Dr Jennifer Cray, Researcher on the cultural history of the NHS provides expert insight on the news that hospital cuts are planned in most of England.
- Hospital cuts have long been met with local opposition
"In 1962, the first significant hospital cuts were proposed in the new Hospital Plan for England in Wales. These intended to rationalise the numbers of people each hospital was expected to serve, which would result in the closure of numerous local community hospitals. In response, numerous local campaigns started up - New End Hospital Defence Committee, Save the West London Hospital Campaign, Bethlem and Maudsley Action Committee. These were patchily available, depending on local interest and campaigners."
- The way in which hospital cuts have been opposed has changed over time
"In the 1960s and 1970s, campaigners often relied on marches, collective sit ins, picketing. These campaigners were often also involved in second-wave feminism, anti-nuclear and gay rights protests. From the mid-1980s, campaigners started to use information as a tool to oppose hospital cuts. Campaigners would leak documents and launch legal challenges. This was part of a shift towards evidence-based policy in government and medicine, and made easier as Thatcher's disgruntled civil servants leaked documents. Many campaigners came together in larger groups, which was effective for pooling resources, but also sometimes saw strife about proposed tactics."
- Current campaigners could learn lessons from what has and hasn't been effective in history
"Legal challenges, mentioned in this BBC article, have been effective to change NHS policy in the past (to an extent). In 2006, a legal challenge launched by a pensioner, Pam Smith, stopped UnitedHealth Europe from taking over a local GP surgery in Creswell. Marches continue to raise the profile of issues today -such as that planned on 4th March - but are often also dismissed by policy-makers as 'par for the course' in policy reform. This critique made for example by Health Secretary Virginia Bottomley in the 1990s, and it is common for right-wing politicians to dismiss such marches as left-wing protest, rather than to think about its broader significance and mandate. The efficacy of new modes of protest like e-petitions are yet to be seen."
Dr Jennifer Cray is available for interview.
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