I and others have written at length about Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s catastrophic Health and Social Care Act and the disastrous effect it’s having on the NHS. I’ve written variously about the BBC’s near-criminal silence on the matter, the blackmail tactics the government has used on the BBC to force it to collude in this way, and on the BBC’s indolence and arrogance if anyone complains about it.
I’ve also written about the Tories’ real feelings about our National Health Service and their determination to break it up and sell it off along with the rest of the welfare state, and the origins and history of their ideological motivations for doing so.
And yet I still get a steady stream of Tweets, comments on this blog and email messages from people who’ve fallen for the government’s (and its media mates’) propaganda that the NHS is inefficient and wasteful (it isn’t!); that NHS doctors, nurses and other workers are lazy, selfish, and not worth the pay they receive especially if they live in a poorer area; that the NHS is in need of radical reform to get it working properly (the government isn’t interested in reform – ‘reform’ is simply an excuse for initiating its destruction); that the government genuinely wants to improve the NHS (its determination to cut spending by an impossible £50 billion shows the lie of that). If I had hair, I wouldn’t have hair – I’d have torn it out by now.
The Tories want to remove the NHS and even dismantle the welfare state completely. Some of them have even been caught saying so. They claim to admire the US system of private healthcare provision, and continue (in spite of G4S!) to insist that private provision is more efficient than a public system could ever be, and that this justifies opening up the NHS to ‘competition’, even though adding a profit layer can’t possibly be cheaper unless you ration care and strip the wages and conditions of health workers.
So, just in case you’re still on the fence on the matter, let me paint you a couple of very quick word-pictures based on a couple of very simple comparisons of US and UK statistics – word pictures that amount to horror stories:
Horror Story 1: Cost
The government keeps claiming (a clear example of the ‘Big Lie’ principle in action) that the NHS is inefficient and needs reform to ‘save’ it. That reform means allowing private companies to carve up the NHS (according to Eoin Clarke’s ‘Green Benches’ blog, if the latest sale of 3 hospitals in London goes through, the value of the NHS sell-off/give-away under the coalition government will reach £7 billion), with the result that in a few short years the treasured NHS principle of ‘care free and at the point of need’ will be gone (see also http://www.activequote.com/news/nhs-may-charge-patients-to-meet-costs-of-an-ageing-population-experts-warn.aspx).
But, as referred to above, the US spends more than twice as much per health per head of population as the UK does – an additional 128%! So what would it mean here if the UK followed the US pattern?
The UK currently spends about £120 billion a year on the NHS. If we were as ‘efficient’ as the US, that £120 billion would increase to a whopping £273 billion. That’s where the Tories are taking us. But because they’re destroying ‘free at the point of need’, that incredible cost would have to be borne by you, me, my loved ones, your loved ones, instead of being paid for via taxation so that nobody’s health is dependent on their ability to pay. Which leads us to horror story #2:
Horror Story 2: bankruptcy
In the US, cost of medical care accounts for an incredible 62% of bankruptcies. Figures vary each year, but in the UK as a whole, among England, Wales, Scotland (haven’t found figures for Northern Ireland yet), there are around 130,000 insolvencies every year.
If we followed the US, that 130,000 would only equate to 38% of the total. Add in another 62% for insolvency related to medical bills, and the UK would be facing – at horrendous cost both fiscally and socially – a staggering total of 342,000 insolvencies every year. When the government talks about the NHS being inefficient, what it’s really referring to is ‘inefficient for the super-rich’ – if you earn multiple millions a year, it’s much more efficient for you personally to pay for your healthcare yourself rather than through taxation. But it would be a disaster for pretty much everyone else – even if you’re pretty wealthy, you’d only be a diagnosis away from losing your job, losing your income and finding your house and your savings drained to nothing by the cost of treatment – and then finding yourself bankrupted by the cost of trying to live.
The title of this post says ‘short’, so I’ll round up now. I haven’t even mentioned the obvious horror story that under a US-style system anyone who can’t get insurance and can’t afford to pay for treatment would be turned away by the vast majority of hospitals and would be forced to hope that a charity hospital might give them some kind of basic care.
Even without that, what the two comparisons above show is that even if you don’t think the NHS is something we can be proud of, something to be saved, treasured, lauded – you should still be campaigning with every fibre of your being to save it. Unless you’re super-super-rich, pure self-interest dictates it. The alternative is a pure horror story.