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Camden New Journal - One Week with JOHN GULLIVER
Published: 26 April 2007

Protesting doctors from St Thomas's Saket Tibrewal and Roland Walker outside the Commons
Our doctors are sick of Hewitt’s jobs fiasco

IS health secretary Patricia Hewitt burning the candles at night to try and find jobs for an estimated 10,000 hospital doctors now facing redundancy?
The crisis has arisen over her shambolic recruitment policy that has left 30,000 doctors fighting for 20,000 posts.
She dropped a hint about new ‘training posts’ in her reply to an aggressive and well-researched speech in the Commons on Tuesday by the Tory shadow health secretary, Andrew Lansley.
This column was the first in the mainstream press to highlight the tragedy of doctors who now face the dole after spending four or five years en route to become consultants.
Now, headlines in the national press – especially the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail – have begun to frighten Labour.
But, as I reported at the end of March, the doctors are fighting back.
First, with a national march that drew 10,000 doctors and consultants.
Then with an application to the High Court for a judicial review of the government’s policy, led by solicitor Richard Stein, of the Islington firm, Leigh Day and Sons.
Stein is an old hand at good causes – he was, by the way, a Camden Labour councillor in the 1990s.
The appeal to the High Court was delivered this week, I gather.
More than 100 doctors lobbied the Commons on Tuesday to coincide with a Tory early day motion to reverse Hewitt’s policy.
All the signs are that anger among doctors is growing.
Among the lobbyists, who gathered opposite the Commons, I met a young surgeon from St Thomas’s who was due to operate that afternoon, and a couple who had come down from Liverpool because their daughter, a doctor, faces a bleak future.
This is not a question of doctors bleating about their future. It comes down to the fact that hospital trusts and primary care trusts are keeping posts down. Anyone who has used a hospital, especially over the weekend, would verify the grave shortage of doctors.
Lansley knows this. Patricia Hewitt appears now to be worried about it.
But if she is going to create 10,000 more jobs she has to do that by August 1 because that is the deadline for the recruitment policy.
But silly partisan politics reared its head at the Commons debate.
There were only about 20 MPs in the chamber – hundreds of seats remained empty.
I pitied the few MPs who spoke to a virtually empty chamber.
If I made a speech to an empty room I’d be at risk of being certified!
The Tories lost their motion. MPs, who didn’t bother to follow the debate in the chamber, voted like sheep along party lines.
Hampstead MP Glenda Jackson voted against the Tories, and therefore, in favour of Hewitt’s policy.
Holborn MP Frank Dobson abstained.

Book borne out of compassion

AS I listened to Wendy Savage’s introduction to her new book on childbirth at Queen Mary’s School of Medicine in Islington on Monday evening I realised that this small, bespectacled woman, now 71, would make a formidable opponent.
And she certainly became one for the medical establishment in the 1980s when, as a gynaecologist, she was suspended on false charges of incompetence.
It turned out that she had clashed with the powers-that-be because she had championed a woman’s right to have a natural childbirth – and not be subjected unnecessarily to a caeserian.
Her case became a cause celebre and after fellow practitioners and thouands of people in East London had backed her, she was reinstated.
Her latest book, Birth and Power, asks: Who Conrols Childbirth and Who Controls Doctors?
Today, she remains adamant that a woman has the right to choose. Now, Patricia Hewitt, health secretary, has announced that within two or three years every woman will have a right to have a child at home.
Sarcastically, Wendy Savage wondered where the midwives would come from considering there is such a shortage of them.
It is not right to describe this book as Wendy’s alone. It contains contributions from several midwives and doctors.
In her speech she also berated the government’s latest chaotic recruitment scheme that will make nearly 10,000 hospitals redundant.
If only the NHS was taken out of the hands of politicians and allowed to be run by doctors and representatives of other hospital staff, it would function so much more efficiently.

* Birth and Power is published by Middlesex University Press at £25.

50 years of an independent, brave theatre

Next week, Theatro Technis in Camden Town clocks up an astonishing half a century in the borough.
The Camden Town of 50 years ago, as that of today, had a large community of migrants; those days they were mainly Irish, but Greek Cypriots, too, began to settle here in their numbers. One of them was George Eugeniou – an actor and playwright whose youthful vision gave birth to the original theatre in 1957 and whose tireless passion has seen it through to today.
All sorts of other independent theatres have come and gone in London. But for George, survival has occasionally been threatened by another factor – the international politics that have fractured his native island.
The Cypriot community quickly made its mark on the borough and soon there was a tradition of flying the yellow flag of the Cyprus Republic at Camden Town Hall during Cyprus Week. This was the internationally recognised flag of Cyprus despite the Turkish invasion and occupation of the north of the island in 1974.
But in 1989, a Labour councillor with a Cypriot wife wanted to change all that. The yellow flag was not inclusive of the occupied north of the island, he argued, and not only did he stop the flag being flown from the Town Hall, but he persuaded his fellow councillors that the council should withdraw its entire funding to Theatro Technis if it flew the flag even over its own premises in Crowndale Road.
George, who has a track record of championing all Cypriots – Turkish and Greek – refused to be leaned on in that way, so the yellow flag was raised in defiance of the threat.
Dark and dangerous days followed for Theatro Technis as it saw its council funding disappear to alternative (flag-compliant) Cypriot Arts Forum set up by the council.
Fast forward to 2007. The council’s alternative Cypriot Arts Forum (and its funds) have sunk without trace; the councillor who cooked up the yellow flag storm no longer sits in the council chamber; the Labour administration that backed him no longer decides which flag flies at the Town Hall. And the Theatro Technis?
Well, happy birthday Theatro Technis!

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