Our NHS – why it is worth protecting for everyone

By Sally Campbell

There are many people who believe the NHS should be converted to a privatised private insurance scheme. Many of those advocating it are involved with the private companies providing health care, both here and especially in America. Lobbying the government has been a feature, especially as Brexit approaches and the UK government seeks new trade deals. We must demand that the NHS is off the trade deals agenda! In America the COVIC-19 Pandemic has shown how this privatised healthcare does not work for the low paid, unemployed or those with chronic disease. America’s patchwork, for-profit health system is a frail match against a vicious disease such as Covid-19. Over the years there have been constant calls for reform of the American system, especially by the Democrats, but changes were always delayed.

Now the results are plain to see as the leaders in Washington DC continues to hamper any effort to change the system and decades of poor health policy have been exposed. Look at the population numbers. In 1975, the population of the US was 215 million people. Today, it is 328 million. In roughly that time, the US has lost 567,000 hospital beds, down from 1.4 million, because they were considered “inefficient and unprofitable”.

This was directly related to how people pay for healthcare. As the number of hospital beds fell, emergency departments also closed because they were the only part of the hospital required to treat patients who could not pay. Which, it turns out, was a lot of people.

On average, the cost of healthcare per person between 1960 and 2015 has outpaced wage growth by roughly 2.4% each year, according to government economists. But worse than that the system also managed to exclude 9% of the entire population, or roughly 28 million people, from health insurance entirely, with catastrophic potential for people’s finances. The result has been that healthcare is unaffordable for Americans to see the doctor. That, last year, half of Americans delayed or skipped care because of prohibitive costs. That, in turn, those untreated chronic conditions, leave people vulnerable to Covid-19. And that the most vulnerable among Americans, both to Covid-19 and chronic health conditions, are the poor and people of colour. Because even as this pandemic leaves us all shocked and fearful on Arran, the 10,000 horrific deaths in New York City alone are the predictable consequence of a healthcare system that leaves so many people on the sidelines. Uncared for. The loss of a job through unemployment, or ill-health also means loss of health insurance. So with the Pandemic and massive increase in unemployment in America, those are the very people who have also lost health insurance at this critical time and most cannot afford their own policy. Many emergency room doctors, nurses and researchers in the USA believe Americans may now see how urgent change is, and believe that maybe in disaster there is also opportunity.

So we must give the NHS support, not just clapping on Thursdays but demanding of our politicians that the NHS be funded adequately, all staff paid appropriately to match the skills they have, and that ‘for profit’ healthcare be designed out of the NHS and not strengthened within it. Restore an adequate number of beds, staffed properly to provide an efficient and caring service with employed, not bank, staff. Train more nurses and doctors restoring grant support for nurses in training. Many lessons have been learned in the last few weeks, and the staff in the NHS have responded to this awful disease with energy, new practices, team work and compassion. We have realised like never before how much we also owe to staff from all around the world working in our NHS, many of whom have only temporary permits to be here. Treat all the staff with respect. Our thanks go out to all and every one. I for one am willing to pay increased tax to ensure the NHS is funded well, and staff salaries reflect their skills and dedication.

Sally Campbell
April 2020