Dr Guy Standing, a Professorial Research Associate at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, and a founder member and honorary co-president of the Basic Income Earth Network explains the situation.
Funding for the NHS in not been cut off, but it is not enough to keep up with rising demand due to population increase and other demographic and social causes. The result is a cut back in services. Dr Standing says that we should indeed be very worried about health services not only in Britain but in all the OECD countries, in Russia and in most of the world. “From what we understand by a national health service is that we all exist to subsidise each other. It is a form of equity in society, …that principal has not gone away. But what we have been seeing in recent years is that the power of pharmaceutical companies and the power of the ideology of neoliberalism and the power of politicians intent on privatising health services have led to what’s called the ‘micro politics’ of privatization. What you do is you run down the NHS, you let it perform inadequately, you let people start moaning and then you turn round and say: Look, we can have a much better thing if we have private health care. …We are reaching a kind of end game [in the UK] and it is a huge national tragedy.”
The NHS and some other similar health services around the world came into being, Dr Standing says, because of a particular historical moment. “That historical moment was the end of the Second World War. “The NHS was set up in 1948 in the aftermath of a war in which millions of working class people, who had either lost their lives or been severely injured or been pushed into illnesses from which they were going to suffer from for the rest of their lives. It was a time of real social solidarity in rebuilding society not just in Britain but elsewhere as well, and in that period, it was regarded as a fantastic achievement. …It has been a badge of honour for any British person since that period. …Now we have a rapacious group deliberately running it down, deliberately bringing in private commercial services and often indulging in something even worse, which is basically corruption. …You see an advisor to the government going off and working for one of the largest health care firms in the world and then going back at very senior level in the National Health Service in order to pursue that privatisation goal.”
Host John Harrison suggests that for a mostly free national health service to exist, governments have to be basically interested in directing resources to maintain the well-being of its citizens. But not all countries, notably America, see things this way. Dr Standing agrees. “In a sense we are trying to close the barn door after the horse has bolted. Because already the American pharmaceutical corporations, the associations connected with American medical association, United Health, which is a huge organization fostering privatisation of health care, they are already extraordinarily powerful. They prevented health care reform in the States… In Britain we are seeing the residual effect of that. These companies in the United States are at the forefront of the desire and plans to privatise British healthcare…”
A discussion ensues regarding whether or not the Labour Party is providing a genuine opposition to policies which are geared towards eventual privatisation of the NHS. The use of demographics as an argument to reduce levels of care is also discussed.
Dr Standing finishes the program by saying that we should not give up on the NHS. “All is not lost, all of us have a duty to ourselves, to our children, to our grandchildren to do everything we can to defend the NHS.”
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