Socialist Worker

Mother of Becky Romero leads protest over her death - and backs 3 Feb NHS demo

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2587

Nicky Romero (second from left) and Tony Romero (far right) protested against Becky Romeros death

Nicky Romero (second from left) and Tony Romero (far right) protested against Becky Romero's death (Pic: Socialist Worker)


The mother of Becky Romero, a 15 year old who died because of mental health cuts, has slammed underfunding of services as “utterly shameful”. And she called on people to join the demonstration for the NHS on 3 February in London.

“Children are dying,” Nicky Romero told a rally of family and supporters in Bristol on Saturday. “If there was enough money Becky would be here.”

Becky died last July after being repeatedly failed by mental health services. The Avon Coroner ruled that a lack of NHS resources saw a “gross failure to provide basic medical attention” and “contributed to her death by neglect”.

Nicky told Socialist Worker, “We feel so let down, Becky was overlooked. Becky had six months of family therapy in 2016, but she didn’t get the help she needed.

“And after she was let out this time round, she was still not well.”

Tony Romero, Becky’s father, told Socialist Worker, “The government needs to wake up and realise that there are thousands of children like Becky.

“No parent should have to go through it.”

Nicky and Tony were both clear about who is to blame for the crisis in mental health services. “It’s not the staff’s fault,” said Nicky. “They were doing their best to help, but there’s not enough of them.”

Becky was admitted to Bristol Children’s Hospital last June, but lack of beds forced her to go 80 miles to Pebble Lodge in Bournemouth. Riverside, the only adolescent mental health centre in Bristol, had just nine beds.

Support

After being discharged from Pebble Lodge, Becky and her family were only given limited support. The family want to make sure this doesn't happen to anyone else.

Ashleigh, who was one of Becky’s best friends at school, joined the protest. “I’ve never been taught anything about mental health at school,” she told Socialist Worker. “Children in schools need to be taught it.

“And there needs to be more staff and support.”

Since the coroner’s ruling, health bosses have agreed to increase the number of beds from nine to 32 by March.

Health activists in the city called a follow-up meeting for next Thursday to build the local campaign.

It will take a bigger fight against NHS cuts to stop the crisis in mental health services.

At the rally Helen Godwin, the Labour councillor in charge of children’s services, called for “ringfencing of funding”. She said councillors in Bristol are “trying our best” in the face of the Tories’ “hideous determination to cut public services”.

Labour, the unions and campaigners have to fight now to push back the Tories’ assault on the NHS, not just make the best of inadequate resources. The demonstration on 3 February, called by the People’s Assembly and Health Campaigns Together, is a key opportunity to build resistance.

Nicky said, “I’m encouraging people to go to, I keep sharing the event on Facebook.

“We’ve all got to stand together, fight this and get funding for the NHS.”

See Facebook event Emergency Demonstration - NHS in Crisis: Fix it Now! and No cuts to mental health: Building the campaign for details of the demo and meeting

Meeting prepared to maximise turnout on 3 February demonstration

An urgent call to resist the Tories’ attacks on the NHS went out from a health campaigners’ meeting in London on Thursday night.

Called by the People’s Assembly and Health Campaigns Together, it discussed how to build the biggest possible NHS demonstration on 3 February. Tens of thousands could descend onto the streets of central London—and pile pressure onto Theresa May.

The meeting tapped into the mood around Jeremy Corbyn.

Tom came from Barnet in north west London. “I’m in a Facebook group called ‘We support Jeremy Corbyn’,” he told Socialist Worker. “Someone posted the event for this meeting on the page and it got a lot of support.

“That’s how I found out about it.”

He added, “My father is 79 years old. He’s got Parkinson’s and diabetes and could be in hospital one week after another.

“This is a life and death situation for the NHS.”

Activists discussed helping health workers leaflet hospitals, a bus tour around London and a social media campaign to get the message out.

Valerie, a Labour Party member, said that she was part of Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) in Islington in north London. “There’s other campaigns we can tell about the demonstration,” she said.

Anna, a GP from east London, said they had circulated a letter among health workers against racist charges for migrants in the NHS.

The Tories are scapegoating migrants for the NHS crisis, which has been caused by underfunding and privatisation. SUTR has organised a Migrants Make Our NHS bloc on the 3 February demonstration.

Activists also argued that it was important to get Labour and the unions to throw their weight behind the demonstration.

Labour plans a national campaigning day for the NHS on 20 January, and a rally with Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell on 25 January. Targeted at Labour Party members, the aim is to prepare for a possible general election campaign in 2020.

But we have to fight the Tories’ assault on the NHS now, not just wait for a possible future Labour government. Jackie, a Unison union member and nurse, told the meeting, “This is not a blank cheque for Labour.

“We’ve got a set of demands and we’re supporting them on the basis that they will make them a reality.”

Go to Facebook event Migrants make our NHS - bloc on #OurNHS demo

Hospital campaign slams bosses for using firm linked to Grenfell

Over 120 people joined a public meeting last Thursday to demand Whittington Hospital bosses stop working with a firm linked to the Grenfell Tower fire. It was called by the Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition (DWHC).

They are working with Rhyhurst to revamp the north London hospital through their multimillion pound Strategic Estates Partnership. Ryhurst is a subsidiary of Grenfell renovator Rydon.

At the meeting everyone supported improvements to our hospital, but did not want Ryhurst to plan or possibly run the redevelopment.

Under the terms of the Tories’ Naylor Report, hospitals have to sell off their own land to pay for redevelopment. Ryhurst and any other future private developers would be paid for their work out of this selloff.

Speakers from the floor deplored the impact of government policies, particularly privatisation within the NHS. This creams off money for shareholders that should pay for health services.

The Whittington CEO claimed that the company that ticked all their criteria. But local residents criticised the quality of the maintenance work for council housing that Rydon carries out as part Partners for Improvement.

Whittington Hospital Board’s chair Steve Hitchins created the private finance initiative management body when he was Lib Dem leader of Islington council.

It’s not too late for this contract to be annulled, as the board claims. DWHC, patients, hospital workers and local trade unionists will be fighting to get Rydon out of our Hospital.

A collection was made to be shared between Justice4Grenfell campaign and DWHC.

Shirley Franklin


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