The national Convention to Save the NHS conference which took place on 28 February was a good initiative, and useful.
The convention was initiated by activists from 999 Call for the NHS, who organised a high profile march across the UK last year.
Over the course of the day, perhaps 130 activists took part. While that number is not as high as might have been hoped, it was still a substantial event, with people there from a wide variety of campaigns and local groups across the country. It was a great opportunity for building links.
Fewer speakers and more time for discussion might have been a good idea. The speakers were a bit of a mixed bag. For instance, PFI expert Lucy Reynolds gave a detailed and informative presentation, but weaved it in with a conspiracy theory reaching from international financial institutions and the City of London to the Labour Party and Keep Our NHS Public! The point being not that the ruling class doesn’t organise consciously wherever it can and by whatever means it can find, but that fundamentally what we need is struggle to create pressure from below, not the unravelling of conspiracies.
On the other hand, some speakers were excellent. Particular praise must go to the efforts of the organisers to work the issue of migrants’ right to healthcare into the agenda – it’s an issue usually neglected by NHS campaigns. Nurse and trade union activist Mark Boothroyd gave a presentation on this in the opening plenary and the issue came up throughout the day. Jo Adams’ speech beginning the day was also good, very militant.
There wasn’t really enough time for the practical workshops (on direct action, mass action and political strategy), but the one I attended (politics) was extremely useful.
40 people took part in a discussion that combined consideration of the kinds of political campaigning groups can do locally with wider questions of how to bring political pressure to bear on this issue at a national level.
Having given out a leaflet making the case for a campaign focused on mobilising union/labour movement pressure on Labour (see here), I raised this idea in the workshop, explaining the recent history of such campaigning, and got a positive response. This discussion continued throughout the workshop and afterwards, and a number of people left their details with me to stay in touch about this fight. This included a number of members of and even candidates for the National Health Action Party, who were very open to the idea that a concerted attempt to put political pressure on Labour will be essential in order to save the NHS.
I’d like to see the 999 initiative will pro-actively take up this work: without it initiative like the NHS Reinstatement Bill seem to be somewhat suspended in mid-air, with no real force to move them forward.
The workshop came up with quite a few other ideas for creating political momentum about the health service. The conference organisers have released a report including action points from all the workshops, which can be found below.
One other crucial aspect is unity in action between different campaigns. Keep Our NHS Public is still a substantial force, and there is another ‘People’s Convention for the NHS’ organised by the more pro-Labour People’s Vote for the NHS initiative on 11 April. In order to build the kind of campaign necessary, joint action will be needed – and in the slightly longer term we should unite these forces to build a new, united campaign.
Hopefully the 28 February conference can both help ramp up action and be a step on the road to that unity.
Here are the conference organisers’ official notes that they sent to participants after the event.
** CONVENTION REPORT FOR ATTENDEES
** Dear 999 Convention’rs,
Thanks for attending and making the day an exciting and engaging one. We hope you felt the journey to Hammersmith was worthwhile. Feedback from attendees has been overwhelmingly positive and we had a brilliant time hosting you and hearing about your different campaigns and struggles.
From this day you can see there is much to do. Below are the results and evaluations of the workshop sessions – Political, Mass & Direct Action. We hope you find them useful.
** POLITICAL ACTION WORKSHOP
The session covered a huge range of activities and ideas. These are being written into a pamphlet to serve as a guide to action for activists and local groups which will be published shortly. We condensed the discussion down to the action points below, for campaigns to take up in the run up to the election.
1. Days of Action (999callfornhs.us10.list-manage.com/track/click?u=7b19e6a29bade5d9d207d95f4&id=4d40470cf1&e=13709ad006) – A calendar for events in the run up to the election is available online (999callfornhs.us10.list-manage.com/track/click?u=7b19e6a29bade5d9d207d95f4&id=77cefbb040&e=13709ad006) , and will be updated regularly as new events are planned. Email email@example.com to have your events added to the calendar (999callfornhs.us10.list-manage2.com/track/click?u=7b19e6a29bade5d9d207d95f4&id=dd849e479f&e=13709ad006).
2. Support pro-NHS candidates and PPCs who are standing for election, getting involved in their campaigns to help them win election, and put pressure on mainstream parties. Write to your MP and see where they stand on the NHS reforms.
