The “Health Campaigns Together” northern conference, Leeds, 2018 – an inspiring and thought-provoking day.
Sean Laws, KONPNE supporter and North east activist
Sometimes it is easy to feel isolated and as though you are fighting a losing battle in the world of campaigning, especially when it comes to the seemingly relentless onslaught of NHS privatisation. That however is not something I felt when I attended the northern region conference of “Health Campaigns Together” in Leeds last week. Although the NHS has been pushed onto a cliff edge and is only surviving because of the hard work and determination of its increasingly exhausted but dedicated staff, there was a sense of optimism and togetherness around the conference. Attended by representatives from many different campaigns around the northern region including Newcastle, South Tyneside, North Tyneside, Tyne Valley, Rothbury, York, Leeds, Chorley, Manchester and many others fighting to keep their local hospitals running and the united goal of ending privatisation in the NHS as a whole.
Attended by around 200 activists, clinicians, former health workers and people who simply care about OUR NHS, we heard reports from each grass roots campaign group and the work they are doing to make a difference. This format, bringing in the real life experiences of those around us, was a great tonic for all campaigners. Stories of hospitals staying open, services continuing to run and the struggle against ideologically driven privatisation are as strong as ever and were inspiring to hear.
Alongside the campaign news and morale boosting cameraderie were a number of speakers including Dr Colin Hutchinson, a former consultant opthalmologist and clinical director, as well as being one of the five signatories to the judicial review into the lawfulness of ACO’s. Natalie Ratcliffe, unison area organiser, spoke about how trade unions work together behind the scenes and Alex Scott-Samuel, chair of Socialist Health Association, a former junior doctor and mover of composite 8 at the Labour Party conference in September spoke passionately about how the NHS has made such a difference to his life.
It was with this same passion that Alex lead the workshop, of which there were four, aimed at “galvanising Labour and other MPs & councillors to defend our NHS & support legislation to reinstate the NHS”. At the end of the session each workshop chair presented back the information and ideas that had been worked on. The other workshops were about how to “build local campaigns against cuts and closures”, “challenge ACO/ACS and STPs” and “supporting NHS staff fighting for fair pay and conditions” – all workshops providing really insightful and valuable things to bring back and put into practice.
Taking something away not only from other peoples experience and enthusiasm but also having gained new friends, I would say bring on Health Campaigns Together conference 2019…. but hopefully by then our NHS will be in safer hands and it won’t be necessary!
With many thanks to Health Campaigns Together, KONP Leeds, and all who helped to make the day so successful.
….and the KONPNE vlog of the day is here….enjoy!!
WORDS WITH REAL MEANING (January 2018):