The present government appears to have few guiding principles, other than to do what seems currently popular - hence its emphasis on focus groups. But this means it is vulnerable to public opinion: being out of favour is what scares it the most. To save the NHS we need to tell the public how the government is wrecking the health service, spell out what its plans will mean, and make the government so worried about its popularity (and hence its ability to remain in power) that it is forced to reconsider its strategy. Since the BMA will not oppose the government in any meaningful way, we'll just have to start the ball rolling ourselves.
Wherever a hospital in a Labour-held constituency is threatened with closure, a local doctor should announce that they will stand for parliament on a ‘save our hospital' ticket. This will threaten to undermine the sitting member's majority and warn the government that, if it doesn't change its plans, it risks losing an MP, as happened when Dr Richard Taylor won Kidderminster as an independent candidate.
Write to your local paper saying what is going wrong and why. Tell everyone what will happen to healthcare in your own community if the reforms go through. Use leaflets, posters and meetings to ensure your patients know the scale of destruction of the NHS; the lack of choice in Choose and Book; the planned hospital and departmental closures; the £48 billion wasted each year; and the confidentiality issues surrounding Connecting for Health.
In turn, the public will influence government policy by making their concerns felt en masse to MPs of all political persuasions. Negative publicity, not politics, is the name of the game. Impress upon everyone that either the policies or the government must change, or else the NHS will implode.
A determined, nationwide campaign like this could create a storm of public anger against the government's policies. In turn this should force it to reconsider its plans out of fear of losing the next election. We can save the NHS - let's do it!
- Dr Lancelot is a GP from Lancashire. Email him at GPcolumnists@haymarket.com