Our National Health Service is the great leveller. While inequality may allow a two-tier system to exist over much of our society, as those with money opting out of public services as the Conservative Government starves them of funding, and despite insidious attempts to invite an American-style private health system into the UK, even the wealthy never fully manage to cut themselves adrift from the NHS.
Nigel Lawson, the former Conservative Chancellor, went so far as to describe the NHS as ‘the closest thing the English people have now to a religion.’ Six years after the Tories came to power it is the NHS which now finds itself in poor health.
What began as winter crises in A&E have become year-round, with the number of people waiting longer than four hours to be seen increasing 500%. It is simply unacceptable that in one of the wealthiest countries in the world thousands are left on trolleys for hours while ‘efficiency’ plans are rolled out across the NHS.
Far too many of our most senior citizens are left trapped on hospital wards, as the Government’s pledge to cap residential care fees coupled with a £4.6bn cut to social care leaves them with nowhere to go.
Meanwhile 3.9m people in England are waiting for treatment, with 17,000 waiting longer than two months for life saving cancer treatment than in 2010 and a quarter of patients having to wait more than a week for a GP appointment, if they can get one at all.
Just last week the Prime Minister pledged to boost the number of ‘home grown’ doctors, but the Government remains at war with its junior doctors and has closed bursaries designed to attract people into medicine. Morale is now so low it puts at risk the future of the workforce.
Aneurin Bevan, the father of the National Health Service, said that ‘The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it.’ Things are falling apart, whether the British public are ready to step up and defend their birth right remains to be seen.