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The Restore the People’s NHS London conference on Saturday 22 June was an important and informative event designed for experienced NHS activists, newcomers and all those passionate about ending the NHS crisis and saving it for future generations. The conference heard from NHS activists, health workers, and respected experts on how and why we should be fighting for a full restoration of the founding principles of the NHS.

As well as panel sessions we also gave attendees time to reflect on our messaging and campaigning activity in a series of table discussions covering a range of issues including,

  • Primary Care & Dentistry
  • Emergency services & Hospital care
  • Staffing Crisis
  • Maternity services
  • Social Care
  • Mental health emergency 
  • The main threats: Privatisation & De-funding

Below you can read our report of the event including feedback from the table discussions.

Why Restore the People’s NHS?

In the opening session of our conference, we heard from Louise Irvine, John Puntis, Mark Thomas and Johnbosco Nwogbo. The speakers outlined the five core goals of the Restore the People’s NHS campaign, introduced the We Own It main aims and campaigning strategies. Mark Thomas outlined the 99% Organisation and their Rational policy-makers guide to the NHS to explain how policy might be used to put an end to the NHS crisis. 

Our co-chair, John Puntis dispelled myths around ‘spare capacity’ in the private sector being used to help the NHS solve waiting lists.  

This led onto an opportunity for group discussion. Attendees were organised into seven tables sorted by issue: social care; mental health emergency; primary care and dentistry; staffing crisis; privatisation and funding; maternity and emergency services and hospital care.

Each group was given a list of common myths about the NHS and asked to debunk them, keeping their general topic in mind. 

Getting our messaging right

After some time for group discussion, one person from each group fed back to the rest of the conference. Myths included ‘the NHS is broken’, ‘the NHS is getting more money than ever before’. Groups also discussed privatisation and funding in maternity and the crises in dentistry and staffing.

‘The NHS is broken’

This argument fails to stand for a number of reasons. Firstly, the government has reformed the NHS twice in last 10 years and this hasn’t worked, but in fact deepened the crisis in public health.

There is a serious staffing crisis, with staff retention becoming harder. The dentistry contract doesn’t work for patients and needs to be changed. The NHS is not broken: but after the last 14 years of Tory and coalition cuts have left it barely able to function. This is ideological, rather than a sign that publicly funded services such as the NHS are doomed to fail.

‘The NHS is getting more money than ever before’

Per person, our health service is the worst funded amongst comparable economies in Europe, and there have been significant increases not only in population but also in the range of treatment now available on the NHS since its inception in 1948. There have been cuts to funding in lots of areas, for instance a real terms pay cut to NHS staff over the last decade.

Lots of money given to the NHS goes to private companies; we’ve lost £10m per week to profits since 2012. 

There was also discussion around the dental contract, and privatisation and funding in maternity care. Contributors made the argument that health is priceless, and patients seen privately for operations or maternity care, getting into difficulty, are often sent back to the NHS, finally, that doctors don’t go private to have babies. 

In terms of dentistry, it was suggested that good public health leads to less people needing to go to the dentist, and that diet and not brushing teeth could be improved by better funding for schools and improving access to healthier foods. At the same time, lack of access to regular health checks means that people are not aware of problems and therefore they escalate.

Why the NHS cannot be allowed to fail

In this second panel, we heard from Rachael Tomlinson, Gill George, Dr Pallavi Devulapalli and Samantha Wathen (speaking on behalf of Frontline-19).

The speakers covered a range of topics, from the importance of the End Social Care Disgrace campaign and good social care, to the Green Party’s stance on the NHS, to the vital work being carried out by Frontline-19.

This panel session was followed by another group discussion, this time on more practical campaigning ideas.

Getting our messages across

Groups were asked to share their views on how to campaign effectively, including stories of victories, or what they might like to see from KONP in the future.

Feedback from the groups can be grouped into three loose categories: campaigning in the community, campaigning on a national level, and working with the trade unions.

The importance of relating to the general public in order to win them to our cause was underlined, for instance through street activity. Stalls, leafleting, and relating to local community groups are all important ways to give local campaigns a boost. Patient and staff groups were also mentioned, as well as the importance of good copy and slogans around campaigns. It was also argued that community campaigning can and should be an enjoyable community venture, whereby people come together in a positive way to support a common cause: defending our vital public health service.

At a national level, attendees suggested the use of demonstrations and marches on a national level – both organising and attending them visibly as KONP. Media and social media relations were also touched upon, as well as relating to other campaigns and building confidence amongst activists, for instance with media training and campaigning skills.

Finally, attendees recognised that trade unions are a useful vessel through which we can organise, at both a national level and on a more rank and file basis. It is not only important to attend picket lines and support local disputes, but also to put pressure on trade unions already affiliated to us.

Closing rally

In the closing rally we saw a video message from Alison Steadman, heard from our co-chair Tony O’Sullivan and from workers at the East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust, who are balloting for industrial action.

The closing session was powerful as we heard moving testimony from the ESNEFT workers, who are battling against outsourcing plans that could cost 1000 jobs. You can find out more about their campaign and sign their petition here.

Tony O’Sullivan brought a close to the conference by talking about KONP’s history of campaigning, including some huge victories that have been won by our activists.


If you’d like to learn what the conference was about in more detail, please go to our YouTube page, where you can find videos of speeches and contributions from the day.

Find the full playlist here

Find workshop feedback here.

Save the date!

On 14 September we will be holding another conference in Central London, so please save the date! More information will be posted on our social media and website nearer the time.

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