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Isn’t about time we shared some good news?

Steve Smith

First published by the Nursing Times but you need to be a subscriber to read it.


Wouldn’t it be great if at 12 noon on Christmas Day thousands of people across the UK simultaneously shared their good news stories about the NHS on Twitter and Facebook?

These could be personal experiences, pictures of Christmas celebrations or just a word of thanks for those who are working in the NHS during the festive season.

They could come from patients, NHS staff, carers or the general public. They could come from you.

Videos, photos, text or sound bites will all add to this movement. But the common theme is they all include the hashtag #MyNHSChristmas so everyone’s good news stories are easy to find and can be shared with as many people as possible.

This surge of activity would be picked up instantly by search engines and #MyNHSChristmas would appear as a “trend” - visible to everyone using social media and fighting back against negativity aimed at the health service.

More people would look in and contribute their own messages and stories. The best would be shared or retweeted, the whole movement fuelled by seasonal good will and a tsunami of support and affection for the NHS involving hundreds of thousands of people.

When it all dies down, there would be a subtle but real shift in the national mood. Morale of NHS workers may be a little better, patients may have a bit more confidence is the system and politicians would learn why they should value the NHS.

What’s not to like?


But could it really happen?

It could and it will!

Big up the NHS is a national campaign aimed at promoting good news about the NHS using social media. The #MyNHSChristmas campaign is in full swing and is picking up support rapidly.

Politicians and celebrities have been recruited to promote and take part. Newspapers and TV have picked it up and it will be getting national coverage on Christmas Eve.

downloadThe event will be opened with a tweet from Sir Bruce Keogh – Medical Director of the NHS – at 11.59.

It will definitely be big – the only question is how big?

If you have never been part of a live Twitter event of this type then I would strongly recommend that you give it a go. To see the positive messages flooding in is emotional and uplifting.

And if you have never used social media now may be a good time to start. It is easy and free to open account - and it will open up a whole new dimension to your life.

A sad NHS is a bad NHS so it is in all our interests to make this work. Please spread the message. Look for #MyNHSChristmas adverts and share them with your friends.

ChristmasPost some of your early thoughts or pictures using the tag, but make sure you keep some back for the day.

Please join #MyNHSCHristmas at 12.00 midday on the Christmas Day.

Have a very Happy NHS Christmas

Steve Smith, Consultant Physician and Nephrologist, Heartlands Hospital


Find out more:


It could have been worse........

Steve Smith

End of a busy day, about to drive home then out of the blue – my car broke down. Just refused to start. Nothing too dramatic but a bit inconvenient.images (1)

I was not concerned. I have a Gold Membership with the AA. They cover the cost of repairs and a hire car if they cannot get you going. It would be fine.

The AA man arrived quickly but after 30 minutes with no joy my confidence started to diminish. “Had I used the right petrol?” I was starting to feel it might be my fault even though I was (fairly) sure I had done nothing wrong. The AA man looked worried – no compression – it would have to be towed.

I know enough about cars to understand the implication of “no compression”. It could be serious, possibly fatal. The first question – which garage do you want it towed to? Main dealers are expensive but it was a reasonably new car and I wanted someone who would do it properly. I chose the main dealer. download (3)The next day I got the call from the garage. Probably a slipped timing chain which may have wrecked the engine. The next question – did I want to authorise the work to find out what was wrong? Best part of £1000 for just the diagnostic work. Much, much more if their fears were realised. The sums they were talking about seemed mind boggling. Ludicrous labour charges. Could I trust them? Were they ripping me off? Getting the car anywhere else for the work to be done would mean towing and more expense and I didn’t know any other garages anyway. Without the work the car was worthless so I said yes – but felt vulnerable and unsettled.

Then I learned about the limitations of my AA Gold Membership. Only 3 days car hire and a maximum cover for repairs of £500 with an excess of £35 – and I needed proof of regular servicing and had a whole load of other criteria to satisfy. I was pretty much on my own.

To cut a long story short I needed new engine – over £5000 and 2 weeks work. All outside warranty and so my responsibility to pay. I spent a fortune in taxis and I worried a lot about whether I was being fleeced. For me it was not exactly a life changing amount of money but it was an unexpected loss, and I felt alone and vulnerable. Nobody seemed to be on my side. It was a genuinely distressing week. All sorted now thankfully though but I am still in correspondence with the AA who are asking more questions which are clearly designed to find ways to wriggle out of paying their rather small contribution. The experience set me thinking though. It could have been worse. It was only a car. What if it had been a heart attack on the way to work? And then I realised why we have to be so thankful for the NHS. article-2058424-0EB2A17C00000578-464_468x311

If you suffer a major unexpected health “breakdown” you get immediate emergency attention from the best available - on the NHS. You know that the clinicians’ primary objective is YOUR wellbeing and not THEIR profit. You don’t have to worry about money or making insurance claims. Just about everything you need is available where and when you need it and if not you will be “towed” by ambulance to the most appropriate centre. People take on your problem as their own. They advise and support and try to make it right – for you - with the minimum of fuss. You can trust their motives.

