I have no love for the NHS. By which I do not mean that I have no love of a nationalised health service, but rather that I have no love for what the NHS has become. Fundamentally, I believe that the NHS is not fit for purpose. In the main, my assessment of the NHS is not because of the medics and other healthcare workers employed by the NHS; my assessment is, almost exclusively, a criticism of the administration of it. It simply does not work.
For instance, all my medical records prior to 2011 have gone missing. I first discovered this over 15 months ago now and am still no closer to an answer on what went wrong, nor has anyone in PCSE even bothered to investigate. I have even had to take the radical step of deregistering from a GP surgery, as the lazy and incompetent staff of my former GP surgery found it too taxing and onerous to send even one chasing email per month to PCSE to assist me in locating the records. As PCSE will not deal directly with patients registered with a GP surgery, I was forced to deregister to be able to contact PCSE myself. Although fat lot of good that has done, since PCSE are as lazy and incompetent as pretty much every single GP administrator I have ever encountered.
Another recent example: an FOI request I put into a hospital was forwarded by an information governance officer, with all my personal details intact, to a journalist without my consent or knowledge. The act was a deliberate breach of the GDPR, as the information officer put in the body of her email to the journalist “please see request below for your awareness.” When the journalist, to whom I am extremely grateful, busted the information governance officer, all the latter breezily said was: “an error, my apologies”. Deliberately breaking data protection law is a little more than “an error”, especially when done so by an information governance officer.
These are just two recent examples from the tiny thing that is my life, but my 46 years of existence are littered with similar such problems around the administration of healthcare; whether that be wildly inaccurate record keeping, rude, lazy, and incompetent GP and hospital administrators (an endemic problem with all public and third sector administrators, imo), hospitals refusing to do Subject Access Requests, PALS services not bothering to investigate complaints, and so forth.
Then, of course, we have the issue of bloated salaries at the top of the organisation, and the offensively minuscule wages offered to care workers, porters, and nurses. Or how care assistants or physiotherapy assistants are expected to do the work of the more expensive professionals they are supposed to be assisting. The literally deadly long waiting lists for some kinds of treatments. The 10 minutes you are allocated in GP appointments and the non-sensical shift to phone consultations and other ways of remotely assessing our physical bodies. How many people are forced to go private in order to find a medic who takes them seriously. How those skilled in self-advocacy are often able to get referrals and treatment that others do not. Or class: the difference in treatment I have received from medics once I earned the title of Dr has been remarkable. And let’s not get started on the enormous waste of money which comprise the Nightingale hospitals, and the PPE and test and trace scandals…
The video above by the inimitable John Pilger goes a long way to explaining much of what is wrong with the NHS. It also shows where we are headed if the Americanisation and hollowing out of what should be a public resource continues unabated. We are in trouble, and we have been in trouble for far longer than the strains on the system conferred by the pandemic suggest. Moreover, I believe that the peculiar pandemic mantra we are all supposed to invoke to “protect the NHS” is indicative of how big the trouble actually is. We the people who pay for this service, are being told not to use it for fear of overwhelming it. The corruption in this strange inversion is profound. The NHS exists to protect us, we do not exist to protect a failing organisation hollowed out by stealth privatisation.
In my opinion, the principle reason behind the “protect the NHS” mantra is not to benefit us, we the people who need and use the health service. The aim of the mantra is thus: to obscure the profound weakness of the health service. To avoid drawing back the curtain to show precisely how the organisation has been crippled and hollowed out by corruption, greed, incompetence, mismanagement, and creeping privatisation.
The irony of the pandemic propaganda messaging around the NHS is that it seeks to obscure the problem by pointing directly to it. The NHS is weak and cannot cope, so we should not use it. It is baffling that so many people seem to accept this as a reasonable proposition.
In reality, if we genuinely want an NHS, if we believe in the ethics of a free at point of access healthcare system, then we need to unflinchingly stare at the mess it is currently in. We do not help it by denying or obscuring the trouble it is in. In fact, it would not surprise me if, when the pandemic is over, if the corrupt buffoons that run the NHS and this country use the failings of the NHS as evidence of why we need more privatisation, not less. Look, they will say, we all did our best, but still the NHS could not cope, so we need to divide up the rotting carcass and offer it up to some private healthcare vulture or other for some paltry sum.
If we truly want to protect or save the NHS, we should catalogue the myriad ways in which it is failing ordinary citizens and serving corporate greed. It is only when we see and accept precisely how broken and run down it is, that we can start rehabilitating it and making it fit for purpose. Denial never helped anyone, especially not those in need of treatment.