NHS campaign – what’s going on?

Outside the Department of Health

Photograph by 38 Degrees

I thought it might be time to give a quick update on the NHS campaign. It’s been a bit quiet over the last few weeks, but things are about to hot up again.

Andrew Lansley is still trying to get his plan through parliament. It finally passed through the House of Commons last summer. It has been in the House of Lords for the last few months. Before Christmas thousands of 38 Degrees members contacted the Lords with concerns as the plan went through “committee stage”.

On February 8th the next stage in the House of Lords begins – “report stage“. Report stage will last a few weeks. This could be the final time that the House of Lords discuss the NHS plans in detail.

Before report stage starts, we can expect the government to announce if it will make any changes in response to our campaigning. Our people powered legal team is standing by to quickly analyse the proposed changes. They will cut through the spin and legal speak, so we are able to respond together.

Once report stage starts the Lords will have another chance to vote on changes to Lansley’s plan. They will be able to vote both on changes proposed by the government and changes proposed by other Lords. Some votes could be very close. We may have to pull together quickly to make sure the votes go the right way.

When we hear the government announcements and see what changes they are proposing, 38 Degrees members will have to vote together to decide what we should do next. This is likely to be within the next two weeks.

At the moment, we’re hearing a mixture of rumours on how much ground Andrew Lansley might have given. On the one hand, there are some encouraging signs that lords have secured important concessions on keeping the Secretary of State’s “duty to provide” a health service.

On the other hand, just  a few hours ago the Royal College Of Nurses and Royal College of Midwives announced that they thought Lansley’s plans were still very dangerous. They argue that the best thing would be for them to be scrapped altogether.

We will need to be ready to move fast and vote to decide together what we do next.

It’s amazing to think that when we first started to campaign to protect our NHS, people told us we were
wasting our time. They said the changes would be done and dusted by December 2010. But we didn’t give up. We kept up the pressure and defended our health service.

By working together we’ve formed the biggest campaign ever to protect the NHS. We are now half a million strong. We’ve signed petitions, delivered them to our MPs’ doorsteps and put pressure on key politicians. Over the last few months over 50,000 of us have contacted members of the House of Lords. On top of that we’ve funded a crack legal team to get to the truth of what’s on the table and expose the full extent of the government’s plans.

It’s nearly a year and a half since we started the campaign. Soon we’ll need to be ready for another big push. There will be more than a few politicians hoping that we’re worn out by now, or that we’ve got bored and decided to do something else. Time and again, 38 Degrees members have proven those who’ve doubted our commitment wrong. We know how important our NHS is, and that’s why we’ll keep working together to protect it.

So, please watch out for an email in the next couple of weeks asking you to help decide what we do next. In the meantime, if you’ve got any thoughts or ideas you’d like to share with other 38 Degrees members do share them in the comments below.