Peter Burden gives his opinion on the NHS for KCW Today.
The parlous state of the mighty NHS has become a recurring and growing news item in Great Britain over the last thirty years. As it is perceived at the moment, it has an insatiable appetite for quantities of money which can never be delivered. Successive governments have been too timid to challenge the real reasons behind this insoluble impasse. They will not confront the fact that people who make choices about their behaviour, whether it’s binge drinking or mountaineering, engaging in equestrian sports or smoking consistently dangerous quantities of tobacco; activities which significantly increase the likelihood of their calling on the intolerably overstretched resources of the NHS, should not be considered eligible for free treatment.
The public’s idea of what it deserves is unrestrained by any sense of self-determination or personal responsibility. A couple of tabloid papers have run a story about a pensioner and his disabled wife from Bristol who have been barred from their GP’s surgery on the grounds that they complain too much. Not enough detail is given to show whether or not they are justified in their complaints (although most of the readers who commented online in the Mirror and the Express* took the view that they weren’t, and were obviously just idle, feckless moaners.) To some extent this perception was encouraged by photographs of the not especially photogenic couple holding up placards about limited disabled access to airline flights, on the face of it, not the responsibility of their GP. In fact Virgin, BA, even Ryanair make much of all that they will do for anyone travelling with them in a wheelchair, which does suggest that complaining is the default mindset of the couple.
As a generally tolerant and compassionate nation, Brits habitually defer to claims of alleged hardship by disabled people, which is as it should be, but this doesn’t take account of the significant minority who work their disability (often self-inflicted by their lifestyle choices) like a passe-partout, and demand that they have a right to almost anything they want.
Regrettably, the perception of such rights has been a growing menace among the British public in general, particularly where healthcare is concerned. Because since its inception the NHS has sold itself as free at the point of delivery, health care has been turned into a de facto ‘human right’ for many British; and it is this, as well as the spectacular development in treatments and subsequent demand for them, that has been gnawing away at the viability of the NHS. And yet, the public who are the single greatest cause of this decline are never blamed.
Politicians do not have the courage to tell their electorate that their health is their responsibility, not the State’s. They dare not say candidly, and entirely truthfully that if people choose a sugar, fat and gluten based diet, take no exercise, drink excessively and smoke tobacco they will become ill, because the idea that it is the state’s duty to salvage what they can from the results of this self-abuse, and their right to receive as much as they need without paying for it has become unchallengeable.
Over to you Mr Hunt.