Inside the House of Commons, with its many newly elected MPs, Pipedown hopes to get a Private Member’s Bill to ban unwanted background music and television in hospitals. Such a bill is badly needed to save the sanity of people who suffer from such truly inescapable music/television. (See the booklet Whose Choice is it Anyway? 2012, for details of their torment. Copies as pdfs available free to members from Pipedown). Unlike in shops, hotels, restaurants etc, people seldom have a real choice when going into hospital. They are also often at their most vulnerable there. Recognising these special factors, two politicians have attempted to introduce Private Member’s Bills: Robert Key, then MP for Salisbury, in the House of Commons and Tim Beaumont, the only Green Party peer, in the House of Lords. Neither succeeded but they pioneered the idea that piped music is an issue on which legislation is needed.
Yet it remains an idea that ministers and civil servants are unwilling to accept. Such official reluctance does not mean that all MPs are indifferent or hostile to the concept – some may be as enthusiastic as Robert Key was, others will be broadly sympathetic. As MPs have no way of knowing what concerns their constituents unless they are told, it is up to everyone dismayed by unwanted television and music in hospitals to let their MP know.
Write or email your MPs, suggesting they support – or even better, propose – a Private Member’s Bill to ban music and also television which, blaring away nonstop, can turn any ward into acoustic hell. Patients who wish to listen to television or their own music, as many do, can do so through headphones, so they will not suffer any deprivation. When enough MPs have been alerted, and their responses collated (by being sent on to Pipedown), we aim to to start intensive lobbying inside Westminster itself.
The government line is still that whether or not a hospital has background music or television is solely a matter for the local NHS trust and not its concern. This approach is useless if you find yourself in a ward where television or music is playing non-stop. In truth, the issue does not interest the central government, yet it intervenes in many areas of national life, including health, when it wants to. We need to alert enough MPs that this is an important health issue so that the message reaches Jeremy Hunt at the Department of Health loud and clear.
So write to your MP, whether he/she is newly elected or not – and whether or not you are actually a member of Pipedown. (MPs who currently hold a government post cannot propose Private Members’ Bills but they can support one. And they may not be in office for ever.)