Transporting Surrey’s NHS Patients

Under the Conservative-Lib Dem changes to the NHS, every part of the system is open to privatisation and cuts. The latest service potentially on the chopping block is transporting seriously ill patients to non-urgent medical care, like pre-planned operations. This service in Surrey, North East Hampshire and Hounslow will be put out to private tender soon and a “consultation” has been launched today.

This was received today from Surrey Heath Clinical Commissioning Group:

Patient Transport Services – consultation
NHS Surrey Heath Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is one of several CCGs in Surrey, North East Hampshire and Farnham and Hounslow reviewing non-urgent NHS Patient Transport Services, which will start in April 2017.
Non-urgent Patient Transport Services provide routine, pre-planned transport for patients who need to attend hospital, medical centres and outpatient appointments and cannot make their own way there because of recognised medical conditions which fulfil specific eligibility criteria.
They also provide pre-planned transport for patients who require clinically trained staff to transport them because of their medical requirements.
Have your say!
Please take the opportunity to get involved and have your say on the new Patient Transport Services.
• Hear about the plans at a public meeting at The Camberley Theatre, on Thursday 9th July from 2.30pm.
• Take part in the online survey.
• You can join the PTS Patient Advisory Group if you use the services.
The procurement is being managed by North West Surrey CCG on behalf of all the organisations involved.

Here is a link to the CCGs’ case for privatising this service. They cite lack of funding as one of their reasons for privatising the service:

We have an increasing ageing population and a greater number of people with debilitating comorbidities which will create a future requirement for many more trips to appointments, yet no additional funding will be available to support this.

The South East Coast Ambulance service, as part of the NHS, currently deliver the service. Once it is privatised the £6.5m per year will go to a private company to pay their executives and shareholders. NHS jobs will be lost and private companies will be rewarded for recruiting the lowest paid workers they can get away with.

This is the future of the NHS thanks to the Conservative-Lib Dem Health and Social Care Act.

Choosing a new leader – and a deputy

“A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.” – Martin Luther King, Jr

As the summer commences, the Labour leader and deputy leader contest is hotting up. I think nominations close next week. To make it onto the ballot paper candidates need at least 35 MPs to nominate them. After that it’s one member one vote, ranking the candidates in order of preference.
I’m still undecided on both contests but I have thought about some pros and cons for some of the candidates.
Leader candidates
  • Andy Burnham. Pros – I like Andy, he has stood up for values which I share consistently and andy burnhampowerfully for many years. He is an accomplished media performer and has support from a wide section of the party. Cons – I would like to see a woman lead the Labour Party if possible. It seems unfair to discriminate against Andy for this reason, however. Also, our defeat was so fundamental last month that it might be necessary to steer away from the last regime. Andy would do well in PMQs against Cameron but would it look too much like the last 5 years? Maybe.
  • Yvette Cooper. Pros – Again, Yvette is very good on TV. 2014-09-20 18.27.17She is calm and confident and definitely a match for any opponent. PMQs would be very uncomfortable for Cameron and the strident SNP would find her a difficult target to hit. In the wider media, Yvette would present a new politics breaking with the stale yah-boo tradition which has turned so many people off. Cons – One word: “#EdBalls”. Mr Cooper was great fun as shadow chancellor and got nearly every call right but he is central to the previous regime in many people’s minds. If we decide we need to make a clean cut with the last 5 years then this might be a distraction.
  • Mary Creagh. Pros – I met Mary briefly at a 2014-03-14 18.35.59meeting of the Southern group of Labour MPs. Admittedly, it was a very sympathetic audience but she really commanded the room. She was shadow transport secretary then and answered a range of questions, including mine, confidently and knowledgably. I remember thinking at the time that it would be brilliant if she was in government – talented, determined, convincing. Cons – Mary is not that well known among the wider public so her first few months as leader would be critical in setting the scene.
  • Liz Kendall. Pros – Liz’s leadership campaign started early and hit the ground running. She is offering a break from the previous regime, which failed and now looks like a failure. If Labour is to win in 2020 we will need to address national identity and present a big vision about what it means to be British. Now, any of the other serious candidates could do this too but perhaps Liz’s supporters have been the first to grasp this. Cons – Liz is not as assured a media performer as the other three, in my opinion, but she hasn’t had as much practice yet. Like Mary, she is not very well known in the country so would have to get off to a good start.

