The New Year has unfortunately arrived with the latest saga in the slow exsanguination of the UK’s National Health Service. Over the last few days, the Red Cross – an entirely apolitical organisation it should be remembered – has announced that the public healthcare system in the UK is experiencing a “humanitarian crisis” (link), a comment fully endorsed by the British Medical Association but fiercely rejected by Prime Minister Theresa May (link).
Whilst it would be wrong to put all the blame for the current crisis on the present government, the ruling Conservative Party have done little to slow the ‘progress’ made by previous governments – Conservative and Labour – in devolving health care and disassembling systems and services that took decades to build up.
Despite its many failings, the NHS remains a signal feature of cultural life in the UK. It has been one of the country’s biggest employers; it has saved countless lives and helped millions more return to health and wellbeing; it has developed the careers of thousands of brilliant clinicians; and been a platform for innovation, excellence and growth.
The reality is, though, that the voting public keep electing politicians who campaign on tax cuts, and you can’t have good public services like parks and libraries, well tended roads, free schooling, pensions, and a first class healthcare system – no matter how efficient or ‘lean’ the organisation – unless you’re prepared to pay for it.
It’s not enough to blame politicians for the decline of the public health system, since they are only acting on whatever steer they are given by the voting public, and everything it seems points to the fact that the public would rather have money in their pockets to make their own choices where their health dollar is spent, than give it to politicians and bureaucrats whom they no longer value or believe.
Still, for a country like the UK to now be experiencing a humanitarian crisis in its healthcare system does beggar belief. After 75 years of the National Health Service, to now see it in morbid decline is an ignoble and truly saddening end for this once great institution, and one wonders what this will mean for the millions of people who will soon lose benefit from high quality healthcare, free at the point of delivery.