Worst Health Secretary in history, Jeremy Hunt has presided over – most NHS workers and activists would say caused – the deepest crisis in the history of the nation’s greatest treasure. Waiting times, ambulance waits and cancelled operations are now routine at levels that were previously almost unknown even at the height of winter crises.
So bad have things become that, yet again, tens of thousands of people felt compelled to march in London yesterday in a protest to mark the NHS’ seventieth ‘birthday’:
But Hunt’s idea of a ‘birthday gift’ was to announce that a host of staple NHS treatments that have made a difference to the lives of hundreds of thousands would be either rationed or cancelled – from tonsillectomies to arthroscopic knee surgeries – as well-known campaigning NHS doctor made clear:
Welcome to your two tier #NHS70. As of now, only those able to pay will benefit from these surgeries. Evidence-based, or cost-cutting to fit austerity budgets?
— Rachel Clarke (@doctor_oxford) July 1, 2018
Many of the operations are to cure extremely painful or limiting conditions.
Hunt claimed it was because the treatments are ‘ineffective’ – but did not elaborate the basis for this judgment. However, the announcement triggered people to take to social media to describe the huge difference that those treatments had made to their lives – making a mockery of Hunt’s claim:
FFS. My hysterectomy 5 years ago literally gave me my life back aged 32. Prior to the op my life was ruled by my menstrual cycle. I bled constantly, heavily for 2/4 weeks. Doubled up on sanpro and still flooded daily. Ruined clothing, sheets time off work, lost pay, for years 1/ https://t.co/Dlph1Jn6My
— Me (@emceebeere) June 30, 2018
If your child had tonsillitis every 3 weeks like mine did, you wouldn’t say tonsillectomies were ineffective. I still had to fight my GP for a referral. The surgeon told me they should have been removed years earlier.
— Liz Summerill (@Lizzyiris1963) June 30, 2018
I missed so much school with tonsillitis. Had them out as an adult – no trouble ever again. #necessaryop
— Christine Rimmer (@crimness) June 30, 2018
Had tonsillitis 8 times within 2 years. It crippled my work-life. Walked into my GP, asked for them removed, was booked in 48 hours later. Changed my life and never had a throat issue since (+10 years).
— Lewis Burnell (@PersistentWorld) June 30, 2018
Hunt alleged that these treatments will be performed when the NHS deems it ‘necessary’ – as if the NHS has been busy doing unnecessary surgeries for decades.
But this amounts to nothing less than Tory conscious cruelty – and an anything-but-clinical decision to end even the pretence of the NHS as a comprehensive health service under the Tories.
Until now, the government has largely allowed local trusts and Clinical Commissioning Groups to take the blame for local variations in services in our fragmented NHS – the ‘postcode lottery’ affecting fertility treatment and others – but now Hunt has centrally taken vital treatments off the table.
The NHS has served us all brilliantly for seven decades. It has taken just eight years of Tory government to bring it to its knees – and Hunt has started slicing away its flesh to ‘celebrate’ its birthday.
We must fight for it – and the first step must be bringing down the government that first emaciated it and is now cutting off its digits for supposed ‘ineffectiveness’ in spite of the clear evidence and the testimonies of thousands that say otherwise.
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