Nigel Lawson once said of Britain’s NHS that it is the closest thing we have to a religion.
Nothing could have illustrated this better than the weekend’s 70th anniversary rally and march in central London to call for another 70 years of it. As nurses, doctors, health workers – and Mr Corbyn of course – turned it into an angry demand for more money (planned spending for 2017/18 was approximately £124.7billion), you’d have been forgiven for believing they were propitiating an insatiable god for whom no sacrifice was enough.
Mr Corbyn dismissed Mrs May’s £20billion funding boost as ‘hardly enough to keep it running at its current level’. It was, he said, the Conservatives’ ‘deliberate under-funding of services, and squeezing the pay of our brilliant doctors, nurses and health staff, [that] has pushed our NHS to the brink’.
In this world of obeisance to the NHS, to suggest its problems may be anything other than the result of underfunding is simply heretical, to mention the Gosport scandal sheer blasphemy.
‘Free health care at the point of use’ is the prayer offered up that no one, least of all politicians, dare question, any more than they dare question universal franchise. Yet it is this mantra, drummed into us from infancy, that has so effectively blocked rational debate about a nationalised health service that is incapable of meeting ever-expanding demand for nannied health; that is subject to producer capture – run in the interests of those it employs rather than those it serves – that is innately inefficient yet unaccountable and which, finally, comes far from free as the new tax demands to fund it illustrate.
Should politicians on this 70th anniversary finally countenance fundamental reform of healthcare? Or should they batter on with it on the basis that it’s the best we, and they, know how?
NHS – another 70 years or a total rethink? You vote!