I went out on Saturday to support the Labour National NHS campaign day. It was the best thing I could of done at the moment to remind me exactly what I joined this party for. More than just a day of gathering signatures, it gave me the opportunity to speak to people and gain an insight into the views, needs and experiences of others. It can become really easy at the minute to just live in the social media bubble when it comes to politics. An echo chamber where you can be safe and secure in the knowledge that you know exactly how people think and feel. At the moment that echo chamber feels quite negative, stale and toxic. It can leave me questioning why I want to remain involved and feel that annoyed with it all that I know it would be easier to quit. Thank god for Saturday. For getting outside and speaking to real people. It’s given me that kick up the bum I needed.
I heard a lot of negative things about the NHS campaign day. Yes I get it’s been a focus before and yes I get it’s a safe bet but I think if there is one thing that gets people willing to open up and talk to you in the street, the NHS is probably it. For a new member on her first real local campaign that was perfect for me. Not only that but with the pictures seen in the media of late and the talk of an NHS in crisis I can’t think of a more important time to be getting out there and fighting for it.
Saturday offered me some excellent point of views, opinions, ideas and experiences. It gave me an opportunity to discuss my own views and experiences. Most importantly of all it gave me a sense of purpose. Talking to the couple in their 80’s who had genuine concerns of how they will manage to look after one and other with the current poor quality social care support offered, to the girl who was entirely grateful for the support given to her Mum as she recovered from a serious stroke and the couple who told me with pride about the work their daughter did for the local hospital. I’m reminded that I got into politics to try and play a part in making things better. Nothing drove this home more than the guy I stopped who told me his story as a worker in mental health services. I respect his confidentially and won’t share his name but his story is the one that will stay with me forever.
When someone opens up to you with the line “Do you know what happens to these people when the service is not available. They die” You come to the crushing reality that discussions regarding the NHS recently are not tabloid sensationalism but real and happening to people on a daily basis. In no area more so, than that of Mental Health Services. I am asked if I can guess how many beds dedicated to the treatment of serious mental illness there are in my local area and I am then told there is just one. ONE. This is followed by hearing that often he works a 24 hour shift as he feels like he can’t leave a person safely alone but there is no one else available to support. That recently he had to get involved in a race with other counties to secure his patient a bed in CORNWALL. He talks passionately and with great sadness of how the cuts are made to services and yet they are expected to just try and cope. Now I can read these facts in several reports across the UK press in the last few months. It was well reported last year that over half the counties Mental Health Trusts had to cut crisis beds, despite a promise of 1 billion pounds worth of funding from the government. Nothing really drives this home more than being in the company of someone who lives with the result of the funding cuts every day. Before the inspirational guy walks away to carry on with his shopping, he tells me how it’s quite easy for people not to care about mental health, to dismiss it as an area of unimportance when it comes to the health service. These people will never understand until it happens to them, or their children, a partner. Maybe when they go through begging for help when there is nothing to offer. Seeing their loved one is stuck in a hospital corridor, will they understand the importance of needing a well funded mental health support network. I don’t think the words will ever leave me.
So here’s the thing. Perhaps I have 2 real objectives to this post. Firstly the NHS is so much more than just your hospital or local GP surgery . I think many people are guilty of thinking that way. It’s a huge operation that deals with not only front line care but support, rehabilitation and awareness. All of these areas are struggling under huge pressure and you never know when you might need their help. Every person you speak to will have a personal experience to share regarding the NHS, chances are most of you reading this started your life via an NHS service. The people who work so hard within it and don’t go home when their shift ends because they care. Please don’t ever forget the huge importance of the service and why we should fight to keep it.
Then from a Labour Party point of view. Whilst as Labour members many of us may struggle to keep focused. A few will feel like that the events of the last few months makes them feel they have no option but to walk away. The war amongst the “factions” of the party continues as people get dragged in to scoring points and fighting amongst one an other. Let us all have that moment to remind us who we are representing. What we hope to achieve by members. For me I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to meet people and have an experience that makes me want to talk less about the negatives within the party and more about the issues people are facing out there. Away from the echo chamber. Will I still have a moan about the party? Oh yes absolutely! However this new member has learnt a sobering lesson. To any other new members out there who feel unsure about joining in on campaigning I say put the phone down, step away from social media and do it. The reality check works wonders.
Thanks for reading. ❤