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Who can save the NHS?

The Big Up the NHS Facebook group is a great destination for anyone who is interested in the future of the NHS. Its 48,000 members include NHS workers, patients, carers, NHS campaigners and members of the general public. It is open to everyone.

Posts are varied. Some are provocative, some are poignant and most are passionate. Discussion threads are informative and dynamic.

The group is non-party political – in that it does not officially support any one particular party – and this has become a contentious issue in recent weeks. Many group members believe that the root cause of the current problems in the NHS arise from the actions of the present government. They feel that the group should be used to attack the government in every way possible and that anti-government non-NHS related posts should be allowed.

I disagree with this view, even though I am a life long Labour supporter and I truly believe that the Conservative party is determined to dismantle the NHS.

Consider the logic of this sequence of statements and see if you agree

  • Only the government currently in power can make the changes necessary to safeguard the NHS.
  • The present government is unlikely to change for several years yet the crisis in the NHS is current and irrevocable damage is happening now.
  • A volatile combination of political ideology and self-interest drives the actions of all politicians.
  • It is not likely we can change their ideology; self-interest is their Achilles heel.
  • So we must make sure that ALL politicians of ALL parties believe that that success in their career is inextricably linked to the success of the NHS.

Politicians understand the importance of the NHS. Why do you think the cross party Brexit group launched with the promise that money saved from EU subscriptions would be put into the NHS? They know how much we care.

The Tories are not immune to public opinion. This is why they pick fights with junior doctors and spread poison about the NHS in the press. They want to undermine public confidence in the NHS so they can progress their privatising agenda. They really do care what we think about the NHS and it affects their behaviour.

The ethos of Big Up the NHS 

I set up Big Up the NHS (on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) in an attempt to counter the negative press and improve the image of the NHS. This was clearly a political act with an explicit political purpose.

We now have nearly 53,000 followers on Twitter and 48,000 members in the Facebook group so we have become a force to be reckoned with and have significant political influence. Size is power in social media and we need to grow the groups even more to make a real difference.

Many staunch Conservative voters believe passionately in the NHS and they are crucial to our fight. In many ways they have more influence over the government than Labour supporters. We need to make them welcome in our group.

To expand the Big Up the NHS membership we need to be inclusive. Alienating half the population by aligning with a single party will weaken us – and not just by reducing our numbers. Tory MPs (the ones with the power, our target audience remember) will be less likely to take us seriously if they think we are a party political pressure group. They are used to blocking out the voice of political opposition and do it instinctively.

So the primary purpose of Big up the NHS is to do exactly that! It is what our members signed up for when they joined. There are other groups for political activists and single party supporters. This primary purpose is weakened if we take a party political stance.

That said – many posts in the group have a strong party political theme and this is entirely appropriate. We want open discussion about the nature and causes of the problems – but not to the detriment of our primary aim.

Advice for contributors

We welcome all posts that “Big Up the NHS”, including posts with a political message of any flavour about the NHS.

We remove posts that are not primarily about the NHS – whether political or not – as it crucial to preserve the group identity and purpose.

We remove posts and comments that are abusive or gratuitously insulting, though I have to admit we have been relatively lenient with posts about Jeremy Hunt in recent months. We still take out some of the most offensive Jeremy posts.

What can you do to help?

Please support Big Up the NHS. I truly believe it can make a difference. Invite you friends to join us on the various platforms and to share the message. You could start by sharing this blog.

We have to make A LOT of noise. Soon we will take this campaign out of social media and get it into the public domain. We need marches, petitions, events and demonstrations. We need the media to take up the challenge and support the NHS instead of knocking it. We need celebrity endorsement.

All the pro NHS pressure groups must work together and pull in the same direction. This is starting to happen. Watch out for events in the summer.

This is a political campaign that is too important to be constrained by party politics.

We can all do something.  Together we can make a real difference.

Steve Smith

PS. The image at the head of this post is a crude mashup. I don’t have the skill or the software to do it well. The badge covers a poppy. Conservative Central Office have a history of photoshopping on a poppy when he forgets to wear one.