Ex-BFP editor Steve Cohen reflects on NHS campaigning and protests – I meet Jeremy Hunt


Steve Baker outside Wycombe HospitalWriting on his blog, Steve Cohen reflects on his experience of health campaigning with my predecessor Paul Goodman when A&E closed and more recently with me. He writes “NHS protest march would be revolting because too few people would bother“:

I WOULD happily organise a protest march to call for the return of A&E to Wycombe… except I believe hardly anyone would turn up to back me.

Oh, I know everyone talks earnestly about how they would mass in droves to rally together to win back urgent care hospital services to the district.

But, sorry, I am afraid that experience of many years and many campaign meetings tells me that only a handful would turn up in the end.

I recommend the rest of the article. When he asked me about it, I said:

“There are three problems with protest. First, experience tells us concerned people may write or sign petitions but they don’t take to the streets: they didn’t for the closure of A&E or when the NHS consulted on the closure of the replacement EMC [Emergency Medical Centre].

“Second, NHS managers aren’t sufficiently accountable to the public or to us, their elected representatives.

“Third, today’s doctors refuse to provide A&E at sites like Wycombe all over the country. All this is why I want direct local ownership and control by the public.”

Like everyone else who lives in High Wycombe, I want A&E back but I don’t believe the NHS will do it. I am told that they cannot.

I met the Secretary of State for Health this morning to discuss several issues. I asked about his proudest political achievement, saving Royal Surrey County Hospital’s A&E department from closure with a 6000-strong protest. However, our A&E closed long before I was elected and, when Paul Goodman organised a protest, as Steve Cohen relates, about 200 people turned out. I’m advised that protest would not achieve a re-opening because the relevant doctors would stand against it.

Are we wrong? Would you turn out for a practical protest? Would the NHS listen? Would clinicians change their minds about what they see as clinical best practice? Responses welcome in the comments.

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