Friday, 14 August 2009

We love our NHS!

The NHS has been drawn into the current debate about the future of USA’s healthcare system.

Critics of President Obama’s plan to create a fairer and more accessible service of health provision have labelled his plans as akin to socialism and Nazism (a little contradictory I think!) and claim that Britain’s NHS is an example of how health provision shouldn’t be delivered.

Most of the arguments about the “failure” of the NHS are based on perceptions – or misconceptions – about healthcare rationing and waiting lists. However, critically it was the appearance of a Conservative politician on US TV that caused most controversy and added fuel to the anti-NHS arguments: MEP Daniel Hannan was scathingly critical of the NHS, saying that he “wouldn’t wish it on anybody”.
Nice – first top Tories state that they’re “living on rations”, then they claim that the NHS is a 60-year old mistake. Nice work Mr Hannan. David Cameron has rightly slammed Mr Hannan’s views, but looks unlikely to take any action, saying “political parties always include some people who don’t toe the party line on one issue or another issue”. He also took no action earlier in the when Mr Hannan first made the comments in April – presumably because he didn’t want such views making an impact on the party’s European prospects.

Fortunately, there has been a massive reaction from the British public with a huge online campaign in defense of the NHS causing twitter to temporarily crash. What Mr Hannan will never understand is that the British people have a deep affection for the NHS because it provides free health care at the point of need, has provided excellence in health for over 60 years and – despite what some Tories obviously believe – is the most economically and socially responsible way to deliver health provision. People defending the NHS include Gordon Brown, Stephen Hawking and Andy Burnham. Thank goodness for the sanity of those who value our NHS!

I can understand concerns about “rationing” in the NHS – I’ve expressed them several times myself. What I find hypocritical is the attitude of Americans who can’t see that more socially destructive rationing has always existed in the USA, where healthcare is rationed – to those who can afford it.

But then the US debate about healthcare has for some time been based on cultural perception, historic prejudices and opinion rather than fact.

There’s one thing “I wouldn’t wish on anybody” and that’s Mr Hannan’s party being elected at the next General Election.

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