Some deputy leader candidates

  • Ben Bradshaw. Pros – Ben understands what it takes to win in the South and why we failed in May. I personally heard him tell Ed Miliband about 6 months before the election about southern voters’ concerns. He was spot on. Cons – I wouldn’t like to see an all-male, all-white leadership pair.
  • Stella Creasy. Pros – Community campaigning. Regular readers will know that this is the foundation of my politics. Stella’s USP is successful grassroots activism. Could this be the route to one million members and inevitable electoral successes? Cons – What about the South outside London where we are thin on the ground? What about Scotland?
  • Caroline Flint. Pros – Very popular among members, especially in Surrey. Great in TV debates and interviews. Cons – Maybe associated with the previous regime.
  • Tom Watson. Pros – Strong media performer and supported by a wide section of the party. Likeable and friendly. Cons – White male, which would be a problem if the leader was also white male.
  • Others – Labour is lucky that we have many great potential deputy leaders in addition to those above. I will be listening to everyone’s pitch, especially Rushanara Ali and Angela Eagle.

Anyway, I haven’t decided who to vote for yet. I’m looking forward to the campaign and I hope to help out in some way after nominations have closed and I have made up my mind on who to support. The good news is that all of the serious candidates are very strong propositions so I will get behind whoever is eventually elected.

Surrey Tory Councillors Vote to Stifle Democracy

I was in the public gallery at today’s full council meeting of Surrey County Council in the London Borough of Kingston, just outside Surrey. The first hour was spent electing the new Tory chair of the council, unopposed, and general back-slapping.

Regular readers will be aware of my campaign to reverse the outrageous pay hike which Tory councillors awarded themselves last year. Interestingly, the outgoing chair of the council refused to accept his 20% pay hike and gave it to charity. This was covered in the press here:

I have written to the new chair, Cllr Sally Marks, to ask if she will be doing the same thing. Here is the email I sent:

email to scc chair

Tory councillors voted to stifle opposition's right to address council

Tory councillors voted to stifle opposition’s right to address council

After forcing through their money-grab last year, Tories on the council voted to change the constitution this year to give them the power to limit opposition motions at council meetings. The new chair refused to allow a vote on lowering the threshold number of signatures which petitions need to be debated at the council. The whole thing was forced through with Tory votes (and the one Green councillor) and there is nothing that the opposition councillors (Labour, Independent, Residents Association, Ukip and Lib Dem) can do about it. Last year was money-grab, this year it’s power-grab.

The leader of the council, Cllr David Hodge, was his usual snarling thin-skinned self. He gloated about the Tory win in the general election. He has put in place a plan (which was also waved through by the Tory majority) to rename the scrutiny committees “boards” and have them meet less often. The Tory chairs and vice-chairs will retain the full, controversially inflated, special responsibility allowances which they voted themselves last year.

The Communities Select Committee has been laughably renamed the “Residents Experience Board”. It retains the same remit but now has this management bingo style name which will be an insult to the users and employees of the council’s libraries and fire stations and other services. Labour’s Cllr Robert Evans pointed out to Cllr Hodge that he was leaving the council open to ridicule by renaming the committee like this. Hodge was visibly rattled and said, “Well, Labour didn’t win the election, um. Ha, maybe it was because they, um, didn’t have a Residents Experience, um, committee [sic]”.

These buffoons are what we are up against in Surrey. The council started at 10am and adjourned for lunch at 12.15pm until 2pm for more self-congratulatory back-slapping among the Tories. Meanwhile, social care, bus services and school places are being cut and our county’s roads are the most potholed in the country.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We can take them on. I am considering setting up a campaign group to fight for residents of Surrey against reactionary Tory rule both at County Hall and Westminster. I don’t want to have meetings, not even one, just campaigning events. Let me know if you are in. Let’s give the Surrey Tory Party an “experience” they’ll never forget!


Cllr Marks has replied to my email:

email from sally marks

I don’t understand why being a Christian means she shouldn’t give back money obtained inappropriately from the council tax payers of Surrey. She “helps those in need” by voting herself a 20% pay rise and hiking council tax every year while support for those least able to pay it is slashed. “Those in need” have to take food out of the mouths of their children to pay for Cllr Marks’ allowances because her government cut Council Tax Support.

It leaves a bad taste in my mouth when religious Tories try to justify their greed and heartless disregard for the most disadvantaged in society.

Homage to Guildford

The UK general election of 7 May 2015 was momentous.

