Saturday, 31 August 2019

The Fight for the NHS

Imagine for a moment, you’re sat in a doctor’s office and you receive that nightmare diagnosis. Cancer. And, in that moment of terror, as questions are spinning around your mind – Is it treatable? What are my chances? How long have I got? – you face additional questions which add to your misery – Will my insurance cover this? Will I have to pay an excess? What if my claim is rejected?

This is the reality faced by Americans. And it could soon be the reality faced by the British. That’s not scaremongering. It’s not cheap political point scoring. It’s actually one of the main reasons we fight so passionately for a Labour government. Our beloved NHS, which saves so many lives, which has probably saved your uncle or your mother or your colleague or someone else you love, is not to be taken for granted.

It could be taken from us.

Boris Johnson has in a 2003 book – The Essential Boris Johnson – stated his eagerness to charge the public for NHS services, and he has enthusiastically backed every move to carve up and privatise the NHS. Indeed, former Conservative Prime Minister John Major had this to say about him:

“The NHS is about as safe with them [Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Ian Duncan Smith] as a pet hamster would be with a hungry python.”

To repeat, these are the words of a former Conservative Prime Minister.

Now there’s not a person in Britain unaware of the Trump administration’s desire for the NHS to be part of a post-Brexit trade deal. And the Americans have the upper-hand.

Brexit Britain is desperate for trade. We are about to become a small fish in a big pond, and if the US wants something from us, there’s every chance they will get it. And one of the first points of discussion will be higher drug prices.

Americans pay up to ten times as much as the UK for drugs like insulin, and Big Pharma has such influence over congress, Americans are not allowed to import cheaper drugs from abroad. Trump has stated his resentment that Britain is, in his opinion, underpaying for drugs. And let’s not forget, the US is a place where diabetics die because they can’t pay for treatment.

Most American Go Fund Me pages are set up to pay for medical costs, and most fail to raise the needed sums. Just imagine being deemed surplus to requirements by your society for a medical condition you were born with. That is the brutal reality of free market capitalism.

A general election in 2019 seems highly likely, and this will not just be a battle for which party gets to lead the country – it will be a battle for the NHS.

Labour will put the NHS back into public hands and end the funding crisis which took almost every NHS trust from a budget surplus into a deficit under Tory rule.

The Conservatives will further privatise services, handing over pieces of our NHS to US corporations who are circling like vultures, until soon we reach a point where we have surrendered full control, and are left scratching our heads, wondering how we ended up with a US-style insurance-based model.

The Tories will, of course, tell you this was the only way, that nationalised healthcare, which we’ve had for over 70 years, which every developed country other than the US has, suddenly became unaffordable and full privatisation was the only solution. In fact, they will probably find a way to blame Labour. They always do. But Labour is the party that gave us the NHS and it is their greatest achievement.

You probably know someone who was saved by the NHS, maybe someone who had cancer treatment and was given a new lease of life at no charge. Under a US-style model, there’s every chance that person, be it your uncle, brother, sister, cousin, best mate – would be bankrupt or dead.

Just think about that. And then think about the 50/50 chance you could one day get that horrible diagnosis. Would you be able to pay?

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