We are talking to ourselves. This is increasingly abundantly clear- the conversation about the privitazation of services and demoralisation of the workforce is not reaching beyond a closed-off Twittersphere and Facebook circles. Over 250,000 people read this blog in the last two weeks, and 211,000 people have signed the e-petition to date . There are approximately 150,000 NHS doctors in this country and that, plus family members and nurses, OT and physios, minus non-social media doctors and equivalents, is probably the sum activity thus far on #weneedtotalkaboutjeremy i.e. very few card-carrying members of the public.
The media coverage has been at best patchy, and at worst, disturbing. The story broke on the front page of the Independent this Saturday  and the Mirror has been covering it all along- but the lack of BBC coverage especially, deliberately not discussing the front page of the Independant on Saturdays breakfast show, highlights a disturbing relationship between the public and the media and politics. Many complaints thus far, including from this blog (see below), have so far been ignored.
And in the meantime many papers continue to spew headline errors that the most basic Googling can prove wrong in under a minute.
Take for example this article in the Express.* Stating over “Over half of doctors receive £75,000 pound bonuses and STILL won’t work weekends [para]”. It goes on to say 695 consultants receive bonuses of £50,000 to £75,000. There are around 38,000 NHS consultants in 2011-2012  and, far from being ‘half’, this is 1.8%. Even being generous to the Express this is deliberately misleading. And, as is obviously clear, the FOI requests show all consultants are working weekends thus far (at time of writing now 1% of all consultants).  Here is a table of newspaper vs reality (all of which is Google-able in about 2-3 minutes).
What is most depressing is this news article is straight from the Government, word-for-word. Is this just lazy journalism or is it propaganda?
However vocal we are on social media the reality is that the ideas amongst the public form between the influence of the TV and the newspapers and by personal experience, of which there is very little on average of the NHS at an extensive level and working staff.
Which is why this weekend I went out to stage an ‘information protest’ in Hyde Park;
In my anecdotal, completely ill-designed, qualitative study of n=perhaps a dozen, the same themes came out over and over;
1) the NHS is inefficient and too expensive
2) doctors are overpaid and have too much leisure time
3) the NHS is not sustainable
4) the NHS is a middle to poor system compared to the rest of the world
5) The NHS is actually brilliant, but there’s nothing we can do to stop it being ‘sold off’.
When confronted with a few facts (a leaflet I gave them) about the system most of the public were genuinely surprised, and confused at the perception they had. But essentially, very easily persuaded to change their minds and sign the government e-petition once they were.
So the public need to be properly engaged – otherwise we will shout and scream on Twitter and Facebook, but we are only talking to ourselves. And proof-of-concept, seeing a doctor on the street is a novel and enticing means to start the conversation with those who we wouldn’t normally reach, to challenge the negative perceptions of the NHS, and rally support to defend it.
With that in mind let’s go out on the street en masse and try to save the NHS, a health organisation beset by media and political illness, by engaging the public in a novel and meaningful way. So we are putting out a 2222 call.
“Crash call for the NHS: The Doctors Will See You Now” is a mass protest on the 22nd August in London, venue and permits pending: a CPR marathon (on mannequins) to symbolise how we as health professionals are fighting to keep the NHS alive, despite the best efforts of a Health Secretary clearly aligned against it. We will be educating the public on basic resuscitation at the same time and hopefully replicating the opportunity for lay people to talk to doctors, nurses and other AHPs about the NHS, with just the facts, as above.
But we will need help. Lots of help. So if you want to DO something about all this mess, and try to really raise the profile of this campaign, then it’s time to go to the mattresses. If you are a doctor or nurse or AHP: Sign up here to volunteer to speak with the public and leaflet. If you are a member of the public, come along, and not only learn some skills which may save a life one day but show your support for the NHS, pound-for-pound the best healthcare system in the world.
Yes #weneedtotalkaboutJeremy, but if we only talk to each other, we won’t get anywhere at all.
*Don’t worry, Donotlink’d.