Richard Wilson and Guildford CLP Chair Lynda MacDermott

Richard Wilson and Guildford CLP Chair Lynda MacDermott

Even back in November 2013 it was clear that this would be a big one. About 18 months ago, I was selected to be the Labour Party candidate to contest the seat of Guildford.

I grew up a few miles away from the birthplace of Keir Hardie, one of the founders of the Labour Party, so it was a special honour for me to represent his party in Surrey, the county which has been my home for 15 years. I was selected by the party members in Guildford in a “one member one vote” ballot.

I decided to stand for Parliament because I wanted to contribute the most I could. People deserve a credible Labour candidate to vote for wherever they live. I chose to put myself forward for selection in Guildford because I live about 5 miles away, the local party has a (deserved) reputation for being welcoming, and there are numerous national issues which touch the constituency and should be debated in an election.

This was the first time I had attempted to be selected as a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate (PPC) and looking back with the benefit of hindsight I am sure I did the right thing. My preconceptions about what it would be like were mostly wrong, however. I had been involved in many previous council elections and I helped out in other constituencies like Eastleigh and Reading East. Also, I did lots of Labour Party training webinars, asked advice and read what I could find on being a candidate. I still wasn’t prepared.

I wasted a huge amount of my time and energy trying to achieve small campaign objectives which proved impossible. We also made massive progress on other objectives with relatively little effort. If I had known then what I know now I could have focused on the achievable. I think this is my only regret.

It is difficult being a PPC while working full time but my employer was quite good about it. This is just a feature of our system of democracy. People say they want MPs who have done other jobs but, in reality, insiders will always have an advantage. I gave up most of my free time but that is what I signed up for so I’m not complaining about that.

The highlights of the local campaign were: my petition to reverse the Tory county councillors’ pay hike, the individually addressed election leaflets I designed which 73,000 voters received in the post, the 11 public hustings events, owning the Guildford farmers market, helping Tesco employees on their “Freedom from Fear” day, marching with striking teachers on the High Street, standing alongside midwives and other NHS workers on the picket line outside the Royal Surrey, speaking at the council to stop the Lib Dems closing down the much-loved Boileroom music and arts venue, making a speech at the Labour Party annual conference, social media wars with Tories, door-knocking, leafleting and, above all, bringing great new active campaigners into the Labour Party.

2015-05-04 11.08.33 Collage

The culmination of all that saw a massive increase in our vote, up by 132%. Our share of the vote rose by 7 percentage points to 12.1%. No one thought we could finish ahead of Ukip but we were well clear of them. We are now within striking distance of the Lib Dems. The last time Labour beat them in Guildford was 1979 and it looks like this will happen again soon.


My elation at the result of the campaign in Guildford is tempered, of course, by the very disappointing national results. We didn’t make the gains we expected in marginal seats and we lost nearly all of our seats in Scotland. I have read plenty of analyses of what we did wrong and I nod my head in agreement while reading all of them.

Personally, I still feel too close to the election to analyse it objectively. One thing does leap out at me: targeting didn’t work. I expected that Labour would outperform decisively in key seats. We didn’t. This is important not just because we didn’t gain these seats but also because of the opportunity cost. By focusing on key seats we sacrificed the opportunity to build up our support in safe Tory and even safe Labour seats. We narrowed our appeal instead of broadening it.

There is nothing wrong with our values, on the contrary. I don’t even think there was anything important wrong with our policies in the manifesto. It was our national campaign that was, with hindsight, fatally flawed. It was like an exam where we failed not because we didn’t swot enough but because we didn’t answer the right questions – the ones the public was asking. The first thing to remember when doing an exam is: read the question!

I haven’t decided which candidates to vote for in the leader and deputy leader elections. I will listen to what they have to say about broadening our appeal and achieving a mandate to govern the entire country.

Sincere thanks to all of the 6,534 people who voted for me in Guildford. I’m so grateful to all of the Labour volunteers who made the local campaign possible. There are too many to name them all but the chair of Guildford Labour Party, Lynda MacDermott, deserves special recognition for leading the “ground war” from the front. I feel that the Guildford Labour Party is in a strong position to lead the fight for all the people of Guildford who are suffering under the Tory government.

For me, the campaign goes on. People in Surrey need an effective opposition to stand up for them against the Tories more than ever. Every council tax payer in Surrey is being failed by Surrey County Council. The council election is in 2017 but the full council is tomorrow and I’ll be in the public gallery again.

