Sunday, 6 July 2008

The Birth of the NHS

It has been a long time since I wrote my last post, due to a succession of difficult events that effected me personally, and it was hard to know where to restart. Watching a documentary last night on the birth of the NHS, celebrating its 60th anniversary, gave me the inspiration I was looking for.

I'm coming to love this national institution more and more. I don't actually care much whether the UK offers the best health treatment or not in the world - comparison with other health provisions that are essentially private are in my mind unjust. Our NHS system is free for all, and works well most of the time, and for that I am proud and eternally grateful!

Here's a great collection of legacy interviews and documentaries from the BBC regarding health provision (or lack of it) before the NHS, and how it came into existence.

Memorable observations made whilst watching last night's documentary included:
- the ferocity of the fight that the BMA put up to stop the birth of the NHS;
- the courage of the student doctors at that time who supported the NHS and the way that they where shunned and bullied as a result at medical school;
- the strength of character of the health minister, Nye Bevan, who risked everything to see his dream seen through to fruition;
- the nail biting vote by the Royal College of Physicians for their new leader, which was to decide the fate of the NHS, which came down to a difference of just 5 votes at the end;
- the terrible health circumstances of living without the NHS prior to 5th July 1948;
- the thought that costs of the NHS would fall after the initial backlog of treatment requirements had been worked through, which was never going to happen due to ever improving technology that would require an ever increasing amount of funds.

I finished watching the program with a feeling of national pride that I had never really felt before - I am uncomfortable with nationalism, and know that is only by chance that I was born into this country. The birth of the NHS was nothing to do with me, and yet I benefit. But still I am proud.

Regarding the NHS's future, it is my strong belief that this is the one national institution always worth fighting for and defending. It should always remain a free system for all. It needs proper funding and the British people should be prepared to pay for it through their taxes. I would be more than happy to pay higher taxes as long as I knew that this tax was going to fund the NHS. I would even be happy with a separate tax that was dedicated to health. I also believe that the government should look to significantly increase spending in medical research. The only way to really keep down the ever increasing costs of drugs and other medical technologies is to invest in their research in the first place. Get a stake in their creation and that way claim some power back from greedy pharmaceutical companies.