Our government has already begun the privatisation of our health service, something that wasn’t in either manifesto and which the coalition has no mandate for.
Make no mistake – the negative attention the NHS receives in the media is not unrelated to the government’s desires to dismantle and sell off our National Health Service.
The NHS is widely regarded as sacrosanct – no government could destroy it without first undermining its popular support, much less a government as shaky as our current one.
Let’s address some key NHS myths:
“The NHS kills people”
This is often backed up by isolated examples, such as Mid Staffordshire. These aren’t to be ignored – they’re real cases involving the deaths of real people. There are also other hospital trusts providing sub-par care; other NHS workers not doing their jobs properly.
But you have to ask yourself: do these cases represent the NHS as a whole? We certainly should not ignore instances of failure or incompetence – but nor should we allow such cases to colour our attitude towards the entire NHS as a concept.
Take a look at what the NHS has achieved (and continues to achieve) for the overall health of the UK since its inception:
The trends show us that the NHS is, by and large, saving (and prolonging) lives.
Premature death, in the days before the NHS, was measured as ‘death before the age of 60′. Nowadays the ONS wants to change that measurement to ‘death under the age of 75′.
I think that’s a pretty solid testament to the achievements of our health service in the last 65 years – that ‘threescore years and ten’ would now be regarded as a premature death.
In 2011, it was 11.5%.
“The NHS is bloated and inefficient”
Contrary to popular belief, the NHS actually ranks amongst the most cost-effective healthcare services in the world.
This graph compares (proportional) cost of healthcare with quality of healthcare:
Note also that the poster-boy for privatised healthcare, the USA, languishes far below most nations with socialised healthcare (and the NHS in particular), despite spending considerably more on healthcare.
That should tell us that, when there are problems with the NHS, the solution isn’t “sell it off to the lowest bidder”.
Privatisation is how you end up with healthcare that’s low quality and high-cost – the worst of both worlds.
“NHS spending is increasing & out of control”
The first part of this is true – NHS spending has been increasing in real terms since its inception.
In 1948, the NHS cost us £266.27 each, yearly (adjusted). In 2011, the NHS costs us £1905.99 each per annum.
But is that ‘out of control’ spending? Look at what has happened to our population in the last century:
As you can see from the graph, the advent of the NHS isn’t entirely responsible for the upward trend in life expectancy – but it does seem to be responsible for stabilising the upward trend. We haven’t had any sudden downward troughs since 1948.
A consequence of this success, however, is the increased expense of keeping an ageing population healthy…
But more than that, healthcare in general is expensive. Is the NHS worth £1905.99 a year to you?
By comparison, the typical US outlay for Health Insurance is roughly £3150 for a single person, or £8800 for a family.
Does it seem expensive now?
“The NHS started to fail under Labour”
This is a double-edged sword – those who love the NHS favour the Labour party for its creation, but also expect Labour to take good care of its baby (and rightly so).
One thing you may also notice from all the above graphs is a general increase in A&E spending – particularly in Labour government years. Right up until 2010, when our current government shamelessly broke its pre-election promise and cut funding to the NHS.
You have probably seen this graph of A&E admission numbers, it’s been cropping up in several places recently:
… although probably without my annotations.
Which is a shame, because the waiting list data is far more notable than anything to do with admission numbers.
It doesn’t matter if the number of hospital admissions are going up (which they will do anyway, as the population rises); what matters is can the NHS cope with it?
And it turns out that, prior to 2011, it could.
What happened in 2010 that suddenly broke the NHS? Was it the sudden change in government driving them to despair?
Was it perhaps all the compulsory redundancies?
We have a party in government who have planned (or at least wished) to privatise the NHS since the 1980s.
We have a party in government who are blaming the previous incumbents (or female GPs!) for the failure of the NHS, even as they cut frontline services and staff.
We have a party in government who promised, before the election:
I think we have a government who not only wish to dismantle our NHS, but who think the electorate are stupid.
They’re openly lying to us, and now they’re trying to manipulate us with scare stories about a failing NHS…
…which is only failing because they’re cutting its staff and funding.
Don’t let them get away with this.
Let’s save our NHS.