Our NHS is under threat on multiple fronts, and the next week will bring several key moments for all supporters of the NHS to make our voices heard. From demonstrations to data-sharing, here are five key actions you can take this week to help save our health service.
1. Sign, write, protest: Oppose the Health and Care Bill!
Next week Parliament will once again be deliberating the government’s new Health and Care Bill – known more accurately by campaigners as the Corporate Takeover Bill. The new bill would give ministers broad latitude to award massive contracts to private companies to take over vast swathes of NHS services, and would cement the reorganisation of NHS services into vast “Integrated Care Systems” lacking in local accountability.
Keep Our NHS Public has been compiling signatures for weeks on a petition opposing the Bill. Some 111,000 people have signed, and there is still time to sign and share the petition if you haven’t yet done so! We also encourage all supporters to write to their MP if they have not already done so, expressing their total opposition to the Bill (more information here).
On Monday 22 November, as MPs begin their final debates on the Bill before sending it to the House of Lords, we are joining members of three allied health campaigns that have also petitioned against this legislation (We Own It, Just Treatment and Your NHS Needs You) to jointly hand in our petitions at the Department of Health. At 5pm that evening we are co-hosting a rally against the Bill in Central London with Unite the Union, uniting health workers with celebrity supporters and members of the public. If you can, come join the rally! Some local unions and health campaigns are also organising protests in other parts of the country.
2. Public consultation: stop private companies grabbing patient data
The government is currently running a consultation on proposed reforms that would make it easier for NHS patient data to be accessed and used for “research”. As has been argued persuasively by the Open Rights Group, the real effect of these reforms would be to allow private firms to access and circulate NHS patient data for various opaque commercial operations, including market research and targeted advertising. In other words, this is a new approach to the same goal of corporate data-sharing that the government backed off from in August after widespread opposition and opting-out by patients.
The consultation on the latest proposed reform closes at 11:45 on Friday 19 November, so there is still time to submit responses to it. You can fill out the survey online, or write out your answers to the questions and email them to [email protected] (including your full name in the email). If you are not using the online survey you can find the questions in the grey boxes spaced throughout the government’s full consultation document.
The questions may seem imposing, but the Open Rights Group have produced excellent guidance which can be found in summary here and at greater length here, to assist in filling out the consultation. Most questions are in the form of a multiple-choice statement (from “Strongly disagree” to “Strongly agree”), with optional space for providing more detail. KONP is submitting our response and that will soon be available here.
3. March with Midwives this weekend
In the last month thousands of midwives have come together to organise a grassroots day of action over the crisis in maternity services. Midwives are taking action over the devastating under-staffing and under-resourcing that have stretched workers to breaking point made them unable to provide the caring and responsive maternity services that patients need.
As the manifesto of the March with Midwives group says: “The maternity system is not just under pressure or even on its knees. It is utterly broken and not fit for purpose.” Deliberate neglect by this government endangering lives.
Vigils and demonstrations are happening in dozens of cities, towns and locations across the UK at 2pm on Sunday 21st November – see the map below to find and attend your nearest event!
4. Protect GP services: Donate to the Centene Judicial Review fighting fund
We’ve been raising the alarm since February about the takeover of dozens of GP surgeries by US corporation Centene, which has left Centene’s UK branch Operose as the provider of primary care services to some 375,000 patients nationwide in England. The takeover was rushed through without any meaningful consultation with patients and staff, nor any deep examination of Centene’s record as a controversial firm that has been accused of fraud and negligence in the United States.
Last month a judge granted campaigners’ request for a Judicial Review of the North London Clinical Commissioning Group’s decision to allow the takeover to go ahead – opening up a real opportunity to have the decision quashed. This would be a massive win against the privatisation of GP services. There is huge support for the campaign – £20,000 were donated within 24 hours of the Crowdfunder going live – but this is a David-and-Goliath legal battle where every pound donated will make a difference.
If you can, donate now to the Crowdfunder to fund the legal case, and help overturn this disastrous corporate takeover. You can also share the appeal with your friend and family.
5. Join the movement!
Whatever happens, we need to keep campaigning for the long haul. Our NHS is buckling from the impacts of long-term neglect, privatisation and the devastating Covid-19 pandemic. We need a sustained mass movement of patients and health workers to block the privatisation agenda, win better resourcing for healthcare, and reinstate the founding principles of our NHS – universal, publicly-funded and publicly accountable healthcare.
All supporters of the NHS are welcome to join Keep Our NHS Public as a member and to get involved in one of our dozens of local campaign groups (or start a new one!). You can also look up and join the amazing allied campaigns and organisations mentioned above or others local to you. Trade union members are also encouraged to affiliate their branch to Keep Our NHS Public and to get other members involved in our activities, both nationally and locally.
We need everyone working together, this week and beyond, to save our health service!