If you don’t live in Stafford or the surrounding area, you won’t have heard that the people of Stafford have gone to extraordinary lengths to try to save their hospital. For some time now, a ‘Greenham Common’-style camp – started and entirely run by ordinary local citizens – has been pitched outside the hospital to protest against the relentless plans by the government’s ‘TSA’ (Trust Special Administrator) and to try to save vital health services.
You would think, all things being equal in a 24hr-news age, that such an unusual thing would have attracted the interest of all kinds of media – at the very least as ‘filler’ on thin news days. But apart from a few mentions in the local media and in the blog of local activist group SSH (‘Support Stafford Hospital), the existence of the camp has been conspicuous by its absence in the press and on television.
Coverage of the supposed – and entirely fallacious – ‘excessive mortality scandal’ at the hospital, and mentions of it by right-wing politicians, have by contrast been constant and relentless, and in spite of very rare exposure of the real facts about Stafford’s mortality statistics, ‘the Stafford hospital scandal’ continues to be (mis)used by the mainstream media as a byword for the inadequacy of the NHS.
Yet when the people of Stafford, who supposedly were failed over a period of years by an atrocious hospital, camp outdoors in all weathers to support the hospital – as they have consistently supported its staff – there has been not a peep from the health correspondents of the national news media.
You would almost suspect a hidden agenda.
Or more than suspect. The persistently negative coverage of the NHS by BBC News and much of the press seems deliberately calculated to undermine public confidence in, and affection for, our NHS – and to foster apathy in the face of constant assaults on the NHS by a government that took office on the back of promises to do no such thing.
The people of Stafford deserve our respect for their extraordinary efforts to save their hospital – the very opposite of the apathy the government and right-wing media want. They deserve our support in their fight. They deserve an ongoing spotlight by the national news media on these efforts. And we y all desperately need to learn from their example and to take every step we can to protect our own services and to raise awareness in an all-too-ignorant public of the war that is being waged by the government and its media cronies on the greatest achievement of this country: the NHS on which most of us depend.
Please visit the ‘Support Stafford Hospital‘ site and let them know you’re behind them. Please write to your MP and demand that they raise questions in the Commons about this as soon as it reconvenes. Please, find out what is happening in your own local services – and either support efforts to protect them, or if there aren’t any yet, then start some.
And if you’re a journalist, please – please – report on this so people become aware of the Big Lie that has been told as an excuse to shut down a much-loved hospital, and the efforts of the people of Stafford to prevent its success.
The fight goes on – and not just for services in Stafford – and it’s already desperate. Please join in and do what you can.