Poor old Nye Bevan must be turning in his grave. What he believed and what he worked for was for the NHS to be available to all and free at the point of use.
I’ve been trying to console myself all day with the thought that it could just be a press story, but it does seem to emanate from a New Year message from the Whiny Dog Bottler to NHS staff, and eminent bloggers from Dizzy through to Thunderdragon appear to give it credence.
It seems Broon is suggesting there should be a “contract” between us and the NHS. The NHS will have a constitution and we will have not just rights, but responsibilities with our entitlement to NHS care. Patients who miss or arrive late for hospital appointments may have penalties imposed on them. Smokers or people who are chronically overweight may have to agree to exercise or to change their lifestyles in return for NHS treatment.
Now, these things work both ways. I have some sympathy with the fact, we are told, that many people just don’t turn up for hospital and GP appointments. That is clearly a waste of doctors’ time, and stops others from having appointments. They do it because they have got better before the appointment comes round, or they have got treatment elsewhere. That’s fine, but they should let the hospital or GP know.
But wait a minute. What about the huge amount of time we – the poor saps who are treated just as numbers rather than as grown-up paying customers through our taxes – have to wait, whether that be in a GP or dentist surgery, a hospital outpatients, or an A & E Department. Our time seems not to be valued at all. And what about the poor souls who are called in for elective operations, go through all the hassle of preparation and mental turmoil, and are then sent home because something more urgent has turned up. Will penalties be imposed that way round too, on the hospitals?
A heavily trailed speech which Bottler is to make soon on his plans to develop preventative healthcare, also says that employers will be expected to take greater responsibility for the health of their staff. As if employers are not having to do enough for the government already: acting as unpaid tax and NHI collectors; administering an unnecessarily complex benefits system; threading their way through the maze of Elf-‘n-Safety; and already apparently being responsible to an unacceptable extent for what workers get up to outside the workplace and working hours.
Then we come to the threats about lifestyle. There have already been threats of rationing; that where budgetary restraints limit medical treatment, the old should be excluded, smokers should be excluded, etc. What happened to the idea that doctors are committed to saving lives? They are supposed to save lives without considering whether the patient is fat, any more than they would consider they might not like redheads.
It is not for the government – any government – to tell individuals how to live their lives. I don’t smoke. I don’t like being in smoky atmospheres. But I shall defend to the last the right of others to smoke if that’s what they wish to do. Nobody can claim they don’t know about the risks of smoking. There have sure been enough adverts, TV documentaries and news pieces, newspaper articles, etc, to inform them. They have taken a conscious decision to keep smoking, and that is their business. They have as much right to medical treatment as someone who breaks their leg in a ski-ing accident, falls off a horse, or crashes a motorbike.
The same goes for those who are overweight. We shall have come to a sorry pass in this country if we are working towards compulsory daily exercises like in some dictatorships. No-one is going to tell me to take exercise and dress up in ghastly lycra. And if I want to eat a whole packet of chocolate biscuits, I will. The government should mind its own business.
The rule should be simple. If we pay our taxes, and pay our NHI, we are entitled to healthcare. It looks to me as if the government is trying to follow the same policy as some insurance companies – take the premiums, (the NHI payments), and then try to get out of providing the cover when claimed!
Just as an aside, there’s a lovely fact in The Times – the NHS provides 120 different operations for bunions!