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Bevan knows I’m miserable now

Submitted by on July 7, 2017 – 10:01 amNo Comment

Labour NHSjpg

Most of us have grown up without having to give much of a second thought to the NHS; it’s just there, when we need it. That’s a great gift handed down by those who fought to make it a reality, that millions of people born after the Second World War – people who have had to worry about paying for all kinds of other things – have for the most part had the comfort of not having to make decisions about their own or their family’s health care based on what they could or couldn’t afford.

I still have debts from a decade ago when my wife’s mother had to undergo treatment for cancer in a country that doesn’t have free-to-access health care. My wife spent most of the first two years of our marriage over there nursing her, while my part-time wage, credit cards and personal loans were stretched to pay for treatment. Until then I’d only been used to making financial decisions on things like how much to pay for an away match, or whether some new trainers were really necessary, some of which only had a tenuous foothold in rational thinking about affordability, but how are you supposed to rationally weigh up the pros and cons of taking on mounting debts to pay for a possible extra few months of a loved one’s life? You shouldn’t really have to.

The NHS isn’t perfect. It struggles now because like all state-run institutions it’s obviously hampered by red tape and bureaucracy instead of letting go-getters like Richard Branson bang heads together and bring much needed efficiency. Just think how much we’d save if people started taking individual responsibility for their health because they’d have to pay for treatment… well that’s the dream. It struggles now after years of cruel-to-be-kind, pull-your-socks-up, this’ll-hurt-me-more-than-it-hurts-you cuts, and it struggled right at the start. Its whole history is one of struggle, trying to keep something going that runs counter to the ideological dreams of the most powerful.

It’s a wonder it ever got off the ground. The Second World War left Europe in tatters, with competing ideologies tugging at the continent in different directions. Ailing old empires like Britain were now deeply indebted to their American saviours, but were still committed to big spending in the emerging Cold War era. The state control of production during the war, the appropriation of privately owned manufacturing resources, showed what could be achieved when something bigger than private profit, the collective good, is prioritised.

The 1945 General Election result reflected that people wouldn’t accept that the sacrifices of war would be followed by soldiers and their families returning to the limited lives their fathers had returned to post-WW1, and so because of the pesky democratic will of the people, as well as the begrudging need to provide a demonstrably better standard of living than the cold, queuing-for-bread socialists to the east, Britain was forced to put in place a welfare state and an uncomfortably socialist NHS.

Bevan

The Conservatives were horrified of course (the American creditors weren’t best pleased either), but also fighting it were charities, churches and local authorities, as well as GPs who feared the loss of status and profit that a state-run health service would bring, as well of course as bureaucracy, red tape and a decaying socialist, nanny state society. In the end it was a compromised NHS that was born – free at the point of use, but GPs would still own their own surgeries and derive personal profit from it. We also know it’s been under attack ever since – prescription charges, gnashers and nashers fees, through to the various means of privatisation by stealth we see today.

The interests ultimately represented by the Tories and the corporate media see the NHS as an ideological abomination to be eventually destroyed in their class war. They won’t come out and say it because they know public opinion is firmly pro-NHS, because the public are human beings, but they’ll do what they can to weaken it with the hope of getting their rich mates to charge in one day and save it from itself.

The only way to save it in the long-term is to make it fully funded, to fight broader battles so that the NHS isn’t an anachronistic island of socialism surrounded by an incoming tide of capitalist aggression. A health service shouldn’t be negotiating with profit-hungry pharmaceuticals or depending on real estate strategies to make ends meet, but while all those other things are driven by the market, the NHS will always be holding off these hostile forces with one hand while mopping patients’ brows with the other. The NHS still manages with that one hand to change millions of people’s lives for the better; just imagine what it could do if we let it use both.

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