This week, a member of the British public threw a milkshake over the Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage. It is unclear at the time of writing, what the shake thrower’s intentions were or which issue he disagreed with Farage. Perhaps the individual was a supporter of the NHS and thought Nigel should shake-up his views before talking in public.
This incident came in a week where Nigel Farage voiced his view that the NHS should be privatised shifting to insurance-based healthcare. It is worth mentioning that Mr Farage has no experience in the medical profession. However, whatever your thoughts are on Farage and his views, this does provide an opportunity to consider how public health is funded and whether receiving it is a right or a privilege.
“to vote for the party who promises to keep taxes low without realising they are voting to bankrupt public health”
Many developed nations in the world have a public health service, and while the British NHS was the first of its kind, it is by no means unique. Canada, Sweden, Cuba and South Korea have them, yet they all enjoy excellent public health records. Unlike the UK, these countries pay higher rates of tax for their care, plus, they have better attitudes towards exercise and healthy eating, with lower rates of alcohol and tobacco consumption.
Back here in the UK though, any mention of increasing taxes to pay for health is often met with huge gasps. After all, half of all Britons would rather fund their four holidays a year, buy clothes that quickly fall out of fashion, and buy a new widescreen TV than fund the health service. The best evidence of this is the tendency for the British public to vote for the party who promises to keep taxes low without realising they are voting to bankrupt public health, the fire service, the police and education in the process. Some people want to have their cake and eat it. However, some cakes are just for looking at.
The public is waking up to the fact that lifestyle choices create diseases which puts a considerable strain on the public purse. This is not sustainable unless it is paid for with a tax relating to unhealthy consumables like alcohol, cigarettes, sugar, carcinogenic artificial flavourings and fast food. Calling it a sugar tax may cause resistance so why not call it an NHS Tax; would this be more palatable? After all, a very wise person once said, ‘If you don’t make time for your wellness, you will be forced to make time for your illness’.
“If you don’t make time for your wellness, you will be forced to make time for your illness.” (Quote Courtesy of Gavin Damant at Pioneering Change)
If we do not fund the health service correctly (by raising taxes), then where are we going? There is discussion here in the UK to privatise the health service, yet this is already in motion as insurance companies bid for contracts to run services in the NHS. It is worth highlighting that these are NO different from the American insurance companies who can financially cripple families who — faced with exorbitant medical fees — are unable to meet their medical bills. Many of which, as a consequence, face bankruptcy and homelessness. Imagine a £10,000 bill per person each year to register with your GP or to walk through the doors of a hospital? No insurance card, no access! Then add the actual medical bills on top for treatment, surgery, therapy or advice. Unless we change our ways, this may be the direction we continue towards.
Currently, in Britain, insurance companies are winning NHS contracts by charging the government less money than the NHS would otherwise pay for. Since the insurance companies want a profit, they subsequently cut jobs or restrict funding for operations, leaving lots of money for themselves and their shareholders. This is dismantling the NHS, one Trust at a time.
“Imagine a £10,000 bill per person each year to register with your GP or to walk through the doors of a hospital?”
Some readers may wonder why medical insurance gets such a bad reputation when the likes of Bupa, Axa and Nuffield provide such high-quality healthcare. The answer is simple: the person receiving the healthcare pays for it in monthly premiums. Call it a premium, a tax, an investment. Call it what you will; it costs money. Imagine if we all did this, how amazing would all aspects of the NHS be?
So we return to the conundrum of funding and tax. This country does not run without collecting its taxes. We must pay the correct amount and declare everything. The NHS is not free, same for policing, social housing, education and the fire service. Perhaps the problem was created by the founders of the NHS when they called it a ‘free health service’. As we have seen, it never was, plus, there are too many in this country who do not value services which appear to be free — the public need to wake up to reality. Doctors, nurses, police officers, teachers and firefighters are not volunteers. The work they do deserves recognition by the public. The best way to acknowledge the vital work these people do is to pay them adequate salaries, provide high-quality equipment, the latest technology and advanced software apps.
“wake up to reality. Doctors, nurses, police officers, teachers and firefighters are not volunteers”
The issue of funding for the NHS is unique. If the fire brigade has fears over safety conditions, they can strike, as can teachers and train drivers for their causes too. It is, however, illegal for a healthcare professional to do the same. They would be struck off. The alternative is to protest, but a recent demonstration in London on 1st February 2018 by healthcare professionals resulted in No change. NHS professionals gave up their weekend to rally against health service budget cuts, yet It’s far too easy for the government to ignore the protest. Perhaps they should have learnt from the climate protestors who recently took over parts of Central London. However, it became obvious that they were also fobbed-off by the government with the empty ‘we’ve got the message’ remark which now seems like a distant memory.
Clearly, the government doesn’t have any intention of supporting the NHS; that’s if they want to stay in power after the next election. The next leader who dares to be honest about raising taxes to fund public services would surely gain the respect of staff and the British public. The message to government and any future leaders is simple: If you look after your staff, the staff will look after the patients.
David is a Physiotherapist who has been involved in Professional Sport, battlefield trauma, chronic pain and the NHS. He continues to work clinically alongside his development role in Rehab Guru. David is passionate about Health tech to transform outcomes for patients