Tuesday, 17 January 2012
"Let's be 'avin' you!"
Bevan’s Runners message to NHS and health leaders - “Let’s be ‘avin you”
The last day of Bevan’s Run started just after 8am on a frosty morning in Beaconsfield, with the aim of doing a 6 hour marathon to get into Whitehall by about 2pm.
At Uxbridge we were joined by “Dave the Ambulance Man”, who had come all the way from Bognor to do the last 18 miles with us. He is a member of the GMB union and you’ve guessed it - an Ambulance driver! He was very concerned about the bill and its negative effects on the NHS and local services. He said he was frustrated by the unions and was looking for leadership so he could do more to fight the bill. I shared those frustrations when thinking of the medical leaders from the Royal Colleges (with the exception of Clare Gerada from the Royal College of GPs). We felt that the unions and colleges had failed to show the leadership that grassroots members were yearning for to help fight against the bill. There had been too much focus on a “staying in the tent” approach with an associated complicity, which becomes counter-productive when dealing with such ideologically driven proposed legislation. Any form of support for such an unpopular bill is seized upon by the politicians and their media machine, to drive the agenda forward.
I told “Dave the Ambulance Man” about my recent open letter to the Royal College Presidents (co-signed by over 100 doctors) calling for the Colleges to act in a united front against the bill. They did make a response, but it was a weak response and fell well short of agreeing with BMA policy, which is to call for withdrawal of the bill and to oppose it in its entirety. This is particularly frustrating because the BMA represents about 70% of all doctors, so will also represent the majority of College members and fellows too. I believe that it is disgraceful that the Colleges, (bar a couple of exceptions like the RCGP and RCPsych) have failed to survey the opinions and views of their paying members/fellows on such an important issue – an issue that resulted in the BMA calling for its first emergency Special Representative Meeting (SRM) to debate the bill in 20 years.
Not only did “Dave the Ambulance Man” help me through “the wall” with a very well timed bag of “Skittles”, he also gave me the impetus to once again challenge the Colleges to come out much more actively against the bill. In addition, it also became clear that the leaders of other health unions, like the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), Unite and Unison, also need to show greater leadership to their members and show a lot more fight to defend the NHS. Their campaigns and public statements have not been big or bold enough thus far.
“Bevan’s Run” may now be over, but our fight to defend the NHS and try and stop the Health and Social Care Bill must go on. The NHS is too important to be destroyed by such a flawed, undemocratic and ideologically driven bill.
So the Bevan’s Runners message to Professor Neil Douglas, President of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges; Dave Prentis and Karen Jennings of Unison; Len McClusky of Unite; and Peter Carter of the RCN is:
“Cahm on. Let’s be ‘avin’ you”
Dave the Ambulance man, a million NHS workers and many millions more members of the public, need you to stand with the NHS Consultants’ Association, BMA and the Royal College of GPs to call for withdrawal of the bill and organise a huge public rally in defence of the NHS. It is in the national interest for you to do this.
So do it together and do it now.