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Sunday, May 20, 2012

10 things you can do to halt Andrew Lansley's destruction of our NHS

1. Submit a freedom of information request. You'll receive an answer within 20 working days and if you ask the right questions you could transform supporters of the NHS's ability to fight Lansley's privatisation. I use "whatdotheyknow" for my queries as they are the most user friendly way of submitting a query. You can also browse the other types of queries asked there to give yourself ideas about how to word yours.

2. Choose a NHS provider, not a private one when you get your choice of operation. Under Labour legislation you have the right to insist that you are given the choice of opting to be treated by the NHS. So, if your operation or consultation letter arrives with no NHS choice, you can insist on being given one. This will keep demand/custom within the National Health Serivce and make it harder for Lansley to justify flogging it.

3.  Join your local LINks (soon to be Healthwatch). This patient driven body will oversee the functioning of the new health service, and how it operates in its first year 2013/4 will set the tone for its future. It's crucial that we hit the ground running by getting defenders of a public NHS onto those committees.

4. Join your local Clinical Commissioning Group. I am happy to report that we have secretly placed quite a lot of activists within the CCG structure. They feed back regularly on proceedings at the CCG monthly meetings. The intelligence link they provide, as well as action to upcoming commissioning decisions will greatly aid our efforts to prevent Serco/Virgin and others from gaining contracts.

5. Join your local NHS Trust. Membership is free and open to all. There are incentives such as access to discounts and free quarterly magazines. You have the right to stand for the Trust Board and you get a vote in those elections.

6. Make a complaint to the Co-Operation and Competition Panel. Serco are not fit to run our 111 NHS services because they cannot be trusted to keep the jobs in the UK. It's likely they'll outsource up to 40% of jobs to India. Virgin have struggled to retain NHS staff who are transferred under TUPE when they gain a contract. For both of these reasons, it is not wrong to consider making a free of charge appeal to the CCP to review commissioning decisions. In the past Virgin Care have not been shy about using this complaints system. I see no reason why we cannot do the same.

7. Join a Trade Union. Less than half of health sector employees are in Trade Unions. This makes the job of unions defending staffs interests more difficult. GMB have shown excellent leadership in sticking up for their staff who have suffered bullying in Derriford Hospital and Great Royal Western Hospital in Swindon. They certainly make the union dues well worth it. 

8. Blow your whistle. We are relying on you to keep the information flow going. Thus far, the feedback from staff, patients and activists has been outstanding. They have helped flag up threats to staff, wages, patients, hospitals etc. If you witness wrongdoing, we need to hear about it. You can be guaranteed that your identity will be kept secret. Not one whistle blower has been unmasked in any news story I have covered.

9. Support the Early Radar Detection Scheme. Over the weekend, I have been working on building a n open shared database that logs all threats to our NHS by category. This includes threats to pay, downbanding, use of workfare, bullying, ward closure, strike action, failure to achieve Foundation status, threats of hospital closure. It also includes maintaining records on Hospitals or PCTs who have faced criticisms over Financial or Quality standards. The reason for this is that we have found it easier to defend hospitals or staff where the threats are identified early. The sooner we are aware of dangers the better.

10. Become a share holder in private health companies. I am in the process of buying shares with Serco, and I intend to do the same for the other top 10 healthcare companies. This enables us to attend their AGMs and become a nuisance from the inside. It could lead to practical benefits such as forcing healthcare companies to be transparent about their salaries or quality/performance standards. The reason this is especially critical is because private health companies do not have to answer Freedom of Information legislation, nor are the obliged to follow Department of Health guidelines on whistle-blowing.

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