New Internationalist

The NHS is dead – and we should all be ashamed

I recently turned 64. Nothing remarkable in that. Except, as I enter the twilight of my years, I can’t believe what is happening to the country I live in. Britain is witnessing the cynical dismantling of the welfare state. Everything is being privatized by the Tory/LibDem ‘Coalition’ government.

The model, clearly, is the US, and Cameron, Clegg and their ilk are presiding over vicious cuts in public services the like of which we have never seen before – certainly not on this scale. Oh yes, the country is in debt (due mainly to taxpayers’ bailing out the banks to the tune of trillions of pounds) but, make no mistake, this is ideological. Even Thatcher and her cohorts could only dream of such bloodletting. And the jewel in the welfare state crown, the National Health Service (NHS) will soon be put to the sword.

A Bill, effectively privatizing it, will undoubtedly pass through Parliament in the near future. And if anyone has any doubts as to what medical care will look like in Britain in 5 or 10 years’ time, take a look across the Atlantic to where everyone has to have medical insurance (itself often a sham with terrifying stories of people left with massive debts to pay off because of insurance companies’ ‘loopholes’ and infamous ‘small print’ anomalies) and where an estimated 50 million people simply can’t afford it at all and are left to fend for themselves (see Michael Moore’s 2007 documentary film Sicko).

And as all this happens, what is the great British public doing about it? Very little, it seems. There is some opposition, and certainly within the NHS itself (a group of doctors, for example, plans to put up candidates to stand against coalition MPs at the next general election, in protest at the planned changes to the NHS). There are some support groups and pockets of resistance. But where is the collective outrage, where are the mass demonstrations? The people of Britain are sleepwalking into a nightmare. They seem to have little or no idea as to what awaits them. This is the end of the welfare state. And do people really understand what that means? Well, believe me, they are about to find out.

We should be ashamed. All of us, for allowing this to happen. Ashamed that we have let down the courageous people who created and fought for the welfare state and ashamed that our children’s future now hangs precariously in the balance. And I include myself in that. Oh, I’ve been to a few protest rallies, I’ve sent money to the campaigns, but it’s not enough, is it? And here I am writing a pathetic little blog that within an hour or so will vanish into cyberspace. And what good does any of that do anyway, when the majority anesthetize themselves with their iPods, ‘The X Factor’ or the latest, ridiculous shenanigans of celebrities?

Don’t ever say we weren’t warned.

NHS Support Federation: http://www.nhscampaign.org/

NHS Support Federation's online petition: http://www.nhscampaign.org/current-issues-2/e-petition.html

Keep Our NHS Public Campaign: http://www.keepournhspublic.com/index.php

Save the NHS online petition: http://www.38degrees.org.uk/page/s/Protect_our_NHS_Petition

Sicko the documentary: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sicko

Photo: Duncan Hull under a CC Licence

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