What is it all about?
When the election is over and the dust settles it seems likely that politicians and press will lose some of their current interest in the NHS. There will be other more immediately pressing issues to distract them. There is a real danger that, regardless of which party wins the contest, the NHS will continue down the “if we do nothing” track that I outlined a couple of months ago. The NHS is still among the greatest healthcare systems in the world but its staff is a bit battered and bruised and its image slightly tarnished. We need to do something to enhance the reputation of the NHS in the eyes of the public and politicians and persuade them that it is worth taking the decisive actions that are needed to secure its long term future.
So here is the plan
At 2.00 in the afternoon on Sunday the 5th July tens of thousands of people across the country meet up at their local hospitals and form a human chain around the entire building – a massive public demonstration of affection for the NHS. They will literally “Hug a Hospital”. Imagine the effect. Politicians and press will certainly take note. Staff morale will be boosted and public confidence will improve. Confident patients have better experiences of treatment and probably better outcomes.
Hospitals vary enormously in size but most would have an internal perimeter of under a mile. My own fairly large hospital is just under three quarters of a mile. The average hospital would require fewer than 1500 people to complete the circle. Hospitals may want to combine the event with an open day or a summer fete. It could be a great opportunity to show off their best side and engage constructively with their local populations. Everyone is a winner!
Why the 5th of July?
The 5th July marks the 67th anniversary of the founding of the NHS and the end of my proposed NHS week. This year it is on a Sunday which is the best day of the week for this sort of event. The days are long, the weather is likely to be good and it is a quiet time in the press.
A clear purpose!
It is crucial that everyone involved understands exactly what these events are about. They are:
- An opportunity for hospitals to engage with their staff and local populations
- A chance to celebrate the best of the NHS
- A boost for staff morale and the overall reputation of the service
- A chance to do some charitable fund raising
They are not:
- A forum for political demonstrations or protests
How should the “hugs” be organised?
While I maintain that the “Hug a Hospital” idea came into my head as an original thought a quick Google search found it has been done a couple of times before, most notably in Spain in 2012. Previous events have often taken the form of protests and were organised without the full cooperation of the hospitals involved. They did not always go well.
It is ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL that any events are organised by the hospital management team. Issues such as health and safety, access for emergency vehicles, collaboration with police, car parking, marshaling etc. are all best organised by the hospital itself.The hospitals may want to recruit help from interested individuals or groups but they must maintain overall control of the event.
Are there any potential dangers?
The main worry would be control of fairly large crowds. This is all about proper planning and management. Most hospitals are used to organising large events including things like summer fetes and they should not take this sort of thing on unless they know how to go about it.
There is also the worry that the events could be hijacked by politically motivated individuals or groups to promote their own agendas. I don’t think this is likely to be a major issue. The vast majority of the population is already strongly pro NHS. There are many NHS pressure groups who will be interested to follow these events but none appear to have any history of bad or disruptive behavior.
Must it only be hospitals?
It started in my head with the phrase “Hug a hospital” which rolls off the tongue and will make a nice hash tag but no, it could be any NHS organisation. A GP practice could probably be ringed by less than 100 people.
So what next?
I have been talking with my trust this week and I have been able to persuade the board that it is something they want to do. We are looking at the logistics of how it might work. It seems very likely we will do it.
I am sure that if we get two or three trusts signed up many more will want to get involved and it will snowball. If you are a patient or member of the public why not ask your local trust if they have thought about getting involved. The easiest way is to tweet the link to this blog to their Twitter account or paste a message on their Facebook page. You can use the picture below if you like.
If you like the idea and work in a hospital, or indeed any NHS organisation, why not start the discussion. Talk to your line manager, head of communications or even the CEO. Don’t be shy.
If you represent a hospital and are thinking of joining in you will find a further advice for hospitals on how to take part here. Please have a look before you decider either way.
Please let me know if your organisation decides to take part. I will keep a live list of organisations and contacts on the web site so people can share ideas. I will report back on progress soon.