Report on the Conference

Report on Reclaiming Our NHS

The campaign to save the NHS is back on its feet according to the Guardian’s Polly Toynbee in her report (Guardian – 29th June) on Reclaiming the NHS – a national public conference organised by the NHS Support Federation and Keep Our NHS Public. A packed hall of 500 people from around the country came to find out the latest from the frontline of the NHS and help to decide what patients, NHS staff and its supporters can do together to protect it. The health bill may have been passed, but the powerful message from this vibrant event was that we will not give up and that there is much that we can do.

Frances O’Grady - Assistant General Secretary of the TUC, opened the day with a powerful message,

“Our NHS is special the values that inspire are induring and the public service ethos that underpins it are unique.”

Jacky Davis – BMA council members and leading opponent to the Health Act focussed sharply on the failure of politicians and the threat to NHS values.

“I don't blame the business people for being business people I blame Cameron for allowing them to occupy a position where they can be exerting undue influence to their commercial advantage”

What came out of the event?

A new campaign launch - All the 10 partners in the event (national unions, charities and campaign groups) signed a joint statement launching the beginning of the next stage in the fight to save the NHS from privatisation and the free market changes. They committed themselves to working together and giving national support to achieve this (full statement)

Information – many of us have seen growing pressure on the NHS over the last few months, but in hearing reports from all over the country, the conference made it very clear that the problems are far deeper and more immediate than many of us thought. The delegates who work within the NHS confirmed that lack of knowledge about what’s going on is common. Clare Gerada confirmed that even the GPs taking charge of commissioning have significant gaps in their knowledge. We will be seeking to produce a more regular health bulletin, but there will be other initiatives to share information across the NHS supporter network.

Ideas about strategy – much of what is happening is on our doorstep, the battle to keep our NHS is more local than ever before. However we can take steps to influence the new health bodies - such as the GP led Clinical Commissioning Groups. There were many calls from the speakers and delegates for local people to get more involved. A range of workshops generated ideas and advice which was fed back into the afternoon session, one of the most successful elements of the event. Many of these ideas are being published and some are already being put into action and adopted by the national organisations that supported the day.

Organisation – the involvement of groups like 38 degrees and ukuncut in the event helped to show how the power of social media can create more flexible and fast moving campaigns. The meeting concluded that these networks and partnerships are often more powerful than one umbrella campaign. Plenty of advice was also available though out the day, from experienced campaigners about how to set up local groups, influence your local NHS and make contacts with other NHS supporters. Delegates from the Gloucester campaign told how they were able to coordinate a legal challenge to slow the process of privatisation in their area.

Inspiration – given the direction of the NHS you may have thought the mood of the conference would have been downcast, but there was strong resolve expressed and many of the delegates said that they were greatly encouraged and would go back to battle for their NHS in their own area. We were reminded at the end of the day in a poignant and moving contribution from Prof Harry Keen (President of the NHS Support Federation) just how a national health service has changed our society, removed suffering and is certainly worth fighting for.

What are we doing next?

This event is just the start – we want to know what’s happening in your area and receive your views and experiences . We also want to help you with information, ideas and contacts.

Five ways to help now

  1. Ask your CCGs to adopt a pro-NHS code, examples are on our website.
  2. Distribute a postcard that patients can give to their GPs expressing their preference, where possible to be treated by public not private providers.
  3. Help publicise and attend the national demonstration October 20 called by the TUC in which the plight of the NHS is one of the key themes.
  4. Find out which services are being outsourced to the private sector in your area. A guide is available on our website.
  5. Tell us what’s happening in your area and link up with others like pensioner groups, members of groups like 38 degrees and NHS staff, to help organise.

More resources and support will be appearing on our website soon, but in the meantime please send me your ideas about how we can have a bigger say in the NHS –

I would like to express huge thanks to all those who supported and attended the conference. Summaries of all the workshops are being published on our website together with more details of the next steps we can take in the fight to reclaim our NHS.

With thanks and best wishes

Paul Evans