Ok, so now the health reform bill is through. Bar the unlikely success of a bid to get the Queen not to sign it, this bloated piece of legislation, written the kind of complicated yet vague language meant to ensure the reader loses the will to live, festering with amendments and over the most concerted opposition by doctors ever.
A lot of us wrote letters to MPs, Lords, signed various petitions (the biggest one ended up being 38Degrees), went on pickets, marches, organised meetings, held street ‘auctions’ of health services. But not enough, and when there were what should have been enough doing all these things, it was too late to turn this particular part of the saga from away from a bad ending.
But really…let’s make sure this ‘saga’ continues. Now that the doctors have agreed about what they don’t want, can we hear from them and public health experts, about what they do? One reason opposition to this bill took so long to pick up steam was that really, almost everyone who had anything to do with PCTs directly were fed up with them. Although our campaign had a lot of support among people working at Finsbury Health Centre, there was great fear of speaking out – and indeed when people did they were severely spoken to afterwards. Lanlsey’s bill will not change this culture, and if anything will make it worse.
We can already see what happens where our brave new healthcare market has already let profit-driven companies run things: Southern Cross, and lately the closure of whole GP practice in Camden have caused untold chaos and worry for patients.
There are still things to do to preserve the scraps of what’s left, outlined by Richard Blogger writing for False Economy which involve getting involved in the structures formed by the bill. More ideas from Andrew Craig here. There is an opportunity to find out more about how to do this Wednesday at the Islington Link Fair, 4-8pm at The Resource Centre, Holloway Road, N7 6PA where the main existing group for patient participation will be talking about the issues facing patients. (Unfortunately their website is down, phone 020 7832 5813 for more information.) There are also already moves underway to push for a ‘Restore the NHS’ bill, and get NHS candidates to elected to parliament and local councils…
We also need to be thinking about what kind of NHS we want restored. The PCTs (now in clusters) are opaque and unaccountable to the public they are supposed to serve. Given the history of FHC, which was commissioned by a local health committee under the guidance of a Medical Officer for Health (a doctor responsible for researching and advocating for public health) I’ve never understood why the old PCT/trust functions could not be done by elected councillors in a decision-making health committee. When we started this campaign that’s how most people thought things ran already.
So please, no more talk of death, there is still plenty left to fight for.