EveryDoctor’s 2021 Recap

Hannah Dewhirst

EveryDoctor looks back on all our work together from the last 12 months.

We’re not going to sugarcoat it. 2021 has been another incredibly difficult year and another year in which fighting for the NHS has never been more important. 

Thanks to the wonderful support of our community of 1,700 doctor members, and our wider network of 250,000 NHS staff and supporters, we’ve had a real impact this year and so we wanted to take this opportunity to look back and celebrate all of our achievements together. 

COVID-19 cases are sky-rocketing. The government is paralysed by inaction. Welcome to January 2021. In response, thousands of us demanded Parliament be recalled and for Matt Hancock, then Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, to present plans to deal with the situation immediately. In the same month, as part of our ongoing work to #ProtectNHSWorkers, we launched our Vaccinate Now! campaign at a briefing with dozens of MPs to call for immediate vaccinations for all frontline NHS staff - within 24 hours they changed the policy, a huge victory. 

In February we wrote an open letter to Boris Johnson in The Guardian calling for an urgent Trauma Recovery Plan for NHS workers. 

More than 50 MPs and journalists from The Times, The Independent, ITN and Al Jazeera attended our accompanying briefing to hear firsthand about the mental health crisis amongst NHS staff following intense physical and emotional pressures endured due to the pandemic, watch a clip of Dr Jess Potter’s testimony here. Soon after the Government went on to announce a £500 million mental health action plan to help NHS staff, and NHS England said it would set up 40 mental health hubs free for staff across the country.

As NHS workers have suffered real terms pay cuts of up to 30% since 2010, March saw the launch of our joint campaign with Nurses United: #NHSPay15 - to demand a 15% across the board pay rise for all NHS staff. 15 MPs went on to sign our pledge; Apsana Begum MP, Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP, Clive Lewis MP, Ian Lavery MP, John McDonnell MP, Kate Osborne MP, Mick Whitley MP, Richard Burgon MP, Virendra Sharma MP, Christine Jardine MP, Claire Hanna MP, Claudia Webbe MP, Diane Abbott MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP and Jon Trickett MP. This issue remains incredibly important, as a substantial pay rise would not only serve as a show of respect to workers who have gone above and beyond, but, as the NHS suffers from 94,000 vacancies, would also address the long-term problem of under-staffing and improve patient care. We’ll continue to collaborate with other organisations however we can. 

April saw our biggest parliamentary briefing yet. 82 MPs and staffers attended our event: “Is the NHS being privatised? EveryDoctor explains”. Attendees were presented with a brief history of how privatisation has been creeping into our NHS for three decades and steps they could take to halt and reverse it. Members and Supporters are welcome to a copy of this (and any other!) of our briefing documents, please just get in touch with us at campaigns@everydoctor.org.uk.

In April we came runner-up in the Sheila McKechnie Foundation’s award for best coalition campaign for our #ProtectNHSWorkers campaign; which brought 104 MPs together to lobby for NHS worker protections including PPE.

May marked the start of our High Court trial with Good Law Project against the government over their dodgy PPE contracts. By this point, 880 health and social care workers had died from COVID-19. So many of our colleagues fought on the frontlines with insufficient or out-of-date PPE, others had none at all. To highlight these vital legal cases, we lit up buildings across London and got our #WhatsThePlanMatt? hashtag trending No. 1 across the whole of UK Twitter. Following the government’s shocking lack of regard for the safety of NHS workers, almost 17,000 of us demanded #WhatsThePlanMatt? We’re still waiting to receive a verdict from this trial. And so many NHS workers are still waiting to feel safe and supported in their workplaces. We will never rest on these issues.

In June, as part of her publicity campaign for the soon to be vacant role; Dido Harding vowed to end England’s reliance on foreign doctors and nurses if she became the next Chief Executive of NHS England. We could not let this comment go unchecked. Our NHS could not cope if it weren’t for the thousands upon thousands of vital and valuable staff who have made the UK their home, and the NHS part of their family, so we launched our #InclusiveNHS statement which more than 7,000 of you went on to add your name too. Within a few weeks, Dido Harding had been eliminated as a candidate for the role, and announced she’d step down from her remaining role as NHS Improvement chair in the autumn. 

July brought the second reading in the House of Commons of the government’s Health and Care Bill. A Bill that would accelerate NHS privatisation, remove the statutory duty for any public body to arrange hospital services, centralise more power in the hands of the Health Secretary, provide no additional support for current staff, or any new funding - this reading also marked the start in earnest of our campaign to #ScrapNHSBill. We made our message to politicians loud and clear by sending more than 12,000 emails to MPs in less than 48 hours together. While the Bill sadly passed, on the day Labour frontbench politicians came out stronger in opposition than they ever had before and the BMA finally came out in full opposition as well. 

A new addition to the digital shelves of our EveryDoctor shop arrived in August: our shopper bags. Perfect for a day at the beach; while also fitting your laptop and a set of spare scrubs! Made like our comfy reusable masks by the wonderful Masks For Extraordinary People by UK sewists who lost work due to the pandemic. Every purchase made through our online shop contains a donation that supports the work we do. The thousands of sales made over the past 12 months have enabled us to hire new members of staff, run more campaign actions, and spend more time communicating with our community so a huge thank you to any and every one who's ever made a purchase! 

