Wednesday, 8 February 2017

The Future Of The NHS. Tonight It Is More Important Than A Cup of Tea

The next prompt in the list at thinkwritten is this:

39. Coffee & Tea: Surely you drink one or the other or know someone who does- write about it!

Ooh, I could really use a cup of tea right now.  Okay, okay, a mug of tea.  Don't you start getting pedantic on me or I won't bother making you one.  It's true.  Some tea would be a suitably calming addition to this moment.  I'm not getting up and putting the kettle on though.  Swore I wouldn't.  Not until I'd written about my drug of choice.  Tea.

I love my tea.  My kitchen would testify to this fact if my kitchen had the ability to stand up in court and speak.  Instead I'll just say that my wife would testify.  My child would testify.  And anyone who knows me well would testify too.  If the Tory government introduced a law making it illegal to dislike tea and I was charged as an anti-tea agitator I could easily win my case against the Crown.  Just you try it Teresa May.  I dare you!  On second thoughts don't.  Please don't.  Not only would it be a very stupid law, even more stupid than selling off parts of the National Health Service to private companies, there are those around me who don't like the taste of tea.  I may think them strange but I pass no moral judgement on these creatures who have been known to call my drinking habit disgusting.

And if you are going to flog off the NHS Mrs May, why throw it in the path of companies from the USA?  That's hardly going to save any money is it?  What are you thinking woman!  Have you seen how much private companies charge for health care over there?  Have you seen how worried poor people and disabled people currently are at the changes the new regime there is trying to introduce?  Let's be thankful for what we have in the UK.  And let's properly fund the NHS.  I know it's expensive but over all it's much cheaper than those Americans have to pay.  Let's give it an eight percent rise in funding each year to cope with the demands of an ageing population and the growth in medical technology.

The people of Britain are worth it.  Heck, half of us voted to leave the EU and one of the major arguments for leaving was the amount of money that would (supposedly) be saved by leaving and channeled straight into health care.  Our foreign secretary, master of the undiplomatic gaffe but you can get away with anything in politics with a bad haircut, stood in front of a big bus didn't he?  Were we lied to?  Make your own mind up.

Tea.  I'm meant to be writing about my beloved tea, not about my beloved NHS.  My family do not have a lot of money.  Without the NHS we would be struggling to pay for our health care.  As part of my necessary treatment for different issues I am prescribed various medications.  One of them costs over a pound a tablet.  I wish it didn't and I wish cheaper medicine helped me like this one does.  I've tried most of them.  They don't.  We'd find it hard to pay for that.  Another medicine I have to take would cost me well over three-hundred pounds for a private prescription every twelve weeks.  I'd love to cost the NHS nothing at all.  I really would.  But unfortunately I need these things.

Without the NHS - or other national government appointed "free at the point of delivery" health care what would we have done when my mother was ill with cancer? Four times.  What would have happened for my dad when he got ill?  What would happen to you, to your friends and family if there was no NHS and you weren't rich enough to pay for private care?  Sometimes I'm not sure if those currently in power in our country think about such questions enough.  We have a cabinet of privileged millionaires.  Without an NHS they don't personally suffer.  We just have to hope that they can't cope with the pain of needlessly allowing others to suffer.  We have to hope they might decide that giving someone a hip operation before they're in a wheelchair and in excruciating pain (moderate pain isn't enough to get you help under recent proposals) is a better use of cash than renewing the weapons of mass destruction in our arsenal - weapons we signed international treaties against.

At the weekend there was a protest in Newcastle.  A thousand people marched.  Most stayed around for at least part of a rally at which ten people gave short speeches and Bethany Elen Coyle sang songs.  She's sick.  I heard that a young person who joined the rally said so.  As a compliment of course.  We marched and rallied about the NHS, in particular about the NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plans that are proposed by our government.  The government says the STPs will revitalise the NHS.  NHS workers, users, and campaigners say that the opposite is the case and the NHS will be further weakened, if not walked further down a path to a terrible destruction.  It's a cost cutting exercise.  £22 billion cut by 2020.

