I see a lot, as an NHS ‘outsider’. I work with doctors and my wife works as a Health Visitor Team Manager. I get to see what is happening to people who work for the NHS ‘at a distance’, but that does lend a certain perspective. What I see is ugly.
I see people, all of them hard working and dedicated, working long hours with ever-increasing workloads and ever-decreasing resources. I hear of them putting in the extra hours, usually unpaid, in buildings which are plainly in need of repair and in some cases actually in danger of collapse. I see a public which is both increasingly frustrated and grateful for what NHS staff are doing, or trying to do.
I hear excuse after excuse from various politicians. About how they are going to ‘cut waste’, about how ‘inefficient’ the service is. What continues to surprise me, more than anything, is that anyone can still believe any of it. All they have to do is ask, ‘why are so many good people having to work so very hard?’ Can things be SO ‘inefficient’ groups within the NHS are having to work 2,3,4 times longer than they should, just to get things done? How did that happen – under successive governments? Yet no one within government is blaming government itself. Why have the public seemed capable of an immensely damaging act of double-think for so long, believing on the one had you can constantly cut taxes while on the other wondering why public services continue to degrade?
My field is words. More precisely, how words are used to persuade others. That can be a good thing: health education is largely doing just that, for more positive outcomes for more people. It can also be used to cloak damage, deny harm, cover up lasting injustice: propaganda at its worst. It’s all about managing perceptions. If the public did perceive how hard people had to work, and with so little resources, I don’t think for a moment they would continue to believe the lines they are being fed. They would see the holes in that 360 degree propaganda, and see the lasting damage beyond. To the NHS. To the staff. And ultimately to themselves.
We have a lot to be proud of. It’s being wrecked. My job, and part of the role of groups like DFNHS, is to lift the covers, shatter the illusion. Deafen the whispered lies that this is all about ‘efficiency’ and ‘red tape’ with the roar of the painful truth. That the NHS is running now only through the goodwill of those working in it, facing immensely difficult odds to do a job with not enough. This is where groups like Doctors for the NHS have a critical part to play. People listen to doctors. People can believe. More importantly, they can be shown why they have to stop believing, and start asking questions to those in power. Such as why? Do you really care about our NHS, about our health, about the people working so hard? Or do the ideals you hold about markets, about private enterprise, about wealth being right, cloud your perspectives? The NHS is not perfect; there are no perfections here. But it’s time to point to the imperfections and call them out for what they are.