These are confusing times. A General Election has been called and, as always, my thoughts turn to my job, the NHS, and the millions of patients who use and need the service. As a nurse, I want to do what’s right by them, I want to make the right choice. I want to vote for the right people who will save the NHS before it becomes just a memory.
Firstly, I am convinced the NHS as I know it – free at the point of need – is taking its last breaths and I remain committed to doing all I can to make sure it receives the treatment it needs. Like any good nurse, I want to see improvement. With this in mind, this General Election seems to me to be one of the most important I have ever voted in and, because of this, I feel the need to balance all the odds.
I believe the current Conservative government are committed to dismantling the NHS as we know it – they are not really interested in addressing how it is used and by whom, these much discussed issues are smoke-screens to blindside the public and divert real analysis – they are instead interested in selling off the NHS to the highest bidders and this process has already begun. Their commitment to this plan is staggering – they have developed a media campaign that has potentially convinced enough of the public that the NHS is failing because, amongst other spurious reasons, the staff are not good enough or not working hard enough, and that therefore ‘something has to be done’ – it is bewildering how many people seem to think the NHS is failing because it has suddenly become dysfunctional. The solution is simple: the government need to fund the NHS instead of systematically starving it of money, staff, talent and resources. Perhaps because I work in the NHS, I am under no illusions: if a Conservative government are elected again in June, I believe there will be no NHS at the conclusion of its term. If I am right, it is no longer a case of whether the public will somehow wake up and see this, it is now make-or-break for the NHS – vote into office another Conservative government and the price will be very high: no NHS as we currently know it. The reality of this would certainly result in the ultimate of wake-up calls for the public.
So, while I have decided how I will not vote, I have not yet decided how I will because I am really not sure I believe in the political process any more. For me no one political party seems to be shouting about the NHS enough; I know the constant barrage of ‘vote for this’, ‘vote for that’ doesn’t appear to be working and, while I occasionally use the information as a source of research, the bombardments will not ultimately sway me one way or the other. It has also been disheartening to see the occasional dispiriting remarks when two or more political views don’t align – accepting the views of others in a non-judgmental way is a crucial element of nursing and castigating others for not agreeing with you brings nursing into a competitive arena I am personally not happy with. Like many others, I have marched, lobbied and petitioned on behalf of the NHS – anyone who has read this blog or who has met me knows this and I continue to do these things because I believe the NHS is worth saving – I just remain unclear who should lead the charge and I sympathise with colleagues who feel as I do; from my own experience, there are plenty of nursing colleagues who remain uncertain and undecided about their own political voice or stance. Perhaps nursing is suffering from a hangover of perpetually not being listened to – if your opinion is constantly ignored you begin to stop giving it, and you eventually stop hearing it being asked for.
This being said, I also appreciate that this fight is not just about nursing, in my view it is also about asset stripping a fundamental and crucial part of our welfare state. Dismantling the NHS, no matter how surreptitiously, would be one of the biggest changes to our society and would leave us bereft of the caring safety-net we are all used to relying upon. It would be a retrograde step of unimaginable significance and, as a nurse, a mother, a sister, a wife, I cannot stand by and watch that happen. So I will do all I can to shout, to tweet, to Facebook, to lobby, to petition, to march, to inform, and to work collaboratively with others who also care about the survival of this wonderful institution.
And I hope that eventually I will know what to do with my vote and how to make it matter most to my NHS. This is my responsibility.
Your responsibility is to vote.
Please vote wisely.