Tuesday, April 23, 2024
HomeNewsOur wonderful NHS, part 3: Captives of a cult

Our wonderful NHS, part 3: Captives of a cult


This is the third in a five-part series on the inherent flaws of the National Health Service which mean it can never work satisfactorily no matter how much money is poured into it. You can read part 1 here and part 2 here.

THE concept of charitable solidarity in healthcare which so perverts the financing of the NHS system also leads to perverse attitudes to its operation.

Well-off people may have paid substantial taxes for most of their working lives, thus financing their own healthcare as well as that of numerous low- and non-payers. But no thanks, only curses, will rain down on their heads should they ‘go private’. 

Their gross violation of the principle of solidarity, a violation which on the face of it saves NHS resources past, present and future, is held by many to be almost traitorous, the private resources they consume having been somehow appropriated or stolen from the NHS where they would have benefited the generality, not the individual. It is that worst of all social crimes, ‘jumping the queue’.

We can only explain this bizarre point of view by viewing the NHS experience in essence as a self-flagellation, or a long and painful trudge to Compostela. It may have started as a great humanitarian project but now it is more than a charity, it’s a rather cultish religion with its roots in the Christian Socialism of the nineteenth century. 

Suffering, long waits, uncertainty, putting up with incompetence and making the best of this very bad job without complaint are the prices you have to pay when you don’t pay. Such deferent pilgrims have to prove their faith by passing through whatever Valley of Despond the NHS prepares for them. No rational debate is possible on these points. All proposals for change are treated as heresies.

Readers who may still be sceptical of this view of the NHS as a charity with cult overlays should recall the efforts by the UK government during the Covid panic to get people out on the streets to ‘thank the NHS’. Not only did we have to thank it, we had to ‘protect’ it. 

This in itself was bizarre and shocking, but truly shocking was that large numbers of people came out and dutifully clapped and banged their pots and pans. The then Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their tots had themselves filmed in this activity; the tots, to their credit, looked bemused and uncertain as they applauded on command into thin air – a bemusement that some of us fully understood.

No one is called upon to thank or protect the supermarkets, which efficiently, reliably and cheaply feed the huddled masses every day, in the course of which they manage supply chains for hundreds of thousands of products with an efficiency and cost control that make the NHS seem like amateurs.

Peak absurdity was reached with the award in 2021 of the George Cross to this decrepit behemoth. The award was an insult to all the other recipients who received it for outstanding acts of civilian bravery, their own awards now devalued. But it is one more example of the way the NHS is widely seen as a charity, as a moral institution, and not as a provider of universal health care.

Many British people seem to be suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, praising the cult organisation that has held them so painfully captive for seven decades. 

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Richard Law
Richard Law
Richard Law is a retired businessman and software engineer, widowed, with a grown family. He lives in Switzerland.

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