As the pandemic wore on into the autumn, ongoing and escalating pressures in primary care started to gather more national attention. But rather than offering a true analysis of the situation, or support for overstretched surgery staff, sadly many major news outlets responded to the situation by launching a barrage of negative attacks on GPs. EveryDoctor responded immediately by publishing rebuttals to several of these in The Times, Spectator, Daily Mail and The Telegraph. Following this raft of media attacks, as an act of support and solidarity we also reached out to our community and asked them to share their positive stories of primary care. We were overwhelmed by the number and emotion of responses we received; gathering over 300 stories of positive primary care from Aberdeen to the Isle of Wight. Thank you to everyone who shared your story with us 💙 

September also saw the launch of what went on to become our most successful crowdfunder ever(!) as part of our #ScrapNHSBill campaign, raising almost £70,000. This boosted our team’s capacity to reach out to politicians across both Houses, funded polling so we could evidence the weight of public support for our work, kickstarted the building of a digital map of NHS privatisation (keep an eye out in the new year for this!), allowed us start planning a series of in-person local events for 2022 and to run a number of high profile stunts including not one but two, ad van actions around central London. 

The first saw us take the findings from our YouGov poll that only 15% of people support private healthcare companies sitting on Integrated Care Boards (which would allow them to make decisions on service provision and spending directly affecting patient care) straight to the front door of Sajid Javid’s Health department. 

Then in October we took our #ScrapNHSBill campaign back on the road and visited the headquarters of eight private healthcare companies to share some facts about the true cost privatisation is already having on our NHS; read up on all the details in our blog post here.  

October also saw us continue our work to bring the facts about the crisis in primary care to light with a parliamentary and press briefing. 37 MPs, staffers and journalists came along to hear from our Chief Exec Dr Julia Patterson, and three frontline GPs and EveryDoctor Members; Drs Emily Ball, Alison Hobbs and David Mark Thornton. You can catch up on the full recording on our YouTube channel here.

As pandemic pressures continued unabated, and NHS staff found themselves with no extra support, and even public derision from high profile politicians - we strove to keep the pressure up on the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. Together over 23,000 people signed our petition to #DemandJavidsPlan, he has yet to reply. This, like all our work, was not a personal or partisan attack  but a demand for the Secretary to share solutions and plans for action to bolster our public health service - both of which we’re sadly still waiting for. 

In November our #ScrapNHSBill campaign came to a head with the third and final vote by MPs on the Health and Care Bill. The day before was one of our busiest ever. We got our hashtag trending on Twitter again, ran our very first public webinar to share a brief history of NHS privatisation and highlight how this Bill would make matters even worse, and took our message straight to politicians with a projection on the Houses of Parliament. While the Bill passed the following day it did so by a far smaller majority than predicted, and our fight to #ScrapNHSBill is far from over. We’ll continue our work into 2022 in both the House of Lords and on the streets with a series of local community events because while significant, this Bill is just one part of our work to raise awareness of the extent of NHS privatisation that’s already happened and our fight to reverse it.

As we headed into December, the NHS’ worst winter crisis on record began to bite. As the government continued to publicly announce more work for GPs with no warning (or additional support) with another vaccine rollout, our EveryDoctor member GP Dr Emily Ball appeared on BBC News to share her experience of frontline pressures. She also shared her story at our parliamentary and press briefing: The Domino Effect on the 10th where we outlined seven interconnected crises which, like dominoes, threaten to topple our entire public health service this winter, catch up here. As cases of the Omicron variant surged to levels not witnessed since the start of the pandemic, the NHS is facing an extraordinarily dangerous situation. As Julia made clear in our briefing; patients are in danger, and the question we’re sadly left asking is not whether lives will be lost this winter, but how many. The government needs to act immediately and provide the NHS and its staff with whatever is necessary in order to safeguard lives and so we launched a new letter tool so as many of you as possible can contact your MP to share these stark facts and demand action to not just show NHS staff our support, but to protest for real action from those in power.

Alongside our public facing work, behind the scenes we’ve also provided 42 EveryDoctor members with legal support over the last 12 months, our Yoga teacher Natasha has run weekly online classes for our docs and our team has grown from 2 to 5 full-time members of staff!

As EveryDoctor heads towards its third anniversary in January, we wanted to end this 2021 recap by saying a HUGE thank you to every Member, Supporter, Twitter follower, petition signer, merch buyer, MP-email sender - and every person working in the NHS - it’s only thanks to you that we’ve been able to make everything that happened this year possible. If you’re not already, please consider joining us today as a Doctor Member or a Supporter member of the public so we can achieve even more together in 2022. 

Because we won’t stop. There’s more work to do than ever before. We’ll do everything we can to fight for the NHS this winter and beyond - because at EveryDoctor we believe in a future where every patient and every doctor is safe. 

Every doctor matters. Every voice counts.
Join our movement today.