Why an NHS party is the last thing we need (and a possible alternative)

It  was announced yesterday that a new political party is being formed: the National Health Action Party. It is a single-issue party, dedicated to opposing the destruction of the NHS, encouraging doctors to stand in tactically-selected constituencies at the next general election.

I think it’s utterly futile.

First, the small stuff. The leader of this party was previously an MP, with a slightly dubious voting record, including voting against hunting bans and for homophobic policy (which he later U-turned on, which smacks of politicking). This just goes to show the mixed bag that one gets with single-issue parties. The NHS is lovely, but I’m not so keen on homophobia or the rich murdering animals for fun.

There is also an argument to be made about “competition” with “good” political parties, but frankly, I’m not going to touch that Westminster gibberish. It is all part of a spectacle in which we have about as much control of the outcome as a county cricket match. Instead of worrying about Labour losing a vote or two, it’s probably better to watch Game of Thrones. At least that’s got some sex and swearing in it.

Ultimately, changes to the NHS bill are not going to be made through parliamentary processes. At its best, end-game strategy, the National Health Action Party would get a couple of seats, say their piece, and be voted down. Top-down re-restructuring isn’t going to happen. On this level, the changes to the NHS are irreversible. It’s not coming back any time soon, and no amount of voting for friendly-looking doctors is going to change that.

So what can be done? Let us remember that those in the medical profession, the doctors, the nurses, the hospital workers, all have a very negative attitude towards the government policy. With increasing, impenetrable layers of bureaucracy being added, they are unhappy. Now, normally when workers get pissed off, they have a brilliant weapon in their arsenal: withdrawal. Unfortunately, this option is not available to those in the medical profession, as we kind of need people with the knowledge to make people not die.

Yet striking does not need to be simply a withdrawal of labour, and there is one method which would be highly suitable for medical professionals: the good work strike. This tactic was used by workers in a French hospital, who stopped filling in the labyrinth of billing paperwork, and simply spent more time with their patients.  Within three days, their demands were met, as the hospital had lost half of its income.

If every doctor, every nurse, every porter and  ambulance driver and dentist and radiologist working in the NHS ceased to comply with bureaucracy and focused more on the people that matter–the patients–imagine the possibilities. The GPs could refuse to commission, and spend 15 minutes talking to a patient rather than ten. Any patient in an NHS bed rather than a private one in the same hospital would receive the same level of care, as nobody would be filling in the billing. The workers could run medical care their way, rather than as a business.

Even the sympathetic bureaucrats could help: those countless pen-pushers who hate the system but cannot see an alternative. Medical services are always understaffed, and imagine the possibilities of more people spending more time with patients: just sitting with them, talking to them, not even providing care.

Government policy would crumble, and patient care would not suffer at all. In fact, it would improve.

A political party for the NHS is ultimately disempowering, taking the solution out of the hands of the workers and concentrating it among a few select individuals who must be trusted to represent. It is unnecessary, and right now, it’s the last thing we need.


8 thoughts on “Why an NHS party is the last thing we need (and a possible alternative)”

  1. Good idea and applicable to most of the public sector actually. Makes you think why the unions keep on organising ‘work to rule’ actions. Management don’t care about work to rule, as long as you filled your paperwork, no one cares if there was any teaching, cleaning, anything real done. Such ‘good work’ strikes would be so much more effective and also completely undermine the government rhetoric that withdrawal of labour hurts ‘the public’.

  2. Um. This ‘good work strike’ thing sounds great, and if you were in a private hospital when you could snarl up the billing then it probably would be. But in the NHS? Which parts of the bureaucracy do you consider expendable? Drug requisition forms? Not so good when you run out of medicine. Sudden Untoward Incident paperwork? Great, lets compromise patient safety by turning a blind eye to mistakes and bad practice. Patient records? Yeah, because not keeping vital information on patient treatment up to date, when patients can be in contact with over a dozen medical specialists during their treatment, is no big thing right?

    So what about the non-clinical stuff? We can let the crap about outsourced cleaning services and catering companies go hang, right? Until the hospital runs out of anti-bacterial gel or staff don’t get fed. What about HR and finance stuff? It can’t be a bad thing if poorly paid midwives doing community outreach can’t claim back their travel expenses or go on holiday can it?

    I’ve worked in the bureaucracy of a hospital. Most of it is tedious and a massive pain in the arse to comply with – but almost all of it is, somewhere along the line, essential for the benefit and safety of staff and patients. The people at the rock face, and yes, they do have the toughest jobs, may bitch and moan about form filling and how pointless and onerous it seems and everyone can sympathise. But for them to be able to do what they do, to work in clean, warm buildings, to get paid and fed, to make sure that they have the medicines and supplies to undertake their treatments, to make sure that the right patient is in the right place for their operation – it all takes logistics and logistics takes paperwork. It isn’t glamorous or dashing or ‘important’ like the work of doctors and nurses, but it is essential and a hospital can’t function without it.

    I’ve been reading your stuff for while now and you’re normally a lot more savvy than this. Wtf?

    1. Ah but you forget this then becomeds a management issue, the management would fail by not getting these things sorted not the cliniccians. it highlights amajor flaw in the governments policy – everything is outsourced – the things you speak of will still happen becuase otherwise those companies would not be paid.

      A ‘frontline focus’ campaign strictly adhering to the governments message that these reforms are about protecting services would leave the government on the backfoot how could they attack a union for carrying out their policy? (the unions fail by falling back on useless strike action whateever happen to ‘work to rule’?) It would be the centralised functions of management contracting and payment and leave the new lightweight management structures floundering and the CCG’s flummoxed – ie GP could concentrate on their GP work also. The public would see nothing but benefit but it would completely undermine the management task of handing over services to private providers as they would be dragged into the job they are paid for which is the day to day management of the NHS not planning the destruction and fragmentation of it.

      This would solve the floundering nonesence the BMA is trying to concoct to counter pensions!

  3. My priority is keeping the NHS away from those politicians/corporate men and women in the house. Who we all know have investments within private medical business, we all know the tories got gifted almost 9m£ befor the election and we all know Lansley (a big investor himself in one of the largest private med corps in the world) was put in charge to ensure the NHS be dismantled and handed over to said corporations. We now hear that Jerrymaderingtax avoider Hunt is now in charge of completing this hand over. Not for the benefit of this counry but for the benefit of those 200 odd parliamentarians and 40+ lords who were allowed to vote on the 27th March. Outrage..that is not democracy, its a monopoly of control. if it takes a sep single party to halt this process, so then lt gets my vote. I have been a long time labour voter but the gulf war and them actually being the 1st party to open the door to private investors into the Health leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. Sadly right now nha only asking for medical personell to join the party.; That I find very disapointing, when their is a wealth of people out there with other experiences that can help this party move forward and gather strength. it is afterall a public service.

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