Around 25 people met in Tesco's car park in Camborne at 1:15pm on Saturday to join a March and lobby of George Eustice over the future of the National Health Service. Cornwall Anti-Cuts Alliance members had held a stall in the town in the morning where people were queuing up to sign the Save Our NHS (Cornwall) petition. The march went from Tesco's, through the town chanting 'save our NHS' and 'no ifs, no buts, no health service cuts'. Shoppers cheered and waved as the march progressed through the town and car after car sounded their horn.
As the protest arrived at the constituency office of Camborne MP George Eustice, he was meeting his last surgery case of the day. One of his staff invited the whole protest into a large room that had pots of paint and broken urinals and old chairs scattered about. However some protestors elected to stay outside and every couple of minutes a car or bus would honk its horn and the protestors would cheer.
After a while George Eustice appeared and he was presented with the Save Our NHS (Cornwall) petition with over 6000 signatures on it and a disc with the nearly 400,000 signatures on the 38 Degrees petition. The protestors asked him a number of questions. Jane Bernal, herself a doctor within the NHS, argued that "what is needed is good quality health care for everyone, in the public, not the private sector. We are worried that large companies will take over the more profitable NHS functions and leave NHS hospitals to manage the most complex and ill patients without the full range of supporting services. In the present financial climate competition would be on price."
Mr Eustice said that competition could be a good thing and was sure that we would want our GP to be able to send us to a different hospital, if one had let him down last time. One petitioner had actually asked her GP. "I spent 7 years training to be a doctor. If I had wanted to be an accountant I'd have done different training" she was told. Mr Eustice said that before the election doctors had been asking for more control over commissioning and suggested that the BMA supported the reforms, which it does not. What they actually said was "The Health and Social Care Bill should be withdrawn or at least undergo major changes", not exactly support. Mr Eustice kept mentioning doctors when he in fact meant GPs. Hospital doctors and nurses, under the coalition's original plans, will be excluded from the commissioning process. As one retired nurse reminded Mr Eustice when people are using the health services it is the nurses who are really important to them.
Most worryingly Mr Eustice seemed wholly unaware of the issues at Southern Cross where the Government will have to spend millions of pounds of taxpayers money to provide a care service for thousands of old people in care homes who have been let down by a failing private company. Nor did he mention Winterbourne View, the private hospital that so shockingly failed to protect vulnerable people with learning disabilities from horrifying abuse.
The main reassurance that Mr Eustice was able to offer was that there is now a pause and the government are thinking again. That is true but it is has been forced on them by trade unions, campaigning groups and the general public. The coalition government's original plan was to steam-roller the destructive Health and Social Care Bill through Parliament and now they have been forced to think again. We need to keep up the pressure on them until they ditch this nasty policy.