I love my NHS. It is probably true that I love it less than I did. The steady privatisation, fragmentation, low staff moral, the illusion of choice has left harshness, a coldness that is felt by patients. It is also true that within the NHS there are many good people who genuinely care and in themselves are part of the healing process.
The NHS that I knew and loved is so eloquently described by Dr No in Alma Mater. I was so taken with it; I emailed it to David Cameron's election HQ, then naively believing that the Conservatives would indeed look after our NHS and perhaps even attempt to recover the NHS as it once was. Whether he read it or not - I don't know.
Of course I wasn't a doctor and not yet a nurse then in the NHS that Dr No described, but a patient. Several admissions during childhood and for the delivery of my own children, I was aware of the warmth and camaraderie for it indeed rubbed off on patients. Times have changed and changed the NHS, the sense of temporarily belonging to that family during admittance is very seldom apparent. Yet the NHS is still worth saving and I am grateful that it exists.
The NHS can be likened to a great oak that stands proudly in an ancient forest existing on the peripheries of our lives; not a constant requirement - but there when we need it. Its great branches supporting its lush green canopy offering us shelter when we are diseased or injured; its roots searching and probing for life saving cures; its leaves providing us with the oxygen we require for our very existence; its fruits offering new life; its whole self offering a place of refuge in times of need.
Our real forest have recently been under threat, the coalition government planned to sell 15% of the public forest estate by 2015. Critics objected to the sale on the grounds that it might be more difficult for the public to gain access to them, and even wildlife and the very existence of forests themselves might be threatened as timber companies and developers took control - unfettered by the protection of public management.
The public were up in arms and in a short space of time, a cyber petition gained over 500,000 signatures and our forests were saved.
The very existence of our NHS forest is under threat under the guise of the White Paper: Equity and excellence: Liberating the NHS. Its apparent aims appear laudable: putting patients at the heart of everything the NHS does; focusing on continuous improvement and empowering and liberating clinicians.
In reality, I believe the White Paper to be a terminal illness masquerading as a miracle cure; its true aim to be that of opening the NHS to privatisation; where the very NHS will be threatened as private providers take control, destroying all that is seen as unprofitable, unfettered by the protection of public management.
The public (as patients) will find in increasingly difficult to gain access - especially if presenting with an illness that threatens the confines of a budget. GP Consortia - unless a true commercial enterprise - will be doomed to failure and be swallowed up by the private sector. The NHS as we know it will cease to exist.
You would think that the medical and health professions and all in healthcare would be up in arms about the destruction of our NHS forest - but no, bar a small few! You would think that the general public would be up in arms about the destruction of our NHS forest - but no! A Save our NHS petition has only gained a mere 37,489 signatures.
A recently published survey commissioned by the BMA would suggest that the great majority of the medical profession have great concerns re NHS reforms. It is a fact that the key findings are a sham with less than 9% of doctors contacted even bothering to respond. Amongst its real findings are: under four in ten do not understand what the reforms mean to them individually; over a third are waiting to see what happens; 11% of GP practices have taken no steps in preparing for the reform; 37% know very little or nothing at all about current NHS reforms; 33% of doctors (excluding GPs) have taken no steps to prepare for reform - and so it goes on. Read the real results of the survey here: Ipsos Mori. Read it (the downloads!) and weep!
If those in the medical profession and indeed those in nursing and allied professions do not appear to care - how in hells name are we going to engage the general public?
Some of us care and I am thinking here of all the good doctors who blog: Dr No, The Witch Doctor, Dr Grumble, The Cockroach Catcher et al, Militant Medical Nurse and the lovely Julie at Campaigning for Health - but are these fine bloggers truly representative of their professions - or are they the voice of the minority, the majority just waiting to see what happens? I would hope that they are not and would echo Julie's sentiments in that all who work in health professions - and care about the NHS - should not just 'stand there and moan - do something!'
When we mourn the death of our NHS in years to come, we will throw our hands in the air and exclaim "Why didn't somebody do something?"
Addendum: I have been made aware of another petition that seems to be enjoying more success. Please visit 38degrees, sign and help save our NHS. (These are the folks whose petition saved our forests!)