3. Seek union support for campaigns and pressure them to take action over the NHS – approach local health unions and Trades Councils for their support for NHS campaigns.
4. Pressure councils to call referendums on changes to local NHS services, and monitor and attend CCG meetings, to pressure the boards and put them under scrutiny.
5. Support the NHS Reinstatement Bill which is being put to parliament today. Email your MP about the bill. (999callfornhs.us10.list-manage.com/track/click?u=7b19e6a29bade5d9d207d95f4&id=4f14a9a5f8&e=13709ad006)
Download the leaflet publicising the bill. (999callfornhs.us10.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=7b19e6a29bade5d9d207d95f4&id=9e746301ef&e=13709ad006)
6. Tackling the tough arguments – the facts disproving arguments that immigration and health tourism are going to be circulated in the activist pamphlet to help campaigners respond to the racist rhetoric around migrants use of the NHS.
7. Campaigning against the Deregulation Bill. Activists are going to circulate a statement and organise a press conference on the Bill, which is a massive attack on workers rights, environmental protection and all forms of regulation. We will circulate this as soon as its published so local campaign groups can put their names to it and attend the press conference.
** MASS ACTION
The Mass Action meeting is issuing a call for a Blockade of Westminster Bridge before the election. We want to demonstrate our opposition to the governments NHS policy as strongly as possible, so we are calling on all campaign groups, unions and civil society groups to back our call and support the action.
We want to shut down Westminster for the day to show the government who really has the power in society. We will be circulating a letter to all campaign groups in the next week to garner support, if you wish to back the action, contact us now to put your name to the call and the letter asking for support.
The meeting also agreed to back the No TTIP National Day of Action on April 18th. Details of one website where all actions in your area can be found is difficult to find because the resistance is so diffuse. Here are some starting points:
A) National meeting to organise to stop TTIP (999callfornhs.us10.list-manage.com/track/click?u=7b19e6a29bade5d9d207d95f4&id=2ec94a6642&e=13709ad006)
B) Contact the Stop TTIP organisation for info on 18th April (999callfornhs.us10.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=7b19e6a29bade5d9d207d95f4&id=4d6547126e&e=13709ad006)
Sign the European Citizens Initiative against TTIP (/999callfornhs.us10.list-manage.com/track/click?u=7b19e6a29bade5d9d207d95f4&id=3f9512365f&e=13709ad006)
Possible mass actions discussed included; flash-mob protests on Zebra crossings, singing events in public while leafleting bystanders, blocking bridges, occupying local council buildings, deciding our own routes for demos, parking protests, NHS quilt and car cavalcades. Take these ideas and see what you can do in your local area on the days of action.
Finally 999 Call for The NHS will contact other groups with a view to initiating a national demonstration to Save our NHS for Sunday 5th July (birth date of the NHS) or Saturday 3rd October (autumn date when students have returned to university).
** DIRECT ACTION
The Direct Action session was reluctant to publicise their discussion due to the nature of the actions discussed. If you wish to organise or lead direct action events, contact 999 Call for NHS and we will connect you with activists and groups around the country. We sadly cannot lead these actions at present.
** MANCHESTER NHS DEVOLUTION
** Public Protest Sunday 29th March Assemble Picadailly Gardens 10:30am
The “sudden” announcement that Greater Manchester is soon to be a devolved NHS state is a frightening & painful step that paves the way for more lethal fragmentation & dissection of our NHS. Visit the 999 page about this for detailed information about the proposals, and why they must be opposed: Devo Manc cannot be allowed to go forward (999callfornhs.us10.list-manage.com/track/click?u=7b19e6a29bade5d9d207d95f4&id=a923b01a81&e=13709ad006)
David Wrigley, Lancashire GP and KONP member has written this blog about Manc Devo – Manchester: The Birth& Death of the NHS (http://999callfornhs.us10.list-manage.com/track/click?u=7b19e6a29bade5d9d207d95f4&id=ddd1237498&e=13709ad006)
** WRITE FOR THE 999 CAMPAIGN BLOG
Do you write about issues to do with the NHS? 999 Call for NHS will host your articles and reports on our blog, and publicise them to a wider audience. 999 Call for NHS is a platform for all NHS campaigners, and we would like to hear from anyone who has a story to tell. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
** Thank you again for all those who came and took part, it was a fantastic event and we hope to see you all again on protests and marches in the future!