Changes are planned to the NHS which could lead to a huge amount of health care being farmed out to private companies. At the very least, these changes could lead to a serious discrepancy in the kind of service available, depending where you live in the country. At worst, they could lead to the complete dismantling of the service.
At the moment, it is proving very difficult to get genuine information about the true nature of these changes. The government, the NHS and/or local Primary Care Trusts seem determined to keep some of the proposals covert.
It’s hard to keep politics out of this story, at a national and local level. It is clear that some senior members of the Conservative Party may have vested interests in the part-privatisation of the health service. At a local level, the arguments can also be polarised by political allegiance.
For example, I live on the borders of Hammersmith and Fulham in West London. Our local Labour MP, Andy Slaughter, has been campaigning to save various hospitals in the area from closure. He admits that it was only because he noticed a small item in a new bill being presented to parliament that he became aware of the extent of the cuts being planned. And he’s an MP! If HE can’t get information, how are local residents supposed to find out? As it happens, the Fulham MP, Conservative Greg Hands, a very good constituency MP in many ways, has kept silent about it.
To say that Conservatives are in favour of privatisation and Labour supporters are against it is an extremely simplified representation of the political divide, but something similar is happening at our local Town Hall.
The local council serves both Hammersmith and Fulham, areas of the city which are quite different in character. This is reflected in the fact that a small majority of councillors for Hammersmith are Labour members, and a huge majority of Fulham councillors are Conservative. It’s safe to assume that members of the two parties probably have profoundly different attitudes to the continuation of the NHS in its current form.
It’s quite easy to organise demonstrations and marches against anything in this country. As long as you clear your route with the police, you can more or less march where you want.
However, whilst marching along the streets chanting slogans may be good for the soul, it’s rare that this kind of activity can make any kind of genuine change. You only have to look at the fact that more than a million people marched in the streets of London on a cold February Saturday in 2003 to protest at a possible military attack on Iraq. Similar marches took place all over the world. Blair and Bush took no notice and the invasion began on 19th March.So, if marching is no good, what can individuals do if they want to see change?
There are two possible routes to try to make your voice heard.
The first is the government’s own e-gov petition site. It’s a system which accepts that if enough people are concerned about something, and sign a petition to that effect, then the government will at least talk about it. Basically, if you start a petition and get 100,000 signatures, it will be discussed.
You can find out more about the petition site here – http://bit.ly/n4dhVA
Secondly, 38 Degrees is a political action group that campaigns on a diverse range of issues, including the current attempts to change the NHS. (The name comes from the critical angle at which the incidence of a human-triggered avalanche greatest.)
I don’t know anyone who is part of 38 Degrees, so I can’t vouch for their political allegiances, but they do have some interesting suggestions about ways of getting your opinion heard.
You can find out more about what they do here – www.38degrees.org.uk/
They are particularly good at finding ways to galvanise people in local communities. Here’s information from an email they have sent out regarding the NHS changes situation in Hammersmith and Fulham:
The government’s plans to privatise and fragment the NHS are taking shape in Hammersmith.
Local doctors are forming a Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) for the area. They’re going to get new powers to decide what health services you and your neighbours are able to access and who provides them.
Private companies like Virgin Care and Serco are ready to bid for contracts by promising to slash costs.The doctors on your local CCG will be under pressure from the government to hand out contracts to private companies. Most doctors are against carving up the NHS for private profit. Plus, the new CCG has a legal duty to listen to local people.
So right now, we’ve got a big chance to ask local doctors to use their new powers to protect the NHS, not privatise it. Together, we can make sure they hear from hundreds of local people as they make these crucial decisions.
Can you add your name to the petition to your local CCG now?
The reason I want to share this information is that I think the majority of people in the United Kingdom are being kept not-so-blissfully unaware of the true nature of changes that are taking place. And we need to know the real reasons why the government and the Primary Care Trusts want to make these changes.
It would be wrong to call the UK government corrupt, given the way governments operate in some parts of the world. But there is no doubt that there is an awful lot of self-interest amongst the people who are the architects of this latest attempt to radically change a long-standing British institution.