This morning, having skimmed my Twitter messages, I came upon an article in the British Medical Journal. All of a sudden it seemed urgent to say something to someone about what I thought. So I wrote to Mr Stephen Williams, MP for Bristol West – the constituency in which I now live and where I am registered to vote. This is what I wrote:
Dear Mr Williams,
Of all the damage being done by the Tories at the moment there is nothing as fundamental and nothing as contrary to British post-war consensus as the Bill that is about to damage the foundations of the health service.
In my opinion your article on the subject (http://stephenwilliams.org.uk/en/page/nhs-reforms) is timid and lacks the sense of urgency or vision that I would have hoped for. It seems to accept that you are going to vote in favour of something that most of your constituents would be against. The Bill as it stands is driven by a mixture of libertarian (not liberal) idealism, the financial self interest of pharmaceutical and insurance businesses, and the individualistic ambition of some health professionals. Once it is enacted, the remaining checks and balances that you seem to want to trust will sooner or later be washed away by the power of “market” forces. The National Health Service will not be able to remain a genuine public service once the new dispensation has started running. Cameron wants “NHS” to be no more than a brand and is keen to remove the difficult questions of resource allocation away from the realm of public debate and democratic decision.
The National Health Service was started as, and in many hearts remains, a deeply held moral principle and practice. I was born a year after the NHS began, and I look forward to my grandchildren being able to enjoy it as I have done and as my children have done.
I am asking you to re-read the BMJ article by Pollock and Price and to be visionary in how you vote in Parliament. The full text is here: http://tinyurl.com/3nddg8n
With best wishes
We are, I believe, not “customers” of the NHS, we are partners and participants. We need to cherish, support and understand it. The Tories want it to be the McDonalds of the health industry – just another glass-fronted outlet where we can browse for the least unattractive offering in a high street full of more expensive options.