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Oct 13th, 2011

NHS: What we’ve done together so far

By becky

August 2010: Andrew Lansley, the health minister, publishes his plans for the future of the NHS. 38 Degrees members start collecting stories of how the NHS has changed our lives, and why it’s important, using the map tool on the website.

December 2010 – January 2011: 38 Degrees members start organising local get-togethers, to discuss together what Lansley’s plans might mean for our health service. In many cases, local GPs come along and share their thoughts. We start emailing our MPs and discussing their replies.

March 2010: Hot on the heels of our success in stopping the government is selling off England’s forests, 38 Degrees members vote to make saving the NHS the top priority. We launch a new petition, which was quickly signed by hundreds of thousands of us. 38 Degrees members start organising petition deliveries with their local MPs.

April 2011: The NHS petition passes a quarter of a million signatures. Our campaign, along with a huge outcry from other experts and patient groups, gives the government the jitters and they announce a pause in their plans while they hold a “listening exercise”. A Sky News political correspondent claims that a government sources told him the government’s change of tack is “the result of a lobbying campaign by a pressure group called 38 Degrees.”

Thousands of us take part in a survey to decide the priorities for the NHS campaign. We decide we need to really turn the heat up on local MPs. More and more local petition deliveries are organised across the UK.

May 2010: A Sheffield 38 Degrees member, Geraldine O’Connor, who relies on the NHS to treat her epilepsy, secures a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. She e-mails 38 Degrees members asking us to support her. The petition passes 350,000, and a large contingent of Sheffield 38 Degrees members join Geraldine to deliver a great pile of signatures to Nick Clegg.

Thousands of 38 Degrees members donate to pay for eye-catching newspaper ads showing Andrew Lansley with his fingers in his ears: our verdict on his approach to the “listening exercise”. Over 100 more petition deliveries to local MPs take place across the country. Over 25,000 38 Degrees members make their own personal submissions to the “listening exercise”, and on the day it closes we carry a copy of our petition into the Department of Health on a stretcher.

June 2011: The government announces changes to their plans following the “listening exercise”. We’ve made some progress: for example, “GP commissioning” has been opened up to local scrutiny and a wider range of health experts will be involved. But there is still plenty to worry about, and so not surprisingly, 97% of 38 Degrees members vote to continue the campaign and look carefully at what the revised plans will mean for our health service.

July 2011: 38 Degrees members donate tens of thousands of pounds to hire expert lawyers to go through the revised plans with a fine tooth comb. We assemble a legal team including Harrison Grant solicitors, specialist barristers Rebecca Haynes, (Monckton Chambers) and Stephen Cragg (Doughty Street Chambers) and Peter Roderick of dutytoprovide.net. Detailed legal analysis begins.

August 2011: Our Legal team produces two detailed reports, covering changes to the Secretary of State’s legal responsibilities and issues concerning competition and procurement law. The worrying findings are reported widely in the press. The key concerns are summarised here: http://www.38degrees.org.uk/page/content/NHS-legal-advice/

September 2011: Tens of thousands of 38 Degrees members contact their MPs asking them to respond to the concerns identified by our independent legal experts. Senior Liberal Democrat Shirley Williams reads our legal advice and announces she can’t support the government’s changes – making front-page news in the Observer newspaper. Andrew Lansley and a number of Conservative MPs accuse us of misrepresenting our own Legal experts. Our legal experts produce detailed rebuttals. 38 Degrees members are mentioned dozens of times in parliament, and almost half of English backbench LibDems refused to support the government.

The legislation moves to the Lords – and 38 Degrees members start discussing what we can do to influence them. Thousands contribute to the plan, and donate over £50,000 to pay for the new technology and tools we need to put it into action.

A key Lords committee publishes a report echoing the concerns raised in our independent legal advice. Thousands of 38 Degrees members start writing personal letters to members of the Lords, asking them to protect the NHS.

October 2011: Two days before the vote, Lord David Owen announces he will table an amendment to set up a special scrutiny committee to look into many of the concerns we have raised. 160,000 of us sign an emergency petition urging the Lords to back it – gaining huge amounts of attention within the House of Lords and across the newspapers. We come within 29 Lords of winning the vote.

Autumn / Winter 2011-2012: Here are some of the things which 38 Degrees members have said we could do together in the coming months:

· Organise more expert briefing sessions between Lords and our independent legal team
· Travel down to London to meet with the Lords and Baronesses we have been writing to over the past week.
· Sign more petitions and send more e-mails directed to House of Lords – they’re not used to it, and it creates a real stir!
· Turn the pressure back on David Cameron and our MPs – they are desperate for the fuss to die down, we can prove to them that it just won’t if they keep pushing these reforms forward.

We can still win this campaign – if we keep working together!

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