Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The NHS is a slowly boiled frog. WAKE UP YOU NHS USERS!

Guardian: Andrew Lansley, the health secretary, announced today that the government will push ahead with radical plans to shake up the NHS – the biggest shift in power and accountability in its 62-year history – despite opposition from almost every part of the health service.

The NHS needs another immense top down bureaucratic Lansley reform  like it needs a hole in the head drilled with a hand held brace using a blunt 1"auger and no anaesthetic. 

As an NHS GP, I view Lansleys NHS changes with sullen resignation. I learned in the 90s from an experienced BMA leader that each and every NHS reform is another ratchet notch in the gradual privatisation of the NHS. It is like a frog in pan of water over a flame - the temperature is increasing so slowly that the frog makes no effort to escape.

In essence, the GPs will be obliged to give contracts either to private corporations or to NHS institutions. That is where the privatisation is creeping in.

How can we mobilise the people of Britain to stand up for the NHS? Will they write to their MPs? Would that have any real effect? Will they join demonstrations? If so, will the notorious interaction between provoking agents and police chiefs result in kettling and violence? If not, if the demonstrations are peaceful, will they be reported by the media?

I feel powerless and hopeless in this situation. Which is odd, because I believe that it is possible and worthwhile to call for things like global abolition of WMD, the Global Human Rights Index, and positive intervention of the UN to prevent wars of secession. I also believe that the Cuts can be ended and a rational economic response to the budget deficit put in place. But I cannot believe that the people will stand up to defend their NHS. Or can I?

The total insanity of Lansley's  change can be summed up in a number: £3,000,000,000. Three billion £ooniesmackeroonis is the cost of his upheaval. At a time of financial austerity. This money is going to come from the NHS budget, which will also shrink with inflation, demography and technological progress. So it means poorer services and job losses.

In place of Lansley's folly, the NHS needs continual re-moulding led by coal face workers, who will be encouraged to put forward practical solutions aimed at improving efficiency and efficacy.

If only. If only reason prevailed. But we live in an Alice in Wonderland world of neo-liberal, free market fundamentalist ideology, with all-powerful Government, paretic official Opposition, and a gullible, debate-averse media. The people, the NHS service users, the patients, the satisfied customers, are without information and hope.

Or are they?

The situation is that the normal democratic channels have failed. The only chance of preventing Lansley's folly becoming law is through a series of massive, peaceful demonstrations of peoples' desire to keep the NHS.

These demos should be on a set day, beginning outside the constituency offices  of Conservative and LibDem parties. Gather there, have a couple of speeches, then march to the local offices of radio, TV and paper outlets, to make sure that the action gets reported. The chances are that peaceful demonstrations would otherwise go unreported.

In order to make sure that there is no kettling, protesters who are on medications may choose to leave their evening doses at home. This means that the police are obliged by law to release you from the kettle. Be warned that it is not always easy to communicate with the police when in a kettle.

Do not let the fear of trouble keep you from defending the your free health service.  We live in a democracy, and we have a fundamental right to be able to assemble peacefully on the streets to press our MPs to represent our wishes.

If you have a relative or friend in the police, or if you are in the police service yourself, please, please join the protest to save the NHS.  Your presence is worth 10 of anyone else, because you can appeal directly for calm.

In addition to public protests, we also need widespread acts of peaceful, non threatening civil disobedience in support of the NHS.

Such as the General Tea Break.

So I have just woken from my long sleep of despair at the impending demise of the NHS, and ask myself, Is it possible, just possible, that patients will stand up for their free health service?


The Unite union is making a good start.

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