making policy decisions in the public interest.

Finally, I am also worried at the potential impact of a trade agreement with the US on drug prices. The NHS uses its purchasing power to drive down the price of drugs. However, the US has made clear it will seek measures in any trade deal with the UK that could affect our ability to control the prices paid for medicines by the NHS.

The Government has said it will protect the NHS in trade negotiations. However, it has also made a US-UK trade deal a priority. There is therefore a risk that the US could force us to accept provisions in a trade agreement that would undermine our NHS. To prevent this, I believe we need proper parliamentary scrutiny of trade deals. This would give MPs a vote on mandates for trade negotiations and on any signed deals, which we could use to protect our NHS.”

As the Trade Bill reaches report stage on Monday, 20th July, Cllr Alan Hall is backing an amendment to the bill – known as the Djanogly amendment – as this would restore changes made during proceedings on the 2017-19 Bill that are not retained in the current version including: A reduction in the lifespan of the delegated powers that are granted to ministers to implement ‘successor’ (or ‘continuity’) trade agreements; and a statutory requirement on the government to publish ‘parliamentary reports’ on UK successor trade agreements to identify where they differ from previous agreements. By putting this practice on a statutory footing gives greater clarity and certainty.

Amendments that create explicit carve-outs for the NHS have been rejected at Committee stage because they “tie negotiators’ hands”. The British public would never accept a trade deal that damaged our NHS, and so there is no reason to allow for a trade deal like that to be negotiated. MPs are now the last defence against trade deals that would damage our NHS. The Djanogly’s amendment for scrutiny has been backed by ten other Conservative MPs so far, as well as MPs from other parties including Labour, the Scottish National Party, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Greens.

The NHS is too important – hands off.

Lewisham NHS Choir hit the charts with Dan Healy charity single

#TheForgottenOnes #NHSHeroes #ClapForCarers
Dan Healy – The Forgotten Ones (feat. Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Choir) OFFICIAL VIDEO

Scottish singer-songwriter Dan Healy and Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust Choir have released a charity single dedicated to key workers, with proceeds going to NHS Charities Together’s COVID-19 Urgent Appeal, the ballad and accompanying music video take the perspective of the citizens obeying the government’s stay-at-home mandate, while expressing appreciation for NHS healthcare professionals and key workers. The music video features footage and messages of celebration and thanks to healthcare workers, posties, rail workers & refuse workers to name a few.

The track features the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust Choir, which is comprised of NHS healthcare professionals. In addition to releasing singles including a Christmas No1, and full-length studio albums, the Choir has performed on television as well as major events and venues including Glastonbury Festival, The FA Cup Final, Royal Albert Hall and more.

“When Dan contacted us via NHS Charities Together we wanted to support the project. It’s an original song, thanking NHS staff and keyworkers. All the choir are incredibly busy at work, but we have found the choir to be a source of moral support in this time, and some of us were able to send voice recordings using our phones. We think it important to say thank you to all keyworkers as we’re all a team, working through this together.” – Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Choir

The Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Choir crowned Christmas No 1 in 2015

Dan Healy is a Scottish singer-songwriter, actor and rhythm guitarist. A regular writing partner of Ronan Keating and session player for many other artists, he is also a songwriter for Concord Publishing, where he works with artists from London, Nashville and Los Angeles. As an actor, Dan has performed at London’s West End, Toronto and Los Angeles. Most recently, Dan appeared as the lead in “Once The Musical” during the show’s widely celebrated first UK tour.

Performed and recorded remotely, Dan and the NHS Choir are joined by international session musicians who have performed countless shows and studio recordings with the likes of Van Morrison, Mick Jagger, Sinead O’Connor, Robbie Williams, Ronan Keating, Kylie Minogue, Boyzone, Tom Jones and more. Also appearing on the track are internationally acclaimed Irish rock violinist group Sephira, sisters Joyce and Ruth O’Leary, who have performed with global sensations including but not limited to Andrea Bocelli, Kanye West, and Enya.

“Thank you to everyone in involved in the process of making this production. Thank you to those who took time out of their lives to send in videos, with smiles and creativity in the midst of a pandemic. Thank you to those people on the front line risking their health so that we can stand, for a moment, in shade of normality. Keep beating the drum, for the forgotten ones”. – Dan Healy

To Download the song click here

“When we heard ‘The Forgotten Ones’, it encapsulated exactly the gratitude we are feeling towards NHS staff and volunteers. Nothing about the choices staff and volunteers have made in their lives has changed–it’s just that their courage and willingness to risk themselves to keep us safe has suddenly been thrown into stark relief. You can say thank you by downloading this track as it will generate proceeds that NHS charities will use to support staff and volunteers dealing with COVID head on,” said Ellie Orton, CEO of NHS Charities Together.

“The Forgotten Ones” track and music video are now available for download on the iTunes Store, Amazon Music and Google Play. Proceeds from the downloads of the track and all donations will go to NHS Charities Together to support NHS workers and their families during these difficult times. To donate please click here

After the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust Choir achieved a Christmas No1 in 2015 with their smash hit ‘A Bridge Over You’ with Justin Bieber’s support, Cllr Alan Hall put forward a motion to Lewisham Council to recognise this national achievement and called for a performance at the town hall. The choir did perform at the Council’s AGM around Easter, superbly. At that time the choir said:

“We do this job because we love it and are committed to looking after our patients. We think this song sums up that sentiment and is a way of celebrating the thousands of dedicated staff across the country.”

No1 Chart toppers – the Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Choir

“Lewisham Council congratulates the Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Choir on
their Christmas number one charity single ‘A Bridge Over You’ and
commends the choir organisers for the positive effect their musical
endeavours have had in terms of raising the profile of the NHS as a whole,
boosting morale and raising funds for charity.
To ensure that the choir’s victory continues to flourish in the collective
memory of Lewisham
and the NHS, and ensure that the national support for our health services shown by the public who supported the choir remains current and prominent, council calls upon the Mayor of Lewisham to undertake the following:
• Write to the choir expressing the council’s thanks for their hard work and
congratulations on their success, both in the recording studio and on the
wards.
• Invite the choir to perform at the Council AGM.
• Follow the example of Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Chief Executive Tim
Higginson in thanking singer Justin Bieber for his support for the choir’s
efforts, after his asking fans to buy ‘A Bridge Over You’ gave a major boost to the choir’s quest for the festive top spot and extend a warm welcome to Mr Bieber if he wishes to perform at the council AGM.”

Let’s hope that this new single does equally well, topping the UK charts.

Releasing a charity single at this time of international public health concern over a pandemic is in the true spirit of the Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Choir.

The choir were at the forefront of the campaign to Save Lewisham Hospital and with that success have gone on from strength to strength.

Thank you to all the NHS and keyworkers and as the song goes, ‘thankyou so much we mean it from the bottom of our hearts.’

Please download the new charity single here

Read the story in the newsshopper