If the Conservative party wins the 8 June general election, the NHS will continue to face creeping privatisation and chronic underfunding. The end game will be the death of the NHS as we know it. So time for a reminder of what a routine life event like childbirth would cost in that future.
The cost of losing the NHS
In March 2014, twitter user @YumiYoko became a mum following a caesarean section. Medical staff at Philadelphia’s Abington Memorial Hospital handed her a child, while administrators handed her a bill for over $42,000 (£32,419). Such is life under the US profit-making private healthcare system.
British actor Stephen McGann (who plays a doctor in popular TV Drama Call the Midwife, set at the dawn of Britain’s National Health Service) sent the bill viral when he tweeted it to fans, and it has been reaching millions across the world ever since.
The US remains the only nation in the developed world that fails to provide universal healthcare for its citizens. Even a handful of developing countries have prioritised their limited resources to ensure universal access to health care, including oil-rich Saudi Arabia and Oman, Costa Rica, Kyrgyzstan, and Cuba, among others.
Yet US lawmakers, in the richest nation on earth, continue to argue that public healthcare is unaffordable.
Now that conversation has moved to UK shores.
Conservatives and the NHS
The government claims the NHS is suffering a financial crisis due to an unmanageable rise in demand (ageing population, ‘health’ tourism, immigrant population). But a look at the numbers reveals this is not the case.
First, demand. There has been no shock up-tick in demand for NHS services.
As The Canary’s John Nedham writes:
In short, it defies logic to claim, as the population grows and the average age increases, that a rise in demand for medical services has come as a surprise. Whatever the assorted word-jugglers and political spin doctors might like you to believe, if there are more people there will be more patients. And those patients’ expectations are no more unreasonable than they have ever been.
So why is the NHS in crisis?
The answer is simple. The government chose to underfund the service, providing it with less money than it required. And the resulting crisis was entirely predictable. Responding to the government’s 10-year budget forecast in 2015, The King’s Fund warned:
The ten years up to 2020/21 are likely to see the largest sustained fall in NHS spending as a share of GDP in any period since 1951.
As a result the NHS is struggling to meet its obligations to patients.
There is another way
On 8 June, UK voters have the chance to put an end to this. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has promised an annual cash injection to the NHS of £7.4bn, giving the service what it needs to do the job. As junior doctor Benjamin Janaway writes for The Canary:
Junior doctor and Momentum activist Yannis Gourtsoyannis told The Canary:
This is exactly what our health service needs.
It’s time to act
Not only is public healthcare the moral thing to do, but it actually costs less.
Britain’s NHS saves more lives per pound spent on it than any healthcare system on earth (except Ireland), and yet we spend half the equivalent proportion of GDP the US spends on healthcare.
The UK has a GDP (amount of wealth we produce each year) of over £2tn a year. The NHS costs us just £116bn. UK citizens pay less money, for better care, than almost any other healthcare system in the world.
Right now, the NHS is suffering a crisis manufactured by those seeking to profit from its decline. It allows politicians and the media to scapegoat patients, staff, and the concept of the NHS itself, rather than take responsibility for a crisis of their own making.
Some argue we can’t afford to keep the NHS. The truth is, we can’t afford not to.
– Support the junior doctors in their fight against the government.
– Register to Vote for your NHS on 8 June.
– Discuss the key policy issues with family members, colleagues and neighbours. And organise! Join (and participate in the activities of) a union, an activist group, and/or a political party.
– Support the Save Our NHS campaign, and other NHS campaigns.