Having lived so long with the controversial Health and Social Care Bill, what will we do without it? For despite Lord Owen’s frantic lobbying, the Bill will pass its third reading today and Royal Assent should follow tomorrow. Well, doctors like Dr Clive Peedell who have complained that they won’t be able to focus on patients because of the Bill, have decided that they will be feeling so bereft of political campaigning, that despite patients in the waiting room, they are now going to focus on standing for Parliament. On behalf of his patients of course.
If it sounds familiar, it is, and not just because of the great Kidderminster MP Richard Taylor (who didn’t stand until he had retired). Before the last election various doctors declared they would stand for Parliament, both because of MP’s expenses and threats to their local NHS (see, NHS worries predate this Health Bill and this government). In the end I don’t know how many did, especially when they realised how large the pay cut would be! Despite this, 240 health professionals wrote to the Independent on Sunday declaring their intentions to stand for Parliament.
The irony in the declaration is that they don’t seem to realise that most MPs are people from a variety of backgrounds who at one time or other felt passionately that the status quo was not good enough and they wanted to be elected to have a positive impact on the country. It’s a good thing to do. Standing in a seat in Bristol in 2005 was one of the most character building things I have ever done, even though I knew I wouldn’t win. I used my time to campaign on – guess what – the local NHS – and undemocratic PCT proposals, as well as on services for the elderly, disabled, green economy and transport. I fund-raised for the Bristol RNIB and Bristol Community Family Trust and grew a thick skin as certain opponents (not the impressive winner, Kerry McCarthy MP) spread smears.
These health professionals have called the Health Bill an ’embarrassment’ to democracy. If the Bill has stirred more people out of apathy to engage in the democratic process then that can only be a good thing. Perhaps they might like to start by connecting with their local councils as they instigate Health and Wellbeing Boards – surely an immediate opportunity for democratic engagement that could also benefit their patients?