Change in tactics
Blink and you can miss major events affecting the NHS, as developments over the past week or so have shown. I have always been against strikes, or even more subtle forms of industrial action, whether over the pension dispute or the NHS reforms. Well-paid doctors are unlikely to gain widespread public support for their proposed industrial action over pensions, as acknowledged in a recent GP magazine article (click here). Indeed it could even harm our position.
Despite this, doctors still carry widespread public support and respect, and so using more subtle tactics could be effective. One excellent idea that I hope will be followed through was highlighted in a recent univadis GP News article (click here). According to the article, "a group of doctors has pledged to stand candidates at the next general election on a pro-NHS, anti-privatisation ticket, in a bid to unseat top Liberal Democrat and Conservative MPs who have backed the government's controversial health reforms". Nothing will worry a politician more than someone threatening their parliamentary career via the ballot box.
This kind of action is democratic, realistic and does not directly affect patient care. According to the article, about 50 candidates have initially been suggested and this number could rise. A successful campaign could generate significant media interest and although a general election may be some time away, a by-election fought by a good medical candidate could highlight some of the important issues facing healthcare.
However, while a great strategy for the future, it will not help us now. And so another article in the univadis GP News service, with the headline "GP leaders look to cooperate on Bill", also seemed pertinent to me (click here). Realistically, there is no point in opposing the Bill now that it looks like being implemented and we should try to make it work the best way we can. If it is as flawed as we believe then problems lie ahead, but it will be the staff on the front line who will have to dig out a solution.
Nevertheless, in these economically tough times, it is going to be hard to keep the NHS on an even keel. At some point an election will be on the horizon and having a number of eloquent medical campaigners taking on leading politicians could make a solid argument that will be listened to by a restless and unhappy electorate.
I think we have the right tactics about both of these decisions: accepting and working with the NHS reforms but fighting the politicians at the ballot box are the way to progress in the fight to defend and protect the NHS.
Dr Harry Brown, editor-in-chief univadis
By Dr Harry Brown