Giving a voice to the branch
Page last updated: 01 February 2020
Prior to 1994 the Branch was a stable, sensible, if a bit dull, NALGO Branch covering the three of the four London Regional Health Authorities that were based at Eastbourne Terrace. It had good numbers of members in each Region and did some imaginative things like having cases in one Region dealt with by members from another Region. The most radical thing it ever did was by a printer for London Health Emergency and it only did that after a long and heated debate at an AGM!
In 1995 Regional Health Authorities were abolished. This led the freshly merged UNISON Branch, by then known as North and South Thames Health, to be dramatically reduced from around 600 to 100 members within a short period of time. What’s more many of those remaining effectively became civil servants as the new health structure fell under the direct aegis of the Department of Health.
Within the Branch at that time were many employees of Community Health Councils both in London and across South East England. Gradually the balance of membership within the Branch swayed towards CHC members and to reflect this the Branch adopted what could well be the longest ever name for a Trade Union Branch in history: the 'London and South East England Community Health Council and National Health Service Staff’s Branch' or known as London and SE England CHC and NHS Staff’s Branch for short!!
This in turn led to a period of recruitment among CHC staff in regions adjacent to London. As this work got fully under way the NHS plan in 2000 promptly abolished Community Health Councils!
By this stage we were beginning to think that we were jinxed; first the RHAs upon which the Branch were based were abolished, now the CHCs. What else could happen?
Much of the next few years were consumed in dealing with the aftermath of the CHC abolition which for many people was both traumatic and unnecessary.
Whilst this was going on the union identified a need to recruit amongst what became known as Arms Length Bodies, or at least those who were headquartered in London. Thus, a recruitment campaign began in the NHS Litigation Authority, the Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health, National Clinical Assessment Authority, National Institute for Clinical Excellence, Nursing and Midwifery Council… the list goes on.
And guess what? As soon as this campaign was underway, the Government decided to halve the number of Arms Lengths Bodies, closing altogether some at which recruitment had started.
Lest we think we are being too paranoid, it should be noted that there are some people in the Branch who have suffered at least two of these reorganisations themselves, moving from CHCs to CPPIH for example.
An organisation in which recruitment took place was the Healthcare Commission, formally known as the Commission for Health Improvement. This was spearheaded by a former CHC member who on two separate occasions was Branch Secretary (Dominic Ford). The Healthcare Commission has now itself merged into the Care Quality Commission but the branch has survived in spite of its name and personnel changes – long may it continue.
Phil Thompson (Regional Organiser) & Keith Morton (former Branch Treasurer)
April 2007 (updated December 2009)