When I was a medical student we regarded patients over 65 as being elderly. They would be admitted to the geriatric ward instead of the medical ward. There was almost a feeling that the elderly were not worth saving. Things have changed, I am glad to say. Sixty five does not really count as old now, and patients are not written off even if they are a lot older than that.
In 1948 politicians had the courage and vision to introduce the world’s first universal free health service. The NHS provided free healthcare to everyone in the UK: men, women and children, old and young, rich and poor, those in work, unemployed or retired. With its efficient simple structure, direct provision and universal nature it became the envy of the world. Data as recently as 2007 ranked the British NHS as first in the world both for effectiveness and for efficiency. Commonwealth Fund report 2010.
By their 2011 report the British NHS was not so clearly in first place, though it remained number one in some respects. It is noticeable that the USA ranks bottom in both reports. Many of the features being introduced in the UK are modelled on the US system, and are being driven by US companies.
So, on July 5 the National Health Service marks its sixty-fifth birthday. Is it so old that we should write it off, or do we think it is worth saving?
To mark this important birthday I was asked to join a group of experts from around the country to write a book. It is called “NHS SOS How the NHS Was Betrayed – and How We Can Save It”
Will it survive?
The NHS has survived for sixty-five years. How much longer will it survive? If we leave it to our current politicians and the vested interests of private companies and management consultancies, it will not last long.
Our book tells the story of political attacks on the fundamental principles of the NHS going back three decades and involving politicians of all three main parties. But the blame goes wider than just the politicians. Business interests, lobbyists, media and senior doctors all come in for criticism.
Reading this book will make you angry. But most importantly it will also tell you what we can all do if we value the NHS and wish to stop the destruction.
There will be a number of book launch events around the country. We held one of our own in Shropshire.
“When you turn round and notice that the NHS as you have known it no longer exists – its principles rewritten, its ownership and services alienated – you might wonder exactly who did exactly what to this much-admired institution. NHS SOS presents the lethargy, dishonesty and corruption without which this executive coup would not have come about. It is a cogent, sobering and necessary read.”
“Across society, there is a realisation that the National Health Service is one of our greatest social achievements and that to keep it is an enormous political challenge. This book is a weapon in that struggle.”
“Davis and her co-authors do not pull any punches. In chapter after chapter we see the way in which determined neo-liberals have hacked away at a cherished British institution.”
In this book “one finds the soul of a healthcare system that the public is not prepared to see destroyed. This book is written mostly by professionals who work in the NHS, many of whom I know well and support. It does not make comfortable reading. What Winston Churchill, Anthony Eden, Harold Macmillan, Alec Douglas-Home and John Major did not want to do, and Margaret Thatcher’s government deemed too “politically toxic” to proceed with, David Cameron and Nick Clegg, with no democratic mandate whatsoever, have blithely forced through. Charles West’s chapter will make heart- rending reading for Liberal Democrats….
“The battle to save the soul of the NHS is not over and it will be led by patients and professionals.”
“Have you read NHS SOS – explains all.”
Clare Gerada on Twitter in reply to Dawn Connor’s tweet
“Doctor has already raised cost implications of various options. 1st time in life I have heard this. Not v. comfortable.”
“’NHS SOS’ is a masterful, cleverly executed book. Its length is perfect, in being sufficiently adequate to address the complexities of the various strands of the enactment of the latest legislation for the NHS. The book does not read like a bitter complaint letter, nor like a political statement of any variety. It is a polite, soberly written narrative from various perspectives, which attempts to rationalise how the NHS came to be a full market, as easy as possible for private providers to enter.”