Saving the NHS
Today, 28 February 2015, I stood outside my local hospital, the University Hospital Lewisham (which is its official name, Lewisham Hospital to those of us who live here) for four hours. The day was freezing, and it didn’t stop drizzling; the sky was murky, miserable and grey. I also was freezing and damp, but I could not have been happier nor could my day been more full of colour. It’s all thanks to the love and passion that it would seem to me at least 90% of the country has for the nearly 67-year old behemoth that is the National Healthcare System.
This system is under threat like never before. Since 2012 one-third of new contracts has been awarded to private companies rather than the NHS*, even when those contracts are more expensive such as at Royal Stoke University Hospital . GP surgeries have lost £943 million pounds in funding over the last three years*. We are moving towards a private healthcare system that in real terms costs more. The more the NHS is broken down into smaller, privatised parts, the less power it has to negotiate and the more expensive healthcare becomes.
Privatisation costs more. There are 26 countries where per capita spending is higher than in the UK. The UK spends £2billion per week* (yes, you read that correctly) but when you consider the United States spends twice that* for a far worse service and that the NHS recently topped the world for desired and successful healthcare provision, it becomes clear the only people who benefit from privatised healthcare are those invested in the companies who provide it, including MPs. Not the patients, not the healthcare workers and not the community.
How lucky there is a general election coming up through which we can tell our prospective Members of Parliament how much we DON’T want privatised healthcare.
So I collected signatures for 38 Degrees and for the people I love. I spent my Saturday doing what I feel compelled to do. I was not alone; over 30 volunteers turned up and I know you will all be utterly shocked to find out I ‘administrated’ everyone so we managed to cover Catford, three areas in Lewisham, Deptford, Brockley and New Cross as well as the hospital in our zeal to collect signatures. Apparently I’m a bit of an organiser. Who knew?
I met with warmth, pleasure that I was doing the collecting, gratitude, from so many people. I was also met with derision, anger, hostility and disdain. I cannot understand this but smiled anyway, thanking them for their time and wishing them the best of health. Only one person was so defeatist he did not see the point in trying and grew angry when I answered the question he asked of me: “Why try?” (I paraphrase, mostly to get rid of his swear words). I do understand how he feels; I think we all probably recognise that feeling and in our current political and social situation probably more than ever, but I could not disagree with defeatism more.
We HAVE to fight. We HAVE to shout. We have to make sure that our voices are heard loudly and often. We may lose, but we cannot know that unless we try. It’s too important not to try. I choose hope. I choose optimism. I choose to fight for the ideal whilst living in the reality, because that’s all we really can do; and it is a choice. It’s a choice I have to practice every day, but it’s a choice I make because it is what I believe in.
I would be dead without the NHS, of that I have no doubt. We have all, those of us born after 1967, been under the care of the NHS our whole lives, and those born before remember the fear and pain that the poorer members of our society lived under, unable to afford healthcare. I have many health conditions which need either medication or long-term monitoring. Thanks to the NHS, I can work full time and I can campaign to make society a fairer, more equal place. The existence of the NHS is fundamental to creating a more equal society.
A medical complex based on profit rather than people is a pharmaceutical industry, not a healthcare system.
I am going to pay for today with pain and fatigue; I know my various medical delights will ensure that. It was and will always be worth every single agonising second because it is the NHS that means I can be out there, being active and being activist. Saving the NHS means saving me.
*all statistics from the 38 Degrees non-party affiliated campaigning group – site here: http://www.38degrees.org.uk/