Mandy Robinson explains how UNISON members in Bristol have launched a campaign to keep children’s community and mental health services within the NHS

NHS Bristol SouthmeadActivists from a UNISON branch in Bristol have launched a campaign to keep children’s community and mental health services in the city integrated and within the NHS.

The Community Children’s Health Partnership (CCHP) is currently run by North Bristol NHS Trust to meet the needs of children across Bristol and South Gloucestershire . It employs more than 900 staff including school nurses, health visitors, community paediatrics, occupational therapists, community child and adolescent mental health services and The Riverside Unit, Inpatient Adolescent Mental Health Service.

North Bristol NHS Trust gave notice earlier this year it would cease provision of CCHP when the current contract expires in March 2016. The community commissioners, Bristol and South Gloucestershire CCG’s  announced that there are two shortlisted providers to take on an interim contract.

One is the for profit, private company VirginCare, owned by billionaire Richard Branson, the other is a partnership between the neighbouring mental health NHS trust (AWP) and Sirona Care and CIC  social enterprise companies. Staff at the Riverside Unit are still anxiously waiting to hear who has been shortlisted by NHS England to take over the inpatient service in a separate reprocurement process.

Unite Southmead NHSUNISON Concorde Health Branch stewards and members collaborated with activists from the campaign group Protect Our NHS to form Protect CCHP. The campaign reached out and gained support from Unite, The Bristol People’s Assembly, Bristol Green Party and 38 Degrees.

A 38 Degrees petition calling for the CCGs and NHS England to continue to provide all the services of CCHP together and in the NHS received nearly 6500 signatures.

On August 26th more than 200 lively and colourful supporters marched with banners and chants of “It’s Our NHS not Bransons” and gathered outside the CCG offices in Bristol centre to deliver  the petition and raise public awareness of the issue.

The demonstration saw solidarity between the trade unions from across the South West and local campaigning groups as well as staff, service users and the public. Children carrying a banner stating “We love our NHS” were invited to hand the petition to the head of Bristol CCG.

Speakers included CCHP staff and UNISON activists and the Costa Book Award winning novelist and mental health nurse Nathan Filer.

A decision about who will be the chosen provider is expected later this month. In the meantime the campaign is seeking support through social media pages, public sector trade union branches and the media.

Mandy Robinson is a mental health nurse and UNISON member involved in running the campaign


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