I came into the world weighing a hefty 9lbs one afternoon in April 1943. To facilitate this painful intrusion, my mother had to save up for several weeks to get the Midwife’s fee together.
Back then, any Doctor’s visit could pose a cash flow problem for a working class family, but by the time I was 5, I was saved from the deathly rigours of double pneumonia because on the 5th July 1948 the NHS came into existence, funded by taxation, a humane, high quality and cost efficient way of keeping Britain healthy.
Yet the corporate world and half of our political establishment fail to see it this way.
They know the price of everything and the value of nothing, and to them, with their shares in profit-driven companies such as BUPA, Virgin Care, Circle, and Serco, they are already eyeing up our beloved NHS not as a benefit to the public, but as another cash cow to add to their list of acquisitions such as the Royal Mail and other once proud public services.
In June this year, a motion was put to the Royal College of Nurses; it was “That this meeting believes that a fixed fee should be charged for GP appointments.”
But the King’s Fund and the think tank, Reform, spurred on by a Labour Peer, take this further, suggesting we not only pay £10 to see our GP, but £10 for every night we spend in hospital, and that terminal patients should be means tested. This nasty lurch back into the 1920s was opposed by BMA GPs, one of whom, Dr. Laurence Buckman, saw it as “Survival of the richest, not treatment of the sickest.”
With an election due, David Cameron’s pledges from 2010, “No frontline cuts”, “no top-down NHS reorganisations”, have been erased from his party’s website. Since then, 5,870 NHS nurses, 7,968 hospital beds, a third of ambulance stations, have been cut.
Every day, ignoring these figures, the Coalition media machine ensures a steady flow of NHS ‘horror’ stories; people left on trolleys, tragic deaths. The insinuation being that the NHS is ‘too expensive’ and, of course, if it is privatised, everything will be just fine.
So, how expensive is our NHS? Even according to the Americans, it’s a bargain. The Commonwealth Fund, an internationally respected U.S.A. foundation, analysed countries’ health systems reently.
It ranked the UK first by quality, though spending less than 10 of the 11 countries surveyed.
The father of the NHS, Aneurin Bevin, rejected private insurance, charges, privatisation and competition, explaining why the NHS had been established on the principle - free to patients at the point of delivery. He wrote “. . . no society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means.”
The City, politicians, bankers and shareholders have had everything their own way since 1979. They’ve gobbled up gas, electricity, water, the railways, telecoms, all of which we once owned.
Yet enough is never enough when you’re a billionaire. Is it too much to ask them that they leave this one, precious bit of Britain in the hands of the people who own it?