Don’t trust the news on the NHS

The media side-lines, belittles and, often, entirely ignores the real reasons behind the healthcare crisis

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For ample evidence that the telly news remains the principal truth-distorting organ of our hell-in-a-hand-cart neoliberal dystopia, look no further than how it covers the NHS.

The health service is facing the biggest crisis in its history. A&E waiting times are the longest in 13 years. Cancer operations are being cancelled through lack of beds. More than 20 NHS Trusts have declared they can’t cope with overwhelming patient numbers. The social care system is on the brink. Mental health provision was already pretty dire. Now, for thousands of patients, it’s virtually non-existent.

The explanation you hear on the news exactly echoes the litany of distractions and excuses issued by the government. It’s down to fat people, old people, bed-blockers, foreign health tourists, and the worried well. In other words, just about everyone except the real culprits. Continue reading “Don’t trust the news on the NHS”

The NHS in ‘The Apprentice’ Society

Sugar and friends
Sugar and friends

Caring is out. Ruthlessness is in. That’s neoliberal morality.

Recently I had cause to partake of the National Health Service – or, more specifically, I had to accompany someone to an appointment at the Bristol Royal Infirmary, which at least involved riding an NHS-provided bus, sitting in a nice warm NHS waiting room and watching repeats of Grand Designs on an NHS TV.

I’ve been fortunate enough not to need the health service much. Yet. I still think it’s the greatest political achievement in the history of British statecraft. Given that national politics has been monopolised by nest-feathering plutocrats since time immemorial, it admittedly hasn’t got much competition for the title.

As the kind of lentil-munching ultra-leftist the Daily Mail presumes uses the Union Jack to mop the floor, I’m constitutionally obliged to hate dumb, tub-thumping patriotism in all its forms. But if there is something about ‘being British’ that’s genuinely worth being proud of – rather than a piss-poor football team, a plasticated Barbie and Ken monarchy, and a millions-enslaving, famine-inducing, continents-sundering imperial past – it’s the fact that our society commits to providing high-quality healthcare free at the point of use to anyone who needs it.

The NHS was born out of that dismayingly brief period, more of an blip when you look back on it, when top-drawer politics wasn’t entirely dominated by said nest-feathering plutocrats. “No society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means”, proclaimed Nye Bevan, post-war Health Minister, lovely Welsh socialist and exemplary human being.

In the decades since, national politics has slowly but steadily reverted to business as usual. Now we’ve reached a critical mass of high-functioning sociopaths in positions of power, the NHS, like everything else left over from that bountiful five minutes of post-war welfarism, is under relentless attack. Continue reading “The NHS in ‘The Apprentice’ Society”