Resisting NHS reforms – join the 'health resistance'

A few weeks ago I was talking to activist and organiser friends about the National Health Service “reforms”. We talked about what civil disobedience might look like for healthcare professionals and others working for the NHS. Given that even then it looked likely the government’s bill would be passed, we talked about how an individual or collective of individuals could resist implementing reforms whilst maintaining an effective service. We didn’t get to the definitive answer.

So it was with interest that I read Dr Alex Scott-Samuel talking about ‘the health resistance‘ in Monday’s Guardian – here’s what he said:

“The Health and Social Care Act is now law – and the health resistance is up and running. A website is being set up to log accounts of inadequate and poor quality care and charging for NHS services. I have produced a leaflet – The Courage to Refuse – for use in sympathetic GPs’ waiting rooms and other NHS settings — which encourages patients to request GP referrals only to publicly provided services. Ideas are also needed re civil disobedience, nonviolent direct action and other legal means of challenging the government’s healthcare market. Uncut, Occupy and other resistance groups need rapidly to co-ordinate NHS-related activities.

A privatisation indicators set and baseline data are also required to begin monitoring the impacts of the destruction of our NHS. Hopefully the alliance of medical royal colleges, professional associations, trade unions and political parties whose intervention was largely too late to save the NHS will support this.”

I said that my friends and I didn’t get to a definitive answer on how to resist the reforms. That’s no bad thing. The best answers will always be those that come from within the community most effected – those inside the NHS and those most in need of its services. What folk like Rhizome can do is facilitate processes that support those communities to come up with ideas that work for them, train them to make the ideas a reality, and offer an ongoing relationship of reflection, learning and further action. And yes, that is an invitation. We (and others like us) have the experience to help the health resistance stay healthy.

A few weeks earlier still, I was browsing the A Force More Powerful website which has stories of nonviolent resistance from which contemporary movements can surely learn. The Ten Commandments for Danes stuck with me. These were written in 1940 by a young Dane when he saw his townspeople fraternising with invading German soldiers. He typed a handful of copies and pushed them through letter boxes. The idea spread:

1. You must not go to work in Germany and Norway.

2. You shall do a bad job for the Germans.

3. You shall work slowly for the Germans.

4. You shall destroy important machines and tools.

5. You shall destroy everything that may be of benefit to the Germans.

6. You shall delay all transport.

7. You shall boycott German and Italian films and papers.

8. You must not shop at Nazis’ stores.

9. You shall treat traitors for what they are worth.

10. You shall protect anyone chased by the Germans.

What are the Ten Commandments for the Health Resistance? Add your thoughts by leaving a comment.