Seeing the danger is the first step

People can see it’s bad. They know the NHS is in trouble. If asked, most will agree that a slight hike in income tax  – hypothecated to the NHS –  is acceptable and necessary. They know staff are working too hard, for too long. They know it is becoming harder to get timely treatment.

The overriding impression, on needing the NHS, is that the people who see you when you need someone to help you, even if you are having to wait longer and longer for that to happen,  are sincere, caring and professional.  But the public know something is terribly wrong.

What people do not, as a rule, know is why. It should be all too apparent. Draw back the curtain of ideal-driven blame, dispel the mist of market-driven myth, and it should be glaring and cruelly sharp in detail. Our NHS, which the people of Britain want and need, has for too long not been given the resources it needs (compare, for example, the amount spent per head with our neighbours; or the number of doctors per head; or what independent agencies have been saying (eg here)), is fast resembling a decaying block of Swiss cheese with the number of holes created by staff shortages and a lack of training, and is being carved up and diminished both by bloc privatisation (entire services given over to private suppliers under the false flag of the NHS logo) or by creeping despair as people dig into their own pockets or deeper debt to turn to private suppliers (who cannot hope to provide a comparable service in terms of scope and complexity, yet command far too much prestige for their size).

Why people do not see and share the truth is complex. Many, frankly, choose not to. Not because they are uncaring, or because they would not agree with our stance. But because they are simply too busy, or too focused on more pressing problems (like finding or keeping a job, or a roof over their heads, or enough food to eat or heating their homes). Some, a minority, genuinely believe a privately operated, insurance scheme would be better for health provision (despite the evidence pointing massively against that).  But most, by a sizeable majority, we believe, would choose to have an NHS that remains accountable to the public, funded through general taxation, free at the point of use, is not run along market principles, does not have private suppliers tunnelling within it beneath the banner,  and is resourced on comparable levels to neighbouring states who share our relative wealth.

This is as much about perceptions as it is about values. People do not perceive the threat, while mostly agreeing on the values on which the NHS was founded. Again, the reasons for this are many. Most of us now cannot know a time from before the NHS, so for many life without a national health service is outside their experience. Many find it hard to believe any government would undermine those founding principles because of ideology. Unfortunately, the past decades have shown this cannot be taken for granted. Because that is precisely what is happening.

It is the purpose of groups like Doctors for the NHS to change those perceptions. We Own It, EveryDoctor UK, and Keep Our NHS Public have recently started specific campaigns, with differing tactics and desired outcomes but a common philosophy: our NHS must be saved. That will happen only if public perceptions change and the political will to act to stop the danger is found and emboldened. And we will continue to do all we can to shift that gaze so people can see the danger, then choose to act.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply