I’ve been sitting here for a few minutes trying to compose a letter to my MP. There’s something about trying to convince a wealthy, property-owning Tory that the NHS shouldn’t be strip-mined to make profits for wealthy, property-owning shareholders that strikes me as being akin to pissing on the great fire of London. I’m still going to do it… I just need to work a little harder to get the cynicism out of my system first.
For the benefit of my non-UK friends, you may or may not know that we have a National Health Service, founded in 1948 by Aneurin Bevan, champion of social justice and the rights of the working classes. Just like, you know, Ed Balls and that lot.
Health care for all, free at the point of delivery, funded entirely by taxation.
The NHS has undergone a lot of change since the days when a kindly, moustachioed doctor who sounded like Sir Alec Guinness treated rickets and diphtheria. In recent years, cuts, waiting lists, MRSA and fatigue-addled foreign doctors prescribing pints of intravenous morphine have tarnished the reputation of the service somewhat.
The latest suggested changes are controversial. I’m no expert, so I asked a friend who manages to be a doctor, a highly intelligent man and a decent, compassionate human being. Sometimes all three at the same time.
His response was “…the NHS reforms are purely about pushing a competitive market in order to drive down costs (at the expense of quality) and essentially privatize secondary care. Everything else is just window dressing to detract from the main agenda.” And he included an open letter to the BMA, signed by over 100 concerned health professionals containing this: “We have serious concerns that the proposed reforms will fundamentally undermine the founding principles of the NHS by creating a much more expensive and inequitable market based system.”
The full letter can be found here:
A market based system. Yeah, because the market led systems have worked a treat in public transport, banking, the nuclear industry and… hang on a minute!
At this point if you haven’t read Joel Bakan’s book ‘The Corporation’ you probably should do. Or see the film if you’re the type who has trouble reading a tweet all the way through. I can wait. Bakan argues (successfully in my opinion) that, judged by the standards of people, a corporation is a psychopath.
So the latest reforms are aimed at throwing the NHS open to be cut up and harvested for profit by psychopaths. Well, you did vote Tory – at least, someone must have. As de Tocqueville said: “We get the government we deserve.”
Does the NHS need reforming? Probably. But is this being done with the interests of patients and the philosophy of the NHS at heart? No, it’s an attempt to cut down on spending, in itself a symptom of the ills caused allowing the rapacious pursuit of profit above all else to dominate political direction, and to further satiate the corporate lobbyists that now choke the corridors of power.
Public private partnerships and the profiteering of pharma and medical supply companies have already damaged the NHS. On the other side of the equation, the unprecedented levels of abuse, malingering, medical fraud, preventable illness and sheer stupidity of the people who wander into their local hospitals and GPs every day have done just as much, if not more, to bring the service to its knees.
A doctor knows that treating symptoms will only ultimately make someone better if the cause of the disease can be put right. So if the NHS is to be reformed then it should be by looking at what’s wrong – not simply by trying to make it cheaper whilst at the same time enabling private companies to profit from it. Think about that last statement for a second – does that sound like something that’s going to improve patient care?
The problem with actually putting things right is that it takes time and it’s complicated and it doesn’t win elections. It means having patients who have been educated in a system that’s designed to help them to grow into wiser, happier, more compassionate individuals and not mindless slaves to economic growth. It means doing something about the state of affairs that leaves half of the population obese, depressed, permanently medicated or claiming disability benefit because that seems to be the only way to make ends meet.
And it means, crucially, that the man in the street, the voter, has to get off his fat arse and find out what the issues are, because whilst a petition signature demanding a rethink on NHS reforms might conform to my opinion, if it’s a knee-jerk reaction, joining a bandwagon, then it’s not really much better than doing nothing. Margaret Mead’s famous quote about a small group of thoughtful people changing the world has an obvious corollary – that a large group of people without a thought in their heads will change sod-all.
So please, by all means, if you’re minded to, sign a petition to save the NHS. Better by far, though: do a little bit of reading or ask the opinion of someone that knows more than you do and then write to your MP. Like I will in a minute, honest.