Surrey might be the height of Tory-dom on earth but I believe that there will be a Labour MP here in my lifetime. I will strive to make that happen and I will always be proud of my part in the momentous election of 2015.

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organise and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.” – JFK

From Gallipoli to Guildford

Sgt S Fitz

My great-grandfather Sgt S Fitz. I’m told I look like him.

I watched a bit of the ceremony at the Cenotaph today marking 100 years since the start of the Gallipoli campaign in the first world war. My great-grandfather was there, 100 years ago, as an infantry sergeant. It made me wonder what he thought of the war then and what he would make of Britain and the world today.

Back then, he wouldn’t have thought of it as the first world war. To the men thrown into the slaughter it must have seemed like the war to end all wars, or to end the world. They must have thought that the whole world order must surely change now. The empires and the aristocrats must surely come tumbling down after creating such a man-made tragedy of death and destruction.

What would my great-grandfather, Sgt S Fitz, have thought if he had known in 1915 that another world war was just 24 years away? What would he have thought if he could see the dukes and the earls leading ceremonies at Remembrance Days? What would he think about his great-grandson being an airline captain and standing for Parliament for the Labour Party?

Sometimes, we all have struggles in our lives, or think we have done something courageous. I will be thinking of my great-grandfather when the election result in Guildford is declared on 8 May 2015 and remember where he was exactly 100 years before.

Official: List of Parliamentary Candidates in Guildford


I am very proud indeed to be officially a Labour Party parliamentary candidate. I am very grateful to everyone who nominated me and especially to my agent, Nick Trier, for completing the nomination process diligently and successfully.

I grew up a few miles from the birthplace of Keir Hardie, one of the key founders of the Labour Party. It is a great honour to follow in the footsteps of so many great men and women standing up for working people.

Books, Films and Football

The Surrey Advertiser recently asked all the candidates to be the next MP for Guildford a number of questions about sport and culture. Here are the questions and my answers…

What sports do you follow and what teams do you support? Would you support Guildford City FC’s bid to secure their own grounds?

What is your favourite book, album, film and play? What does the constituency need to do to improve the arts culture it offers?

What is your idea of the perfect night out? How does the constituency’s night life need to be improved?

I follow lots of sports but particularly football and cricket. I still support the football team from the town I grew up in, Hamilton Accies, but since I moved away 27 years ago I haven’t been to see them live for a long time. Being an airline pilot gives me the chance to go to matches abroad. I really like going to German Bundesliga matches on nightstops. It is cheap to get in, there is always a great atmosphere and the football is pretty good too. The clubs are owned by the fans, which makes a big difference.

Nowadays, I support Guildford City but the last time I had a chance to go to a match was last season. They were having a tough season on the pitch but it was great to be there to support our local team. I would like to see even more supporters in the stands and, preferably, the club owning their own ground.

I am looking forward to seeing Kevin Pietersen play cricket for Surrey this summer. I hope he comes to Guildford.

My favourite book of all time is probably Great Expectations. In recent fiction, I loved reading The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen because I lived in the mid-west of America at the time the novel is set. In non-fiction, I can recommend A View From The Foothills by Chris Mullin. It is a funny and irreverent diary of Mullin’s time as a Labour MP. I am currently reading The Martian by Andy Weir which is great fun. It is about a manned mission to Mars which doesn’t go to plan.

I used to work in a bookshop at weekends when I was at university and my mother was an English teacher so I still spend time with my nose in a good book when I can.

My musical tastes are half-6 Music and half-Radio 3. I have Dvorzak’s New World Symphonies on in my car and The Marmozets album The Weird and Wonderful on at home at the moment. I was very glad to speak in favour of The Boileroom music venue staying open at the council’s Licensing Committee last September. I think it is a cultural gem for Guildford.

My favourite film is Where Eagles Dare, the Second World War film starring Richard Burton. I have a sneaking suspicion that my parents named me after him. “Broadsword calling Danny Boy, over!”

If I had to choose a favourite play, it would probably be Macbeth, such a grotesque story due to the common human weakness of ambition.

A perfect night out for me is a good meal with fascinating company. After the election, I would like to dine with some of the most interesting politicians I have met during the campaign: Andy Burnham, Caroline Flint, Ed Balls, Chuka Umunna, Stella Creasy and Ed Miliband. I expect they will all be too busy for the next five years however!

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