Our NHS is under threat right now and we may lose the “free at the point of demand” principle unless there is a significant change of heart from all political parties. We may also find ourselves being treated by people who are in it for the money.

Please, please don’t underestimate the value of the NHS just because you have not used it recently. We will be all the poorer if it is gone.

Somebody else’s story could start like this - End of a busy day, about to drive home,  then out of the blue - I got this crushing pain in the chest...... 


It turns out it was a bit worse than I thought. The AA have refused my claim on the basis that a slipped timing chain is wear and tear and thus excluded from the policy. If anything that might be worn is excluded what is the point? I am fighting.  Would like to hear if others have had similar experience with the AA. I feel a non NHS campaign coming on.


I have now had the letter from the AA confirming they will not to pay up because they presume the timing chain must have been worn. They could not inspect the part because the garage quite rightly refused to strip down the engine. This would have cost more than the value of the claim.

As a result I am in a difficult position. The car had done only 23,000 miles and was fully serviced by a main dealer. To me it was a sudden mechanical failure but they disagree. I will appeal but it feels unfair and one sided and I don't want to throw more money into this mess by involving solicitors.

This story illustrates why we must NEVER give up the NHS for an insurance based system.

It is also a reason to never use the AA. I may not succeed in getting what they owe but if I can stop just a handful of people joining their dodgy scheme they will be the ultimate losers. Spread the word..........



Who will save the NHS?

Steve Smith


I know the approach I have taken in this blog is a bit contrived but as a device to get the main message across it might work. Please bear with me and read to the end to find my answer. Share widely if you agree with the logic.

It takes the form of a conversation between me (@butNHS) and the average man (or woman) in the street (TMITS).

TMITS  - “What - save the NHS? Surely the NHS is one of the UK's best loved institutions and is recognised to be the most efficient, effective and equitable health care system in the world. We all depend on it from cradle to grave. It is at the core of our society, truly a national treasure. How can it possibly need saving?”

@butNHS - “Yes, all these things are true, but the NHS as we know it – funded through central taxation and free at the point of need -  is under real threat at the moment.  Unless things change quickly we will see it systematically dismantled over the next decade.”

TMITS  - “How come? I have grown up with it.  I have always been certain that we will have it for ever.”

@butNHS - “There have been two significant changes in the law recently which are certain to force large chunks of the NHS into private ownership.

download (2)The Health and Social Care Act of 2012 obliges commissioners to buy in services through competitive tendering. Private companies will be able to use their extensive business development know-how to out-manoeuvre NHS trusts and pick off the best and most profitable parts of the NHS.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is a piece of European legislation that when passed at the end of this year will oblige the NHS to offer its services for sale to the big American healthcare corporations.

The combined effect of these two bills will be a steady transfer of NHS services to the private sector – and as the new services are all badged as “NHS” the public will not see it happening.”

TMITS  - “But if it is still free at the point of need and funded from central taxation why should we worry?”

@butNHS - “ Mark my words - there is a lot to worry about!

Big business is mainly interested in the profitable, safe and predictable bits - routine surgery for instance. They have their shareholders to pay. Messy things like emergency services will be less attractive.

When the NHS acts as a unified whole the profitable and non-profitable, easy and difficult bits balance each other out, but take away the easy stuff and the rest is put under greater pressure.

And what’s more the move to private ownership is a one way street. When private companies take over a service the existing NHS provider loses the income and has to disinvest in staff and equipment. In a cash strapped health economy it is virtually impossible to upscale to take on the service again – even if the private company eventually decides to release it.

NHS staff will be torn. Should they work in the safe and sanitised private sector where they will most likely receive a variety of tempting inducements, or should they work in an increasingly underfunded and pressured NHS. Recruitment and retention is already an issue in many areas and this will make it much, much worse.

The final straw will come when private providers start to offer an “enhanced” service for those who can afford to pay a bit extra. It will fall outside the NHS umbrella at first bit we will see an inevitable drift towards those who can afford it taking out private health insurance.”


TMITS  - “I have heard a lot or press reports recently that the NHS is failing. Perhaps it is best to dismantle it anyway.”

@butNHS - “Many believe that the bad press is deliberately orchestrated by the government to undermine the credibility of the NHS as part of a plan to sell it off to the private sector for profit. This view has been widely circulated through social media. I am not a natural conspiracy theorist but I can see the logic of the argument.

There is little doubt that current press coverage of the NHS is skewed heavily towards the negative. The NHS bears comparison to any other health economy in the world and often comes out top in international league tables.  There is a lot of good work that never gets reported. The NHS is definitely NOT failing.

I don’t discount conspiracy but I think it is more likely that journalists simply do not realise the harm they can do. Sections of the public enjoy the feeling of righteous indignation that comes when they read of failings in others. We pick away at the scabs for the pleasure of the picking even though we know this is likely to be damaging and may cause permanent scars.”

TMITS  - “OK – I get it. So what can we do about it? Surely there will be a public outcry.”

@butNHS - “Well no. Privatisation is already happening big time but there does not seem to be much noise about it at present. A bit of activity in social media and the odd article in the papers, but if you ask the average person what they know about this you will probably find it is very little.

