IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

The NHS – it’s Britain’s best kept (socialist) secret

29 May, 2018

MILLIONS of viewers watching the popular ITV show about the Unsung Heroes of the National Health Service on Monday were actually seeing in practice something which is rarely recognised publicly – a socialist enterprise in action.

That is what the NHS is. It is a state-controlled enterprise, owned, in effect, by the taxpayers, the public. And whatever its faults and failures – and it has many – it has a kind of egalitarian pay structure, the salary differential among the staff is well below those of the big corporations, somewhere around 10 to 1 and above all it goes down well with the nation

Like all the nationalised industries abandoned long ago, it has a democratic deficit. It is micro-managed by politicians and civil servants as well as by appointed managers at each Trust.

It would function more efficiently if it were run by the staff of more than a million – the doctors, nurses, porters, cleaners and the admin staff but it remains a unique system of socialised medicine this country should be proud of and one that is unrivalled in the world.

For years the political class of the establishment have been repeating the mantra – public-ownership bad, private good. But the very nature and character of the NHS makes nonsense of this.

Is this why the political class is touchy about the NHS?

They can’t be seen to be knocking it. It’s pretty popular with the voters. So, somehow, they reluctantly embrace it while covering up what it really is. They treat it like the eccentric aunt in the family. It has become, in a sense, Britain’s best kept secret.

Even its founders glide over the essence of its ethos and practice. But let’s call it what it is – a socialist health system that was the world’s first to provide free medical care for the entire population.

The idea was promoted by progressive doctors and nurses in the 1930s.

A decade later, it was legislated into being by the Labour maverick Aneurin Bevan – he was once expelled from his party.

Is it possible that as political visions change in an evolving society it will lead to other forms of socialised structures?

Here in Camden we should honour those who campaigned for its existence though they were mocked, spurned and persecuted.

Plaques should be erected for such doctors as Hugh Faulkner of the Caversham Centre, Kentish Town, and his colleague David Stark Murray and Avis Hutt, a lecturer and health specialist, of Primrose Hill.

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