HEALTHCARE – WHO FOR?

Doctor

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In the UK, we have just seen the first doctor’s strike in 40 years. I support the doctors unequivocally.

Jeremy Hunt MP, the Minister for Health, is in my opinion, manipulating the public. As I understand it, the government will force our junior doctors to accept a new contract, where their salaries will go down while the hours they work will go up. The doctors say that patient’s lives will be put at risk. There is stalemate, though Mr. Hunt, wide-eyed and disingenuous, insists he will go back to the negotiating table at any time.

What will the outcome be for me and millions of people who depend on the NHS if this contract is imposed on our junior doctors, as the government are gearing up to do? To impose anything on anybody is worrying and it shows how authoritarian our government is becoming. I think the outcome will be a speeding up of the decline in our NHS.

Like sheep, we Brits make a fuss, then tend to shrug and accept – part our of ‘Mr. Nice Guy’ inheritance born of a class system that made sure you ‘knew your place’ – echos still stick to our national psyche. Will we gradually start to accept private medicine as the way to address illness, insidiously imposed on us by a government intent of following political ideals rather than humanitarian governance – our right in a democracy?

How long will it take the NHS to wither and die under bad management that cannot be improved because of continued financial cuts? How long before our dedicated doctors up sticks and go abroad, tired of supporting a dying NHS? How long will this take? Not long. 5 years, maybe, once this government push through the new contract.

Ill people are vulnerable. They and their families need super-human strength to complain about the way our NHS is declining. They have other things on their minds. Older people are fearful of ‘making a fuss’  –  there might be a backlash against them, as so often seen in  campaigning BBC programmes like Panorama, who seek to expose unfair and cruel treatment in our hospitals and care homes. How long before the government suppress this sort of reporting – they have had their eye on the BBC for some time?

If we lose our NHS, there will be people who can afford the luxury of a doctor and medical care and people who can’t. Then what? How honest is the government being? (How honest is any government?) They seem to me, short-sighted and politically motivated. Our PM David Cameron appears to support the NHS wholeheartedly. He’s made impassioned speeches about his own use of the NHS for his family. Will he let this new contract be imposed and if he does, can we ever trust him again? To me, it will be a sign that he supports the slow and stealthy imposition of a totally private healthcare system, probably based on the American model and we know how elitist that is.

The National Health Service IS expensive to run. It has to be if we want first class care for every citizen in the country. But, as a proportion of GDP, it is one of the least expensive systems in the Western world. If it goes, or is tampered with so irrevocably that it becomes crippled and works only for the very poorest in our society, the class system will come out of hiding and be polished up nicely, thank you, Mr. Cameron and Mr. Hunt.

Inequality will be the legacy of an impoverished NHS. Private medicine will be something you have to think about twice, if you are ill and not wealthy – and let’s face it, not many of us are wealthy enough to muster up ten grand for an operation or even the cost of an x-ray for a broken finger? Okay, insurance, I hear you say. What about the National Insurance we have all, by law, been paying for years?

I suspect there is a myopic view that only private medicine will somehow end all the problems in our healthcare system. This has to change. Yes, there have to be new ways of raising money. Perhaps less warfare, perhaps stopping large companies and individuals avoiding paying their taxes, maybe some  imaginative,blue sky thinking by Mr. Hunt?

We should fight with everything we have to protect our NHS; a rare jewel that is part of who we are in this country. How diminished we will be without it! We should support our doctors, nurses, everyone who works to keep our NHS ticking over, because that is what is happening. It should be flourishing, not just ticking over until the  life support system is switched off, without our permission.

We must all become informed, politically educated and fight for democracy in the NHS and in our society. If you are reading this, please write to your MP, to Mr. Hunt, to anyone you think might influence the way this government is treating our precious NHS.