Thursday, September 01, 2011

Defend the NHS or lose the NHS

This below is from 38 Degrees, campaigning to keep the NHS.

Joni Mitchell said it: "Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone?"

I feel it is very much up to NHS users to defend it, not me. I did my bit, providing the service. 

My vision is of a mass lobbying of MP surgeries, lobbies that spill out onto the streets, and escalate into Arab Spring type protests, only without the live ammunition provided by the get the idea. 

As a retired GP, I am waiting for the patients to do it. It is probably the result of repressed resentment at thoughtless abuse of the NHS' free treatment. I was a kind, humane, friendly GP, but there is a degree of fecklessness, thoughtlessness and entitlement that goes on, and that produces resentment deep down in even the kindest health service worker. 

So basically my repressed shadow self is saying, "If you whingeing sickly bastards want a free NHS, you've got to demonstrate in the streets. If you don't demonstrate, you're going to have to do without, the rich are going to have to pay, and the poor are going to have to die. Your bloody choice".

Irrational, I know. But humans are irrational beings. And if my anger prompts people to demonstrate, it will have been worth while.

38 Degrees members now have something our MPs don't - thorough, independent legal advice about what these changes really mean.

Our expert legal advice is sobering. Despite the "listening exercise", the government's changes to the NHS plans could still pave the way for a shift towards a US-style health system, where private companies profit at the expense of patient care.

Conservative MPs like yours are being told by their bosses these changes fit with party ideology. But many would be horrified to know that the NHS would be subject to European competition laws and front-line services could be held up with procurement red tape. Let's work together to show them the evidence right now!

If enough of us email now, it could tip the balance:

Our independent lawyers identified two major problems in the new legislation:

1 - The Secretary of State's legal duty to provide a health service will be scrapped. On top of that, a new "hands-off clause" removes the government's powers to oversee local consortia and guarantee the level of service wherever we live. We can expect increases in postcode lotteries - and less ways to hold the government to account if the service deteriorates.

2 - The NHS will almost certainly be subject to UK and EU competition law and the reach of procurement law rules will extend across all NHS commissioners. Private health companies will be able to take new NHS commissioning groups to court if they don't win contracts. Scarce public money could be tied up in legal wrangles instead of hospital beds. Meanwhile, the legislation lifts the cap on NHS hospitals filling beds with private patients.

So who are MPs going to listen to when casting their vote - you, or lobbyists from private health companies? This is our NHS, and it's up to us to defend it. Email your MP now:

It's pretty extraordinary what we've managed to achieve together already. Nearly half a million of us have signed the petition to save the NHS. And after Andrew Lansley announced the last round of changes, thousands of 38 Degrees members immediately chipped in to get top independent legal advice on the new plans.

Barrister Rebecca Haynes found that the government's plans could pave the way for private healthcare companies and their lawyers to benefit most from changes, not patients. Another barrister, Stephen Cragg, found that we were right to be worried that Andrew Lansley was planning to remove his duty to provide our NHS.

This is the conclusion of a top legal team paid to have no other interest at heart but yours.

MPs vote in just seven days. Seven days to not only get the evidence, but be convinced there's way too much public concern to ignore it. The good news is, with over 800,000 of us now armed with expert legal advice, we are just the people to speak up. Our message is clear: we have the facts, so politicians can't hide behind spin. Let's give MPs from all parties the mandate they need to think again and vote against these changes to the NHS.


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