Women in the north east of England and beyond are getting together to stand against the creeping privatisation and fragmentation of the NHS.
The campaign shows how ambitious and effective grass-roots organisations campaigning can be on an issue such as the privatisation of the NHS.
The “999 Call for the NHS” campaign has a clear objective at its heart – to keep the NHS intact and providing everyone with access to high quality healthcare which is free at the point of delivery, both now and for future generations to come.
It’s a simple goal - but a complex issue. The NHS is a huge, diverse organisation. It's very size has allowed it to be dismantled subtly, in a piecemeal fashion.
It’s “death by a thousand cuts”. Death through years of outsourcing agreements. Death by the passing of law after damaging law. This subtle piecemeal approach means it is passing unnoticed by many.
The government claims that that choice for communities is central to it's reforms. “No decision about the patient without the patient” is its mantra. Yet in reality we are witnessing the biggest downgrading, outsourcing and sell off of our NHS in it's 65 year history.
Since the 2012 Health & Social Care Act the government has forced health commissioners to put every service out to tender that could be provided by an organisation other than the NHS.
This was the moment that effectively opened up the entire NHS to privatisation.
For Joanna Adams - a mum from Darlington - it was the tipping point that spurred her into action.
Like most people living in the UK, Jo’s passion for the NHS arises from her own personal experiences. Her own IVF and the treatment, and in some cases loss of family members to cancer have left her grateful for the care and support the NHS provided, and determined to fight on its behalf.
The campaign started with a quickly put together Darlington rally. Connections were quickly made with many like-minded people both in and outside of the NHS, both at the rally and on-line (with the #darlomums hashtag).
Darlington is a town South of Durham City and it is increasingly becoming a hot bed of political activity, and it's where the people's march for the NHS project idea was first discussed. Joanna’s “@999CallforNHS” campaign has gone from strength to strength and those that join the 999 call for the NHS campaign just get on board and do what is needed.
With the help of Jo’s speed-learning course on rally organisation, #darlomums have already organised their second rally in Durham attracting some high profile national speakers and have also organised a concert night to raise funds.
The #darlomums have become unstoppable. They are determined to make every community in the country aware of the devastating attacks on the NHS. Armed with smart phones, all their networking is done via social media, often late at night once the day job is done and the kids are in bed. The networking is clearly paying off as a generous twitter @OhStevenCarne follower helped them launch their people's march for the NHS website which was fittingly launched on Mother's Day -www.999callfornhs.org.uk. With three film makers already interested in the people's march, over 1000 hits on the website and 200 registered for the people's march for the NHS within 24 hours of the launching of the website, #darlomums are on a mission.
Rehana Azam GMB Union Organiser & proud Darlo mum said 'Since the two NHS rallies #darlomums kept floating the Jarrow to Parliament/London idea in the footsteps of Ellen Wilkinson and the Jarrow Crusade against unemployment in the 1930s. Once @999callfornhs floated the idea across social media we have genuinely been taken aback with the response. What appears impossible may just be do-able and the challenge is now to organise across the country securing support on route. We need the public on board with the NHS, advocating for the amazing NHS workers, and how better than a people's march for the NHS. I lead on the GMB NHS Sector and every day I am seeing first hand the devastating effects of government policy on the NHS. In the GMB we focus on the need to organise and build strong union workplaces the people's march for the NHS offers an opportunity to build the strong community support needed to protect our NHS. We now need to pull together all the campaigns & campaigners and unite behind one aim, one issue our NHS'
The #marchfortheNHS is scheduled to start in Jarrow, 16 August 2014 and will aim to reach Parliament, London by 6 September 2014 with three events to be staged along the way. It is already attracting interest on social media @999CallforNHS.
Joanna Adams 999 Call for NHS Organiser & Darlo mum said 'We plan to join up with other NHS campaigning groups across the country, both virtually and physically and already we have had key NHS Campaigners such as Dr Jacky Davis, Stafford Campaigners, Lewisham Campaigners, KONP Campaigners, NHA Party, GMB, Unite, Northern TUC and many more unions pledging to support the people's march for the NHS. Ordinary folk like me are wanting to join the people's march for the NHS and that is why this project is so exciting. At a time when armchair activism is the norm, emails are flooding in with offers to help organise, and to walk one or more of the legs of the route. The route is split up into sections of 10-15 miles, making it easy for groups to join in. I can rest assure it may be #darlomums organising the march but we want everyone on board".
Mel Wilson 999 Call for NHS Organisers & darlomum 'I answered the call when learning just how much the NHS is set to change - I fail to see the positives of downgrading of services, mergers & possible hospital closures. I am a mum of 3 and I have used the NHS often and the NHS is very precious to me and my family. Without the NHS where would we be? Preserving the principles the NHS was founded on is crucial if we are to retain the NHS for future generations. We all have a part to play I may not have expertise in NHS policy but I am a damn good social media person and that's what is brilliant about being part of #darlomums. We play to our strengths and we all do what we can whilst we juggle our days jobs and families'.
Linda Hughes Darlo mum & councillor 'As a parent and a daughter I want my family to continue to benefit from the NHS. I don't want my family's or my local community's future health and wellbeing left to whether or not we can afford to pay. Health is not a commodity to be bought and sold to the highest bidder.' Credit also needs to go to Linda for launching the darlomum hashtag. It was when some of the #darlomums took part in the the big sleep out last August to highlight the cruelty and effects of the govt policy on the #bedroomtax the hashtag was launched and it's been stuck with the #darlomums ever since. It was probably at the big sleep out where the idea was first floated for a people's #marchforthenhs.
What started out as the crusade of one woman supported by a small group of local women, is now gaining support daily and stands to grow into a national movement for the NHS and despite the hashtag #darlomums everyone is welcome to join the people's march for the NHS.
#darlomums are a diverse group of women from Darlington, most #darlomums live in Darlington.
The Mums from Darlington comprise of Joanna Adams, Rehana Azam, Mel Wilson, Linda Hughes, Jo Lande, Cath McArdle, Hazel Commane, Wendy Parker, Rosie & Helen Webber and newly recruited Emma Tyers. Between them they have 13 kids and one on its way. #darlomums have a range of jobs including 3 working in the local EE call centre, 1 union officer, 1 councillor, I cafe owner, 1 teacher, 1 just enrolled on a nursing course, 1 graphic designer and 1 beauty therapist.
Photo credits Steve Connor