Yes.  Cut.  None of that £350 million a week extra.  Roughly £350 million a week less.  I wonder how many of those voting for Brexit voted that way to stand for our NHS.  I wonder how many of them now stand with those campaigning.  And I wonder, as others have, how to get them involved more in the campaigns.  I think in order to do that the campaigning has to be unabashedly positive.  It must stand FOR the NHS rather than against people.  And I do know I've moaned about people and parties here.  If the Labour party or the Lib Dems were pushing the same policies I'd moan about them too.  Like it or not, no change will ever come by emailing Jeremy Corbyn.  At least not until the next General Election, should he win it.

The people marching and rallying were mainly the white liberal elite.  Yet the future of the NHS affects every one of us.  I looked out at the people listening to speeches.  After the march I decided for reasons unknown to myself not to follow the marchers but to climb the steps at Grey's Monument and stand nearer the speakers.  From there I could see everyone and I took pictures.  I felt proud to be among those gathered, honoured to be in a city where so many people come and stand for a cause.

And yet:  I have to wonder.  Almost everyone in that crowd was white.  Where were the faces of people of colour?  That's not a criticism.  It's just a wondering why those communities among us have not been reached with the message and how come they have not been galvanised into action.  The NHS belongs to them too.  I wonder too what the proportion was of Guardian readers to readers of The Sun.  Just how white middle-class liberal elite was that crowd of good people?  Because everyone is affected by STPs and cuts.  Everyone.  Somehow a campaign must be inclusive if it is to be truly powerful.

After the rally I attended a public meeting where questions like those above were asked.  The meeting was about one thing only:  Where do we go from here to build the campaign for the sake of the NHS and all of us who benefit from it?  One thousand people marched.  Twenty attended that meeting.  I was one and I had only gone to listen and learn and my head was wrecked by that stage so I left early.  Yeah, autism makes it costly for me to attend rallies.  Twenty.  Out of a thousand.  In the end it's easy to walk through the streets in a crowd on a dry Saturday lunchtime.  It's harder to do more.

I was there but I don't say that out of pride.  It's the first time in a long while I've been one of the twenty.  I cannot yet hold up my hands and say I am anything like the activist I want to be.  I fall short.  Far short.  And this year I'd like to find some ways to fall less short.  To be of use in some way beyond being a number on a street every now and again.

As for the NHS.  I believe together we can save her.  Before me I have a piece of paper handed to me before the march.  It was printed by a campaigning group called Keep Our NHS Public.  They tell me of some things I can do.  You could do them too.  Or the first of them at least.  The sheet says this:

Find out what's happening locally and join a local group.  See the KONP website,

There's also a Facebook page and group should you wish to like one and join the other.  There are also regional groups and pages.   That's easy.  I've just done that thing.

The KONP are pressing for (from the paper again)
  • Full funding of the NHS - to at least EU average levels.  We spend 75% of the EU average per head on healthcare.  How can we expect our NHS to be the best in the world if it's not properly funded?
  • No changes to be made without sound evidence being gathered and consent obtained from both medical professionals and the patients.
  • Support for the NHS Bill to restore the NHS.  That's due to get its second reading in a couple of weeks.

The STP plans are very worrying and most of us don't know anything whatsoever about them.  I didn't know either.  This is not about fighting a political party.  It's not about chanting that Jeremy Hunt has got to go, and just what would be the point of him going?  It's not about breaking down Teresa May.  No.  It's about fighting to regain a health service that's the envy of the world.  While that entails fighting government policies and by necessity involves taking the debate to politicians the fight must be positive not negative.

None of this is meant to make you feel bad for not acting.  Or feel good for acting.  It's not meant to evoke guilt or pride in me either.  I am though forced again to ask myself questions.  What can I do?  A very serious question because with my mental health being so variable I have to be careful not to head down laudable paths that will reduce me to a blubbering lump of no use to anyone.  Then there's that other question.  Where can I do?  Should I be fighting for the NHS or for other issues?  Instead or in addition.

I do not know.  I mean to find out.

This was meant to be a post about tea.  Perhaps that will get written tomorrow.  It's late now.  Too late for my promised drink.  I didn't mean to splurge out something heartfelt about the NHS.  I didn't mean to turn political on you after recent posts about teddy bear wars, jigsaw puzzles and a woman condemned as a witch.  Sometimes the free writing goes where it goes and I just follow.  Perhaps tonight it's gone in a direction worth travelling.

Fun fact: is caught by the Open Office spell checker.  As an alternative it suggests pro-Republican.

[1891 words]

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