By Nick Owen
A Brighton man who spent a day giving flowers to doctors to thank them for their work has launched a new campaign against the proposed NHS reforms.
Sean de Podesta, a community worker and leader of the Not Enough Vases campaign, has declared next week as Brighton and Hove NHS Affirmation Week, starting on Monday (4 July)
The “protest of gratitude” begins with a public meeting tomorrow (Wednesday 29 June) and will coincide with the 63rd anniversary of the NHS.
Mr de Podesta, 57, said: “Virtually everyone in this country either owes their life, or is close to someone who owes their life or health, to the NHS.
“I believe that there are not enough vases in the country to hold the flowers that would adequately represent the debt we owe to the NHS.”
During Brighton and Hove NHS Affirmation Week, Mr de Podesta would like to see peaceful demonstrations outside every GP surgery, hospital and therapy centre in Brighton.
The campaigner is encouraging protesters to give carnations and thank you cards to patients as they enter medical centres to give to their doctors as a thank you for their treatment.
He said: “Most people in this country take the availability of free healthcare for granted.
“The NHS makes the news when mistakes occur or when it is in some sort of local crisis.
“The millions of routine patient contacts, the millions of ills routinely alleviated, the lives saved – these are rarely news.”
Mr de Podesta began the campaign in February to bring the Health and Social Care Bill to the wider attention of the public with his “ON Our Street We Say NO” (ONNO) protest.
The aim of ONNO was to gather petitions against the bill from every street across the city.
In April he started Not Enough Vases by handing out flowers to patients at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Eastern Road, Brighton.
And now he has teamed up with the Brighton Keep Our NHS Public group and hopes to set an example for other cities, towns and communities across the country.
A spokesman for Keep Our NHS Public said: “The situation is grave.
“The end result of these reforms will undermine the choice that is most important to patients – access to comprehensive, trustworthy and local health services.”
The bill was due to be discussed by a committee of MPs today.
Labour MPs called for the entire bill to be re-examined, arguing that concessions had changed it beyond recognition.
But Health Minister Simon Burns said: “We feel very strongly that this would unnecessarily delay the progress of the bill to the ultimate detriment of patients.”
Islean Kinghorn, 25, a newly qualified doctor, said: “When I first started training to become a doctor I didn’t expect to be working in the NHS that the government is now proposing.
“I was told a few years ago that I should expect the NHS to change but I never really imagined it would change for the worse so much so soon.”
The public meeting about Brighton and Hove NHS Affirmation Week starts at 7pm tomorrow (Wednesday 29 June) at the Friends Meeting House in Ship Street, Brighton.