The book NHS SOS: how the NHS was betrayed and how we can save it is a painful story that needs reading, and acting upon.
It is the most cherished institution in the country and yet England no longer has a NHS. Getting it back is going to require effective campaigning to ensure that a future Labour Government keeps to their public promises to reverse the legislation adopted under the current Coalition Government.
The Health and Social Care Act 2012 has ended 65 years of universal health care in the form of equal access to comprehensive care irrespective of personal income. The Health Secretary has now only to promote rather than provide health care by allocating resources. Market forces and unaccountable organisations are going to be left to take over. Amongst those who hope to make a profit from the changes are 70 Mps and 142 peers who have connections with private health care firms.
Treatment on the basis of need and not the ability to pay was why the NHS was created on 5 July 1948. Before World War Two only 43% of the population were covered by the National Insurance Scheme and over twenty-one million people, mainly women, children and the sick, were not covered at all. When Churchill’s government brought all hospitals under public control, the population got a taste of universal health care that ensured it remained once hostilities ended.
In NHS SOS, a group of doctors, analysts and health campaigners uncover the lies, self-interest, democratic weaknesses and media failings that have led to the betrayal of the NHS.
Cameron and his party went to great lengths before the 2010 election to promise the electorate that the NHS was safe in his hands. Nick Clegg reaffirmed this commitment, when he joined hands with the Tories.
Within days, Andrew Lansley was unveiling his plans for radical change, none of which had been placed before the electorate, who were informed it was about putting doctors in charge. When the latter demonstrated they were bitterly opposed the public was again let down, this time by the press and TV. These institutions failed to explain this was because GP’s knew the plans involved turning the NHS into a full-blooded, competitive market open to ‘any qualified provider’ and allowing up to 49% of NHS hospitals to be used for private patients.
The BBC, which provides 70% of news consumption on TV, is slammed in the book for failing to provide an ongoing narrative of an emerging national disaster. That might have been avoided if the leadership of British Medical Association and the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges had reacted to their member’s anger by utilising it in an effective campaign.
Labour too failed to offer effective opposition in Parliament, the party that set up the NHS having helped pave the way for its destruction by favouring external competition over internal competition during the Blair and Brown years. Worse still was the paying of capital development projects through the woefully inefficient and horrendously expensive Private Finance Initiative. Unite the union wants to see more working class people elected as Labour MPs and this books shows just why.
What you can do to the save the NHS is the title of last chapter of the book. Union members can join established campaigning organisations such as Keep Our NHS Public. If there isn’t a local campaign then consider setting one up. Help mobilise public opinion with events, petitions, marches and other protests. Unite is also seeking reports of cuts and closures. In the lead up to the next election pressurise prospective candidates on their views about repealing the 2012 Act.
NHS SOS: How the NHS was betrayed - and how we can save it is published by ONEWORLD and costs £8.99