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.