When it comes to healthcare, democracy should count as the highest priority. Helping all of us stay as healthy as we can, for as long as we can, and treating ill health as best we can, is surely regarded as the most basic of our rights. Yet that is not the case.
Healthcare is not easy. Treating illness or trauma requires great knowledge and skill. No one would suggest giving people who could not possibly know how to treat a condition the power to treat it. But when it comes to having access to the best possible care, in a timely way, by the most appropriate people, who gets to decide how that is worked out? Who gets the power to choose how healthcare services are organised, allocated and rebuilt after decades of systematic neglect? Surely, the only acceptable answer in a parliamentary democracy is ‘everyone’. That is why democracy in the NHS is crucial. Because people matter most.
This is far from fanciful. There are convincing models of increasing democracy in organisations which, we believe, can translate to the NHS and offer new solutions which would transform the current way things are done, far away from the top-down, privatised, corporation-first approach which has corroded, fragmented and now threatens the very existence of our NHS.