By Alan Maryon-Davis, honorary professor of public health at Kings College London and past president of the Faculty of Public Health
WE love our NHS, despite its failings. We trust it, we depend on it and we cherish its fundamental principles of fairness and universality – free to all at the point of use.
Born out of Beveridge, midwifed by Bevan, the safe arrival of the infant NHS in the aftermath of war was nothing less than a revolution – the sort of massive change that could never happen today. It was huge – so big it dwarfed outer space.
Now, as we all know, the NHS is under threat – weighed down by the ageing population and high-tech hypertrophy, harried by small-state politicians, encircled by drooling marketeers and asset-strippers.
The NHS is accused of being too monolithic, lumbering and unsustainable. The Government’s response has been to claw back millions of pounds and fire an explosive harpoon into its belly. The 2012 Act has torn into the flesh of the NHS, damaged many of its vital organs and put it on the critical list.
But it’s not dead yet. They have underestimated the power of the people. The NHS is healthcare of the people, by the people, for the people, all for one and one for all. This is why so many of us feel so passionate about it – and why we delighted in seeing it celebrated in the Olympics opening ceremony.
I believe the NHS at 65 is still, fundamentally, in good shape – in spite of all the ‘efficiency savings’, all the sniping and Cassandras, all the barbs, rug-pulling and clattering of bedpans in the corridors of Whitehall. The NHS can be nursed back to full health and vigour. Of course this requires political will – but political will is driven by the power of the people. And people power can be shaped and energised by the advocacy of those of us who feel strongly about defending the NHS and its fundamental principles.
We must seize this 65th birthday celebration to let everyone know that we will fight to make sure the NHS – the real NHS, not just the logo – is here to stay.