Anybody born after 1945 is likely to take the National Health Service (NHS) for granted. It is our divine right, isn’t it? Well actually no, it isn’t. The NHS is a service borne of poverty, protest, and the vote. Without those actions, the NHS would not exist. Sadly, NHS privatisation is slowly but surely taking place. At the moment, it remains free at the point of service, but the Tory government does not intend to keep it that way. It matters not that we pay National Insurance contributions, it is a lucrative area and corporations want their share of the profits. We are at crossroads, one of a government touting false tales of medical tourism, which occasionally happens, and stagnate income. On the other side, there are many politicians across the parties with interests in private healthcare. So can we afford life without the NHS?
Life Before The NHS
I don’t know what life was like before the NHS, but nonagenarian, Harry Smith does. He says that life before the NHS was a bleak and barbarous time. I believe him. ‘A doctor’s visit could cost half a week’s wages, so most people relied on good fortune rather than medical advice. But luck and guile went only so far.’ Harry also recalls that ‘The workhouse was not used only as a prison for poverty; it also had a primitive infirmary attached to it, where the poor could receive limited medical attention.’ Alarm bells sounded when I read ‘Some historians [call it] “the Roaring Twenties” but for most it was a long death rattle. Wages were low, rents were high and there was little or no job protection’. Harry’s article “Hunger, filth, fear, and death”: remembering life before the NHS is compelling reading and a warning to us all.
NHS Privatisation & Politics
The Unite Union found 71 coalition MPs who voted for NHS privatisation had a connection to health firms. Some are listed below with further details at the National Health Action Party site.
Jeremy Hunt – Health Secretary
Hunt received £32,920 from hedge fund baron Andrew Law, a major investor in healthcare firms.
Sajid Javid – Communities Secretary
Javid received £11,000 from Moundsley Healthcare Ltd.
David Cameron – Former Prime Minister
Cameron gave a peerage to nursing and care home tycoon Dolar Popat, who has given the Tories more than £200,000 in donations.
Iain Duncan-Smith – Former Work and Pensions Secretary
IDS held shares in hygiene technology company Byotrol Plc, which sells products to the NHS.
Andrew Lansley – Former Health Secretary
Lansley was the architect of NHS privatisation. In 2009 he received a £21,000 donation from the former chairman of Care UK, John Nash.
Simon Burns – Former Health Minister
Burns attended an oncology conference paid for by Aventis Pharma – a five-day trip to the US funded by a leading drug firm.
Harriet Baldwin – Former Tory Whip
Baldwin is also a former executive at JP Morgan, who are a major player in private healthcare.
It would seem that purchasing a home is beyond the reach of the next generation. They will be the first generation in modern history to achieve less financially than their parents. It is up to us all to see that at least we provide them with a functioning free at the point of service NHS.
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