NHS has languished in the shadows for far too long - Alastair Stewart

Why does everyone treat strikes and industrial action like they have come from nowhere? Worse, why is the language so binary?

Alastair Stewart
Alastair Stewart

People's reactions are predictable. As with all things these days, politics has been distilled into an inaccurate choice, for or against. We are all extremists now; the reality is somewhere in the middle. If only we would tell the truth.Strikes annoy me. Disruption annoys me. The idea that essential services can be brought to a standstill is profoundly vexing. But they are intended to upset and provoke change. To pretend everyone is happy with this democratic exercise ignores the frustration that must have provoked our public services into such drastic action.With nurses due to strike in Scotland in January, with ambulance drivers striking across England, it's time to ask why we have let things get this bad.We would be healthier as a country if the public, newspapers and politicians admitted their own role in fuelling more divide. The language concentrates on "demands" and "calls for" without tying a narrative together. Debates about salaries and rebuttals are all so esoteric it ignores the fundamental issue.Do you want safe, profitable, contended, and professionally rewarding public services in a crunch situation? When a family member is on the floor, will you condemn ambulance drivers for striking or the ones who pushed public servants to the brink and forced their hand?The mystery is why we clap for carers and nurses at the peak of the worst pandemic most of us have ever known and forget about them a mere 12 months later.The NHS has languished in the shadows for too long because no one wants to look it in the face. It is bad karma to say anything negative about the health service, and seriously bad juju to do so when you may get ill at some point.Our leaders take advantage of the sacrosanct status of the National Health Service and our aversion to pain and morality. Unless you work in the sector, have a professional portfolio connected to it, are ill or have a family member or friend receiving treatment, why would you concern yourself about cancer wards or coronary care?Because their services are an uncomfortable reminder of sickness, of mortality, we can barely stomach looking at them. That ill logic leads to their total neglect and economic gutting.That is the real zero-sum game here. Governments operate in this emotional void. It is precisely why there has been no comprehensive strategy to support, expand and protect the NHS on the back of Covid-19.Health is a flash in the pan - if it's in the newspapers, it is usually about a scandal or something reactive. There is no consistent campaign for increased pay, better services or better treatment of workers.Care home workers, ambulance staff, auxiliaries, doctors, and everyone in between have been forgotten. Public sector staff are most critical when we are most vulnerable. Hate strikes, despise strikers? Look the problem in the face and ask why the ones we rely on the most have taken these decisions.So when we get annoyed about strikers or feel that our emergencies trump their futures, stop and ask why it got this far. You can curse strikes without hating strikers.But nothing will change and improve until we consistently, every day, call on our leaders to look at the mess they have made that jeopardises all of us.