By Nick Owen
A Brighton man who spent a day giving flowers to doctors to thank them for their work has launched a new campaign against the proposed NHS reforms.
Sean de Podesta, a community worker and leader of the Not Enough Vases campaign, has declared next week, July 4-8, as ‘Brighton and Hove NHS Affirmation Week’.
The ‘protest of gratitude’ launches with a public meeting on Wednesday (June 29) and will coincide with the 63rd anniversary of the NHS.
Mr de Podesta, 57, said: “Virtually everyone in this country either owes their life, or is close to someone who owes their life or health, to the NHS.
“I believe that there are not enough vases in the country to hold the flowers that would adequately represent the debt we owe to the NHS.”
During Brighton and Hove NHS Affirmation Week, Mr de Podesta hopes to see peaceful demonstrations outside every GP surgery, hospital and therapy centre in Brighton.
The campaigner is encouraging protesters to give carnation flowers and thank you cards to patients as they enter the medical centres so they may give them to their doctors as a way of saying thank you for the treatment.
He said: “Most people in this country take the availability of free healthcare for granted.
“The NHS makes the news when mistakes occur or when it is in some sort of local crisis.
“The millions of routine patient contacts, the millions of ills routinely alleviated, the lives saved – these are rarely news.”
Mr de Podesta began the campaign in February to bring the Health and Social Care Bill to the wider attention of the public with his ‘ON Our Street We Say NO’ (ONNO) protest.
The aim of ONNO was to gather petitions against the bill from every street across the city.
In April, he launched Not Enough Vases by handing out flowers to patients at the Royal Sussex County Hospital on Eastern Road.
And now he has teamed up with the Brighton Keep Our NHS Public group and hopes to set an example for other cities, towns and communities across the country.
A spokesperson for Keep Our NHS Public said: “The situation is grave.
“The end result of these reforms will undermine the choice that is most important to patients – access to comprehensive, trustworthy, and local health services.”
The bill was to go before the Health and Social Care Bill Committee today (June 28) for a second time after MPs voted last week, in a rare procedure, to recommit it.
Labour MPs called for the entire bill to be re-examined, arguing that concessions had changed it beyond recognition.
But Health Minister Simon Burns said: “We feel very strongly that this would unnecessarily delay the progress of the Bill to the ultimate detriment of patients.”
By returning parts of the bill to committee stage it is likely that it will take longer to become law.
Islean Kinghorn, 25, a newly qualified doctor, said: “When I first started training to become a doctor I didn’t expect to be working in the NHS that the government is now proposing.
“I was told a few years ago that I should expect the NHS to change, but I never really imagined it would change for the worse so much so soon.”
If you would like to know more about Brighton and Hove NHS Affirmation Week, Sean de Podesta will be hosting a public meeting at the Friends Meeting House, Ship Street, Brighton at 7pm on Wednesday June 29. Go to www.onourstreet.wordpress.com for more information.