What will docs do without the Health and Social Care Bill?

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?

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About Julia Manning

Julia Manning is a social entrepreneur, writer, campaigner and commentator. She is based in London and is the founder and Chief Executive of 2020health, an independent, social enterprise Think Tank whose aim is to Make Health Personal. Through networking, technology, research, relationships and campaigning 2020health has influenced opinion and action in fields as diverse as bioethics, alcohol, emerging technologies, fraud, education, consumer technology and vaccination. Julia studied visual science at City University and became a member of the College of Optometrists in 1991. Her career has included being a visiting lecturer at City University, a visiting clinician at the Royal Free Hospital, working with south London Primary Care Trusts and as a Director of the UK Institute of Optometry. She specialised in diabetes (University of Warwick Certificate in Diabetic Care) and founded Julia Manning Eyecare in 2004, a home and prison visiting practice for people with mental and physical disabilities using the latest digital technology, which she sold to Healthcall (now part of Specsavers) in 2009. Experiences of working in the NHS, contributing to policy development, raising two children in the inner-city and standing in the General Election in Bristol in 2005 led to Julia forming 2020health at the end of 2006. Julia is a regular guest on TV and radio shows such as BBC News, ITV’s Daybreak/ GMB, Channel 5 News, BBC 1′s The Big Questions, BBC Radio, LBC and has taken part in debates and contributed to BBC’s Newsnight, Panorama, You and Yours and ITV’s The Week. She is mum to a rugby-mad son, a daughter passionate about Shakespeare, and wife of a comprehensive school assistant head-teacher. She loves gardening, ballet, Zimbabwe, her Westies Skye and Angus, is an honorary research associate at UCL and a Fellow of the RSA.
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