Four Days Left to Save the NHS: Petitions, Protests and Lobbying the Lords

15.3.12

Time is running out. As I have been explaining throughout this week, it would be great if there was a huge turnout at Saturday’s protest against the Tory-led coalition’s butchering of the NHS. which may be on the statute books by Tuesday without further concerted effort. So please, if you’re in London, or can make it to London on Saturday, come to the Save Our NHS! demonstration outside the Department of Health, from 2.30 to 4.30. 

And there is more. David Owen — Lord Owen — has tabled a crucial, last-minute amendment calling for the passage of the bill to be halted until the government releases its risk register, and there has been time for that important document to be scrutinised carefully. This is a hugely important development, and, as I explained yesterday, Lord Owen has a firm grasp of how passing the bill now, without the risk register being released (despite a tribunal twice ordering the government to release it) would be the third great constitutional outrage committed by the government — following David Cameron’s lie about not allowing a top-down reorganisation of the NHS on his watch, and the stealthy implementation of aspects of Andrew Lansley’s rotten NHS reform bill before it has even been passed by Parliament.

To help peers decide why they should be on the right side of history, Dr. Éoin Clarke, on his blog The Green Benches, has been encouraging supporters of the NHS to contact members of the House of Lords to ask them to support Lord Owen’s amendment. With the help of a widget designed by the activist Brian F. Moylan, it takes just a quarter of an hour to email every peer who might be persuaded to defeat the government on Monday, and I urge you please to send emails to the peers if you have just 15 minutes to spare.

The text of the email, as prepared by Dr. Clarke, reads as follows:

On Monday Lord Owen will propose an amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill. It will call on the NHS Bill to be paused until the Department of Health publishes the NHS Risk Register as it has been asked to do first by the Information Commissioner in November and most recently by the Information Tribunal last week. Please can I humbly request that you, in the interests of openness and transparency, support this motion? The potential risks of such fundamental reform to such an important part of our health infrastructure are too grave not to be given due consideration before the bill becomes law.

In addition, the campaigning group 38 Degrees has just announced today that Lord Owen has agreed to deliver their NHS petition, so far signed by over half a million people (529,758 at the time of writing), to the House of Lords on Monday, before the vote begins.

In a press release, the 38 Degrees team encouraged supporters of the NHS to continue signing the petition, and noted:

It speaks of our fears for the future of our NHS: services broken up, creeping privatisation, money diverted from patient care. These are the kind of risks which could be in the government’s risk report. But the government is still won’t publish that report, despite legal orders to do so.

During Monday’s debate, Lord Owen will call a vote blocking the NHS changes until the risk report is published. Our petition will remind Lords that the public care about these risks to the future of our health service. It could persuade some wavering Lords to vote the right way.

It’s quite a long shot, to be honest. The government seems determined to ignore everyone’s concerns and force things through. But incredible things can happen even this late in the day — it’s definitely worth a try. […]

As the Lords gather to decide whether or not to press on with changing the NHS without knowing all the risks, let’s send them a reminder. Let’s remind them that across the UK, hundreds of thousands of us know what it feels like to arrive at a hospital or a doctor’s surgery, tired, sick or frightened for someone you love. And that we know how much we rely on our NHS in those situations to give us the care we need.

Each name on our petition is a reason for the Lords to think twice before gambling with the future of our NHS. It will show them that although we all know the NHS isn’t perfect, we know that it’s pretty amazing. It will remind them that when we talk about risk registers, we’re talking about threats to a health service which is the envy of the world.

This could be the final opportunity for your friends, workmates and family to stand up for the NHS before the key votes happen.

The campaigning group Avaaz also has an ongoing petition, to be delivered to the House of Lords, which states:

The battle to save the NHS is now entering its final hours. David Cameron and Andrew Lansley seem determined to drag Britain’s most famous institution to its grave, but if we now stand together we can get the House of Lords to stop this bill in its tracks.

Public outrage is gripping the country as the Prime Minister persists with a bill that would dismantle the NHS and open the field to private companies. The government refuses to publish its internal report on the risks of the reforms, one reason among many why thousands of health professionals and many politicians oppose the changes. If we now build a massive outcry we can sway our last line of defence — the House of Lords — to save the NHS.

