Monday, July 14, 2008

Issue 476 - Ooh, Matron!

I hope everything is ok where you are.

The NHS turned 60 on the 5th July.
"The what now?" some of you may ask.

Well the NHS is the National Health Service in Britain, and it was launched 60 years ago. I watched a documentary about it, and was amazed to learn the process.

The Health minister at the time was an MP called Nye Bevan, and he hadn't been in the post long, since the Labour government was new, having deposed Churchill's government.
Bevan was from the Welsh Valleys, where the main source of work was mining, battling treacherous conditions literally hacking away at seams of coal.
His father had fallen victim to the usual symptoms, as did most of the men.

What Bevan had noticed was that in one area, the workers had got together, and put in a certain amount from every wage packet. This meant that when they or their family was ill, they could get their treatment paid for from this fund.
This was a great success in a Britain where you only got the medical treatment if you had the cash.

Bevan announced that he would introduce this idea across the whole country, and said it would be launched within 6 months!
The medical professionals at the time laughed out loud, pointing out that it could never be done, and the doctors said they wouldnt have anything to do with it.

They had their private practices, so were worried about seeing their investments and positions slip away, that they would be 'medical civil servants'.
The British Medical Association was a powerful political lobby, and they voted overwhelmingly to oppose the scheme.

Despite huge support from the public who sensed a wind of change in the hard post war years, this digging in by the doctors put the whole project in trouble, and Bevan's career with it.

What he did them was a political masterstroke, he went to the chief of the consultants, who were top of medical tree. Even more amazing the chief was Winston Churchill's own personal doctor, and Churchill and Bevan pretty much hated each other.

Bevan persuaded the consultant chief, but he had the problem of standing for re-election himself, so that vote turned into an effective vote on the NHS. The chief retained his position by 5 votes, and it could be said that those 5 consultants saved the NHS from never happening.

The BMA simply dug their heels in further, prompting another political master stroke by Bevan. He began a publicity campaign as if nothing was going to stop him, and began getting the public to sign up to the scheme, putting a deadline incentive for them to do so.
This was pivotal, as in a few short weeks, most of the population had signed up.

The doctors knew that if they didnt get on board themselves, they would be left behind by those that had got on board earlier, and the BMA's resistance crumbled away.

The service launched on 5th July 1948, a truly remarkable achievement.
It had been thought that as illnesses were treated, the nation's health would get better, and the drain on public funds would be reduced to no more than maintenance levels.

This has never been the case in 60 years, with demand for treatment, facilities and research always outstripping what the Treasury is willing to give.

Some people say the NHS is Britain's finest hour, free health care for all at point of need, a truly social structure.
Others argue it has been our downfall as ever more people flock to Britain from abroad, just to tap into our benefit system and get easy health care.

These so-called 'health tourists' are not the only ones draining the system - the biggest problem comes from the unemployed here in Britain - people who have never worked a day in their life, yet expect and demand to get free health service. They don't appreciate the concept of paying into the pool to get the benefit, and the result is a massive drain on the rest of the workers.

That isn't the model that Bevan saw in the Welsh Valleys all those years ago, where people did hard, hard work.
However the NHS is viewed, it's a remarkable example of what can be acheived in amazing time scales, in this case 6 months!

Ok, that's it for this week, I'm off to see if I can get a bed bath somewhere...

'Til Next Time,
Health & Happiness,
P.S. If you know anyone else who you think would enjoy the Great Gordino Newsletter, please pass it on to them!

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