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 pioneer, writer, campaigner and commentator. Formerly a clinical optometrist specialising in diabetes and visual impairment, she is the founder and Director of 2020health, an independent, social enterprise Think Tank whose aim is to Make Health Personal and Social. 2020health has through research, events and campaigning influenced opinion and action in fields as diverse as bioethics, alcohol, emerging technologies, fraud, education, consumer technology and vaccination. In 2014, 2020health were founding partners of the Health Tech and You Awards with Axa PPP and the Design Museum. Since 2016, 2020health has increasingly focused on digital health and public health in the community. Julia is a Fellow of the RSA and now also a part-time PhD student at the UCL Interaction Centre, studying the use of digital technology for stress management in the workplace. Julia has shared 2020health's research widely in the media (BBC News, ITV, Channel 5 News, BBC 1′s The Big Questions & Victoria Derbyshire, BBC Radio 4 Today, PM and Woman's Hour, LBC) and has taken part in debates and contributed to BBC’s Newsnight, Panorama, You and Yours and ITV’s The Week.
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