Save the NHS

For a large protest which had tens of thousands marching through London, February’s ‘NHS in Crisis: Fix It Now!‘ protest got remarkably little news coverage. As so often I got the feeling that had it taken place in another country it might have got a higher profile. But it was in London, and organised by Health Campaigns Together & The People’s Assembly Against Austerity and was opposed to the growing takeover of the NHS by private companies, doubtless many of which are connected with the few billionaires who own most of our newspapers and other media organisations.

They don’t of course control the BBC, but this increasingly takes its definition of ‘news’ from the commercial media and also largely supports the status quo; there are some fine journalists working for them and reporting from abroad, but things happening in the UK are largely seen through the eyes of presenters and backroom staff with Oxbridge degrees and former positions in Conservative student and other organisations. It isn’t of course possible to entirely hide the current crisis in the NHS, but you can hide the worst of it, blame everything except government cuts.

And of course there are other mistakes that the government is responsible for. The programme of PFI hospital rebuilding, begun by John Major but largely taken over and hugely expanded by New Labour will continue to be a huge drag on the NHS for another 30 or so years, And the success of the NHS in keeping us alive longer had added to its own troubles.

Despite some of the lies put about by largely Tory politicians, we still have a health service that is the envy of much of the world, free at the point of use. But it is one that is run by politicians who have written at spoken about replacing it by a US-style system which refuses many treatment and bankrupts others. We all know about the appalling shootings that take place far too often in US schools, but for many parents whose children are shot the financial consequences add to the grief at the loss or injury of their children, with huge bills for hospital services. We get a good health service (despite some problems) and we get it on the cheap.

The NHS needs more funding. We all know it, which is why that huge lie on the Brexit bus was so effective, though most who thought about it knew at the time it would never pay up. Cancelling ridiculous ‘prestige’ projects such as the replacement of Trident could go some way towards funding it properly, and taxing the corporations that make huge profits in the UK but avoid paying their taxes would certainly help – by a conservated estimate we lose £300bn a year through big business off-shoring, roughly twice the total NHS budget, but probably we need to pay more tax directly for the NHS, though increases in income tax and national insurance. I’ve already signed a letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer telling him I’d happily pay another penny on my income tax to go directly to the NHS.

Of course there are places in the NHS where savings could be made. It’s hard to understand why it apparently costs the NHS around £12 to provide a month’s supply of aspirin which I could buy at the pharmacist for around 30p, or why they pay a US company £3,000 for a month’s supply of a drug which can be bought as a generic from an Indian company for £40. But Trump wants to put up the charges that US pharmaceutical companies make to the NHS, saying they are getting them too cheaply.

The NHS is currently slipping away from us, increasingly privatised, currently with the introduction of US-style medical care by Accountable Care Organisations, siphoning cash from the NHS into the pockets of shareholders – including many leading mainly Tory politicians. Its also becoming increasing clear that the 2012 Coalition Government Health and Social Care Act has created a terrible mess and is in need of radical surgery or rather replacement by measures that bring the NHS back under properly accountable control. Aneurin Bevan may never have actually said “The NHS will last while there are folk left with the faith to fight for it” (it was actually the invention of a TV script writer) but the need for that fight is greater now than ever.

Fix the NHS Crisis Now


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