I am really worried that there is no one with both the will and the means to save the NHS!”

GovplansTMITS  - “So how about the big political parties? They know the popularity of the NHS. Protecting it should be a big vote winner for them. But you said that they may be orchestrating its demise.”

@butNHS - “Yes I am afraid that may be true. All the mainstream parties were complicit in (if not directly responsible for) the legislative changes that have put it under such threat. The NHS poses a big problem as far as all the mainstream parties are concerned – regardless of what they say in their manifestos.  They know that it will require more funding in future but they do not have the courage to increase taxes to pay for it. Selling it gets them off the hook. They would rather you pay a lot more through private insurance policies than risk losing your votes by asking for a little more tax. It is political cowardice of the highest order.

Sadly though, it is only the party in power that can really make the legislative changes that will safeguard the NHS. If we are to save the NHS we have to convince current and future governments that it is in their best interest to preserve it. We need to exert sustained, forceful and unambiguous pressure. All parties need to understand that saving the NHS is the Great British public’s top priority when we come to vote in the next election.”

TMITS  -  “Yes that makes sense. So we need a big campaign. Let’s get the press behind this.”

@butNHS - “Oh dear – I don’t think you have been listening. The press seem intent on undermining the NHS. So far they have not taken this on. They may even be part of the problem.”

TMITS  - “Then we must make them change their minds. Who else can exert an influence on press and politicians? What about the big bosses at NHS England? They must know what is going on.”

@butNHS - “They are far too embroiled in politics and worried about their own jobs. They dare not speak out.”

TIMTS - " Or the Care Quality Commission?”

@butNHS - “Not likely – it is a political quango which looks to be operating at present as though it wants to undermine the service  too.”

TMITS  - “Well there are the professional bodies, the General Medical Council, The British Medical Association, the Royal College of nursing etc.”

@butNHS - “Maybe one day but they seem more concerned with protecting their individual members and keeping out of the spotlight than looking at the full picture. To be fair it would be a bit intimidating to take on a hostile press. They would be massacred. You must have seen what Channel 4 News can do to a society president.”

TMITS  - “The Trade Unions? Surely they must understand the importance of socialised health care.”

@butNHS - “Possibly but they have not made a lot of noise so far. I hope they may get more involved in future but we need to get them engaged somehow.”

TMITS  - “There are 1.3 million people working in the NHS. Surely they can exert some influence.”

@butNHS - “Eventually maybe but many NHS staff are not in good place at present. Overworked, underappreciated – at least by the media - and too beaten down to lead this. Some are worried about their jobs. We know that whistle blowers can be very badly treated. There is huge potential for NHS staff to get involved though given, the right guidance and support.”

TMITS  - “Why don’t we just vote in the NHS Action Party? They seem to care about this stuff.”

@butNHS - “Undeniably true but single issue parties will rarely win seats in an election. Even if they do they don't get to make law. They can only lobby the government like the rest of us. They can help in spreading the message but they will never hold real power.”

TMITS  - “A-ha, I have got it. You are a big fan of social media. That must be the answer.”

@butNHS – “Well no, not really. Social media has quite a lot of reach and works quickly but it is ephemeral. The vast majority of the UK population do not use any form of social media. This campaign needs to be firmly in the real world. There are lots of little social media groups working separately but nothing seems to join up. Committed people can tweet at each other as much as they like but it will not change the world.”

TMITS  - “OK – I give up. Who do you think will save the NHS?”

@butNHS - “Think about this logically. The only people who have the power to make the legislative and organisational changes needed to save the NHS are members of the government who you, the man in the street,  put in charge of the country next year. The problem is neither of the mainstream parties seem to have the political balls to take it on.

They will only do it if they think their political lives (as opposed to their real lives, ironically) depend upon it.

We have the make saving the NHS the top priority for every party in the coming election.”

protect the nhsTMITS  - “But how can we do that? You have just spent 10 minutes telling me that everyone is impotent or disengaged and nobody can make a difference!”

@butNHS - “Well yes , and also no. The truth is that no single organisation can do it but if everyone joins in we can make a difference. Social media can be a big driving force to spread the message. We need to coordinate the various pressure groups and get them all working together. We each individually need to encourage our unions and professional organisations to get involved and give them the confidence to speak out. We need to big up the NHS and empower its staff to speak out.

Any person can canvass an MP or a healthcare correspondent and these are the people who will make all the difference. They all need to be bombarded with thousands of messages from concerned men and women in the street.

We need petitions, demonstrations, marches, celebrations, and lobbying. We must celebrate the NHS and counter the negative press stories.

We need the nation to be proud of it greatest institution.”

TMITS  - “So you are saying that the only thing that will save the NHS is the combined will of the British people, and that it is everyone’s responsibility to do something about it.”

@butNHS - “You have got it in one. If we all sit back and wait for someone else to fix it we will have no NHS in 10 years’ time and we will all be much the poorer, and many will be dead.

So, man in the street, what are you going to do now?”



I am thinking about converting the dialogue into an animated video using one of the free on-line services. What do you think? Would any of my dear readers have experience and be able to help with this? 

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