A national NHS campaigners’ convention: A view from the inside


999 Call for the NHS Jarrow marchers in August 2014. The march ended in Trafalgar Square, London in September. Photo from 999callforNHS.org.uk.


Sophie W, a medical student in rs21, interviews Joanna Adams from 999 Call for the NHS , a grassroots campaigning organisation, in advance of their national convention on Saturday 28 February. 

The NHS is in the midst of a deep crisis. While politicians and political parties talk of their visions for its future, health campaigners are fighting to hold them to account to defend the founding principles of the NHS, both in the lead up to the general election and beyond.

999 Call for the NHS are holding a national convention on Saturday 28 February in Hammersmith, London, bringing together campaigners from across the country.

I spoke to Joanna Adams, one of the founding members of 999 Call for the NHS and a Darlo Mum who marched 300 miles to London as part of the NHS Jarrow March last summer, about the convention’s importance and her vision for NHS campaigning.

What’s the biggest danger facing the NHS now?

I think the biggest problem is that our government is hell bent on fragmenting services and starving it of funds until it is beyond saving. Clearly as justification for introducing an insurance based health system. They are being aided and abetted by a right wing media and a hollow Labour opposition that chose to abandon clause lV in 1995 and has never looked back since.

Where did 999 Call for the NHS come from? 

999 is a result of one too many frustrating BBC news reports. I just couldn’t stand to watch it happening anymore. So in spring 2012 I began campaigning under the twitter name 999 call for the NHS. It soon blossomed into a group of us working together. Now we are a strange old group of people scattered around the country.

What do you see for the role of grass roots organising in the NHS?

The role of grassroots campaigning is to keep the focus on the real issues rather than political agendas or electoral success. We, ordinary citizens are actually the only people who can be trusted to save the NHS. We have seen time after time, political parties betray the founding principles of the NHS. I think that mainstream politics is almost completely disconnected from the realities that ordinary people face. They mimic us, they sound like us, they walk amongst us, but if you look more closely at policy, they betray us over and over again.

How can health workers and NHS users work together to defend the NHS?

Well, health workers are in a dreadful position. They witness first hand the decay and the deconstruction of the NHS. They are fighting as hard as they can to keep things going and lets be honest, it is only the dedicated NHS workers that are holding the NHS together in many circumstances. At the same time they face an endless attack on their own pay and working conditions.  I think staff need to have courage to speak up and let people know the situation in the NHS. They are in a perfect position to counter the negative language used so often. Words like ‘bed blockers’ and the idea that some people are less worthy than others of medical attention.

Tell me more about the Convention on the Saturday 28 February, and the role you think it can play? 

The convention is the third and final meeting of campaigners from around the country. The agenda was decided at the last meeting in Staffs, and this time its all about putting those plans into action. We hope that 999 can act as an umbrella group to allow grass roots campaigns to work better together. We want people to share ideas, plans and resources. The idea being a sort of alliance of campaigns to make our voices louder and the message clearer.

We believe that all too often groups and initiatives are suffocated by politics. External pressure is applied at the last minute and hijack a message. We have seen it time after time the sting removed in order to gain the support of the powerful. Well, we want to put the sting back in the tail of activism. Independent and fearless campaigning, through united action.  999 is all about trying to organise, inspire and incite action.

To attend the 999 Call for the NHS Convention please register at www.999callforNHS.org.uk



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