Utopia: A Healthy Society

David Cameron intends to complete the ruling class demolition of the NHS

The British National Health Service (NHS) is often described as being one of the best in the world. If it is, that really doesn’t say much for the rest. The NHS is in deep crisis – it’s starved of funds, and the coalition government is determined to accelerate Labour’s privatisation of healthcare.

A personal example can help to show the current state of things. I have two large and prominent varicose veins on my left leg, which I have had since I was a teenager – more than a decade. Over the last year, I’ve started to get some discomfort in them, so I went to my doctor, who referred me to a specialist. I was given a forty-five minute ultrasound scan on my leg, similar to what pregnant women have on their wombs. After the scan, the specialist told me that an operation was “definitely” needed, because far from being cosmetic, it will be a “serious health risk” in years to come. Ulceration and blood clotting are a strong possibility.

Last week I had a follow-up appointment at the clinic. I was told that the local Primary Care Trust had recently withdrawn funding for varicose vein operations. The specialist had apparently appealed, but his concerns had apparently been dismissed with the not very reassuring words: “it’s not life-threatening in the short term”.

That sentence reveals so much. Because the government is restricting funds to the NHS in the wake of the international financial crisis, only immediately “life-threatening” conditions are being treated for free. The logical outcome of this process is hospitals being reduced to emergency rooms – much like in the United States.

Of course, the NHS of today is a far cry from the NHS that was founded in 1948, as part of the post-war Beveridge concessions won by the working class. At the launch of the service, Health Minister Aneurin Bevan declared its three core principles to be:

  • That it meet the needs of everyone
  • That it be free at the point of delivery
  • That it be based on clinical need, not ability to pay

My case – so typical of many others around the country – shows that these principles are dead. It doesn’t meet my need to have an important operation, because I have an inability to pay an estimated £2,000.

The NHS didn’t die overnight when David Cameron became Prime Minister. The three principles have been under ruling class since the day the concessions were granted. Much of the work was done by Tony Blair’s Labour government of the early noughties, but Labour started demolishing the project with which it is most associated in 1952, when a one shilling charge per prescription form was introduced. That’s just over a pound in today’s money, but the English charge is currently £7.40 per item. Many amongst the working poor go without the medicine they need. And a recent survey found that many British people consider dental treatment a “luxury”.

Communists want to see free medical treatment for everyone. That would mean everyone would get the operations they need, no matter whether the condition is immediately life-threatening or just irritating. Everyone would be able to get the prescription drugs they need, without worrying about where the money’s going to come from. And everyone would be able to get dental care. Preventative care would be hugely increased, and the negative environmental factors associated with the capitalist system – stress, pollution, food additives – would be eliminated.