The Daily Smackdown: ‘Save Our NHS’ Fanatics Thwart Essential Reform


Trialling a new addition to Semi-Partisan Politics – the Daily Smackdown. Basically a repository for the zingers and comebacks that pop into my mind but which I lack the time to work into a full article, these will be one or two-paragraph responses to a specific piece or trending topic in the national media. The aim is to allow the blog to cover more ground each day, while challenging lazy thinking or rhetoric from across the political spectrum – as well as giving you all more to read!

Dr. Rob Galloway writes an “open letter to members of the British public” in Think Left today, deploying all of the usual tired catchphrases (“our NHS” is “on its knees”, etc. etc.) in an effort to persuade us that we should continue pumping endless money and human resources into an anachronistic healthcare delivery system from the 1940s.

From Galloway’s letter:

The NHS is on its knees and unless things change, it may not survive.  It has been attacked, part privatised, demoralised and starved of funds.

So the NHS’s defenders have been saying since 1948. But do go on:

We have tried to highlight what is going on; through the media, marches, speeches and endless tweets and face-book posts.  But it is not working.  Things are getting worse and the NHS, which we all care so much about may soon no longer, be able to care for us.

It’s almost as if endlessly sharing and re-tweeting the same sanctimonious, scaremongering articles within your own closed information loop of like-minded friends and acquaintances doesn’t actually effect meaningful change, isn’t it? Maybe talk to Ed Miliband about that one, I hear he’s thinking of starting a support group.

The only things which might save it is if the British public no longer just accept what is happening – but start to fight back.  This is above party politics.  This is about what we want our society to be like.  Fight back for the greatest safety net we have – the knowledge that as a UK taxpayer if we get sick, then we will be looked after; an envy throughout the world.

The envy of the world? Sorry, I’ve had enough of that one. I always forget how people in Canada simply collapse at the side of the road and go untreated until they swipe a valid credit card.

People who say the NHS is the “envy of the world” have clearly never used their passport and gone to another country. You don’t have to embrace the US model (often world-leading hospitals and treatments, with runaway costs and a crummy patient access system of giant private healthcare providers wrapped around them) to recognise that other countries somehow manage to provide good healthcare to their citizens without resorting to a monolithic, monopolistic, inefficient state provider like the NHS.

It’s funny – in so many areas, many people are self-deprecating about Britain and our national greatness, almost to a fault. Many of us can often be found negating our successes, apologising for our history or (in the case of the coming Brexit referendum) believing that an economic, cultural and military power like the UK somehow needs to remain yoked to that mid-century relic of a supranational political union, the EU, just to stay relevant in the world.

But on one issue alone – the National Health Service – we have convinced ourselves that we in Britain have created perfection itself, that no other nation on earth comes close to matching our achievement, and that health secretaries from Ottawa to Canberra secretly covet what we have. And yet surprisingly, few countries are beating down our door for advice on replacing their existing systems with one modelled on “Our NHS”. Shouldn’t that tell us something?

Let’s stop singing hymns to a 1940s anachronism or praying to Saint Aneurin Bevan to Save Our NHS for a moment, and actually re-examine British healthcare from the bottom up. If we were to do so today (not that we will), we would in all likelihood end up with something far better – and probably quite unlike – our current National Health Service.

Further Reading:

Treat the NHS as a religion, and you give it the right to run your life

Our deadly obsession with the NHS

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