Let’s call on the undecided members in the House of Lords to keep the knives off our NHS and ensure we can all read the official risk report — sign here and circulate. Our voices will ramp up the pressure as we deliver our petition when we reach key milestones between now and Monday.

The coalition promised no top-down reorganisation of the National Health Service. Yet it’s brought in a bill that threatens to turn large chunks of the NHS over on a plate to private health care companies and cost-cutting consultants, threatening a tidal wave of privatisation that will leave our health system expensive and fragmented, with many of us getting only low-quality care. Citizens are outraged — according to the latest polls, over half of us want the new bill to be scrapped.

Public opposition has already delayed the bill and forced several amendments, but the government is refusing to halt the reforms, wrongly insisting that opponents are just a minority group of disgruntled health care professionals and political opponents. The fight for the NHS now depends on the 200 members of the House of Lords who don’t belong to a political party. They aren’t used to public scrutiny, so if we target them now, we can win and ensure that any reforms of our precious health service are done in concert with health professionals and patients.

We only have until Monday to tip the balance. The recommendation to delay the debate until after the risk register has been released will throw the NHS a lifeline and allow us all to see the likely impact of this bill. Sign the petition, and send widely.

Britain is proud of the NHS, which has saved countless lives and won admirers across the world. Let’s act now and ensure our health care system stays free for all.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in June 2011, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign,” and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

12 Responses

  1. Ally says...

    This crap about the NHS going private is crap!!!! We are not America!!!!!!!

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    No, not yet, but we will be. How else are these fat cats, and their facilitators in government, who are anxious to get their hands on lucrative post-MP positions, going to milk an ailing – and possibly terminally ailing – economy? At a conservative estimate, there’s 8 percent of Britain’s GDP that’s not being fully exploited by healthcare companies and consultants. Please don’t be naive. We live in an age of cannibal economics and cannibal governments. The times that any of them actually cared about real jobs and real growth are long gone …

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    Digging and sharing, Andy.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, George. I emailed all the Lords who might possibly change their minds. Only one replied. He was all for changing my mind instead. Lord Thomas of Gresford wrote (amongst other things), “Thank you for your interest in this legislation. It has been hugely distorted in the media, but if you study it, you will soon appreciate that the basic pillars of the NHS are maintained.” I was searching for the word “not” in that sentence, “the basic pillars of the NHS are maintained,” but I couldn’t find it!

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    That is disgusting, and the tone and content are denigrating. Worse yet, it assumes you *haven’t * ‘studied’ it at all, so that you don’t know what you are talking about. ‘Condescending’ is the proper word.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Dejanka Bryant wrote:

    I sent my e-mail to all of them, too. It is really easy. Everyone should do it. It takes only 5 minutes. Shared, from George’s wall.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks George and Dejanka. Being spoken down to by a Lord, George – surely that’s what Tory Britain is about. Either that, or being spoken down to by any card-carryng Tory educated at Eton.
    See you at the Whitehall protest tomorrow, Dejanka – and other readers too, hopefully.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    Ha Andy. This morning I was tempted to add almost exactly what you said but refrained, for fear of offending some Lords or Eton-Tories who might be willing (in a rare microsecond of empathy) to sign 38 Degrees, after reading these texts.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    There is always an open invitation for peers or MPs with Tory/Eton connections to join us in the decent place we inhabit (which, I should add, isn’t a Labour or Lib Dem place either), but they would always need to be able to acknowledge that their background doesn’t favour care for all, George. My three years at Oxford are a long time ago now, but nothing really changes. Etonians expect to rule.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Dejanka Bryant wrote:

    Andy, did you email Bishops too? I didn’t notice this gadget before. http://eoin-clarke.blogspot.com/2012/03/to-save-nhs-we-might-need-god-here-is.html

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    I tried, Dejanka. His/Her/its Petitionary Prayer server is down.

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Dejanka. I hadn’t seen that. If the problems with the sacred server are resolved, I’ll try and find the time!

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer (The State of London).
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