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Celebrating an honoured institution

In this funny old world we inhabit – and this is not a blog about Brexit or President Trump – it’s sometimes reassuring to find one’s faith in some of our traditional institutions confirmed.

I’m not a political animal myself, but over past decades the National Health Service (or ‘NHS’) has  assumed a peculiar and special status in the scheme of things and also become something of a political football.

Heralded as a watershed breakthrough when it was established in 1948 as what became the signature achievement of Clement Atlee’s 1945-1951 Labour Government, the principles behind it have become almost articles of faith.

Continuing arguments over it have centred around its cost – its start-up total was £437 million [£15 billion in today’s money] and the most recent figure I can find, that for 2015/2016, is £116.4 billion – which its supporters argue is irrelevant given the scope of what it achieves, whilst its ‘would-be-reformers’ claim that its budgetary requirements amount to a bottomless black hole that is effectively out of control and that therefore (the prudent course is that) ways must be found to make it more efficient, ‘or else’ …

The issue is complicated by the fact that even the Tories accept that – at a fundamental level – dismantling or ‘playing fast and loose’ with the concept of the NHS is a ‘no-no’ [translation for the uninitiated: ‘electoral suicide’].

That’s why they try to position themselves as the ‘guardians of the NHS’, as proved by them supposedly prioritising a growing economy which – as night follows day – will ensure that they can afford the ‘good money after bad’ that the NHS annually swallows up in exponentially-increasing amounts.

At the same time, via privatising parts of it (and Labour in the past also did this) they have attempted to introduce economies and efficiencies that will help to stem the ever-rising tide of the NHS funding requirement.

Meanwhile the Labour Party is reasonably secure and unassailable in its go-to stance over the NHS.

Nobody can deny that they developed, enacted and implemented it. In electoral campaigns it has long been “Our NHS … which the nasty Tory Party are jealous of and try to destroy by secretly planning a wholesale campaign of privatisation – and therefore profiteering – by their capitalist mates and electoral funding donors”.

However, on the one hand even Labour Party strategists admit that the sheer scale of the NHS’s cash needs – because of course the population of the UK in 1948 was a fraction over 50 million whilst today it is approximately 66.8 million, plus we’re all living longer partly because advances in medical science mean that those diseases and cancers that used to kill off our ancestors off in earlier times (sometimes before e.g. they ever succumbed to or got diagnosed with dementia) are now either curable and/or ‘liveable with’ so that, in the end, these day we often die of other things that barely troubled previous generations – do need addressing before they become unsustainable.

A bit like the national pension problem, really – but that’s another story for another day.

In my post today I just wish to celebrate my brush with the NHS yesterday.

It all began when over my breakfast I spotted a report by Josh Gabbatiss, science correspondent, upon research being conducted by Boston University that represents a potential breakthrough as regards the eradication of dementia, or should I rather say ‘early diagnosis of and treatment for’ it – see here – THE INDEPENDENT

I was sufficiently excited by the news that a little later I toddled along to my local GP practice to see whether I could have an appointment with the ‘doctor of the day’. Normally they only accept appointments over the phone for the afternoon surgery but – by chance – I was told that there was a gap at 11.10am and I could have that if I wished.

It was thus that I returned to the surgery at 11.00am and was duly seen by a female GP.

Ten minutes later I found myself being strapped into what looked and felt like a dentist’s chair having a variety of electrodes attached to my bonce.

Once secured – and then having signed the required consent form – I duly received four short ‘stabs’ of 240 volts of the finest that the nuclear plant at Sellafield could provide and then, after resting for half an hour in the reception area over a cup of tea and a hob-knob biscuit, I was released back into the hurly-burly of the metropolis.

I’m not saying that I noticed an immediate beneficial effect – well, bar the fact that I remembered to pick up a couple of bottles of wine and a pizza on the way home for my evening meal – but this morning, as I set off to the newspaper shop across the road, I was rather impressed to discover that I’d done up the fly-zip on my trousers before leaving the house, something upon which my past record has been somewhat patchy.

As a result I’ve now signed up for a weekly session for the Over-60s at the surgery. You know what they say – prevention is better than cure!

About J S Bird

A retired academic, Jeremy will contribute article on subjects that attract his interest. More Posts