Saturday, 19 March 2011

Saving our NHS Forest

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?"

Anna :o]

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!)


Frances Garrood said...

Replying in haste (babysitting grandchildren), I applaud your post, and agree with you. I think one of the reasons for apathy among the public is that people don't worry about something until it affects them personally.Until grandma is starving in her hospital bed because no-one has bothered to ensure she can feed herself, or until their operation has been cancelled three times, they simply don't seem to notice thath there's a problem. You're right. It really is time we all stood up to be counted and tried to do something about it.We cannot put the clocks back - sadly - but it would be a start if doctors were allowed to have a say in how the NHS is run (and nurses brought back onto the wards for their training - I've been banging on about this for years, and letters to the press have received a lot of support).

People continue to refer to the NHS as "the envy of the world". Not any more, it isn't.

Stafford Ray said...

Why do you presume any conservative government (whose constituency is privately insured) would want to protect the NHS?
However, you do have a unique situation where Cameron is in coalition with a left wing party and would hate that, looking forward to winning a few more seats to govern without them.
So, he will be out to protect his seats at all costs.
So, you start by asking your local member, and the opposition party to respond to your demands for their policy on (list issues). You then start a campaign in the local press to whinge about the shortfall while continually quoting the opposition position. You keep that up for as long as it takes, repeating the message (include stories of real people waiting for ops, errors etc all down to harrassed nurses and doctors) and three things will happen.
1 Your public will become aware there is a better way.
2. Cameron will become jittery and eventually you will see it drag his attention away from Gadaffi, atomic power stations, his expense allowance etc.
3. The opposition will owe you, and having been quoted so often and widely, would not dare to renege!

HyperCRYPTICal said...

Thank you for your comments folks.

Frances: Sadly it is true that as a nation we have become quite apathetic and althought some of us protest re the rise of the 'nanny state', it would appear a lot of us are content with it and sit passively as our world falls apart around us.

Nurses - Not so sure here for it is true that degree nursing students spend the majority of time ward based. Perhaps a visit to Militant Medical Nurse might be an eye opener? Her style is that of anger (I think justified), but look past it. Nurses appear to have become the scapegoat for all NHS ills, fired by the tabloid press and until recently, The Patients Association. I tend to think the Patients Association have now begun to open their eyes. The nurses on wards the general public think are nurses are often not nurses at all - but health care assistants, who are very hard to distinguish re very similar uniforms.

Stafford: As the 'real' me I letter write - MPs, local rags and during the election time Tory HQ, The Blue Blog, etc; attempt to get local shops to display the above poster (image) - all give reasons why they can't, my GP wont(!) and belong to a certain 'group' but at a low key level.

Unfortunatley as a nurse I cannot make myself high profile as I would 'bring my profession into disrepute' Highlighting starving grannies, folk waiting for ops, etc would be akin to committing professional suicide. Sadly it is the way things are and I have to be a realist.

It is a truth that the coaliton government have only accelerated the steady privatisation of the NHS - the dreamchild of the previous Labour Government. This is the reason for the silence from the Labour Party.

Anna :o]

Cockroach Catcher said...

And yet it is not a true privatisation as it would not be much fun. The target victims would be the GPs and their consortia as the money is now with them. People will not even realise until it is too late. Private providers will cherry pick as they have to make profits or pay CEOs high bonuses. Monitor will be like the FSA; yeah and what did they do!

Good Secondary care doctors are going to be a rarer commodity, yes commodity. They have always been as Private Insurers used to sign them on. Now they will buy up GPs consortia in order to channel cases to their own Consultants.

Sadly, there is a group of MPs that could stop it and in fact they could become so popular. But would they do it?

Thanks for your confidence.

HyperCRYPTICal said...

Thanks for your comment CC

I am vaguely(!) wise and admittedly not learned and thus rely on your good self and others like you to open my eyes - and I am grateful that you do!

I fear for my NHS and I fear more that the general public are allowing themselves to be 'dumbed down' and treat their world with apathy, believing all that they read in the tabloid press which seems to revel (indirectly)in anti NHS bilge published therein.

Remembering 'The Winter of Discontent' and also 'I'm Backing Britain' I do so wish the general public would lift themselves from their apathy and begin an 'I'm Backing the NHS' campaign.

If only.....

Anna :o]

NorthernTeacher said...

Thanks for the petition link, Anna. Duly signed. Am just catching up on my blog reading having moved house just 3 weeks ago. Hurray!

HyperCRYPTICal said...

Yay Northern Teacher!

Your wise comments have been a miss across blogland! Hope you're well settled in your new home!

Anna :o]