A recent investigation has revealed over 100 NHS primary care buildings are owned by private firms registered in tax havens, bringing the long enduring question of the NHS’s proposed privatisation to the forefront once again. It is rather ironic how the NHS pays millions in rent each year to firms who barely pay any taxes, yet is itself swamped with issues of funding, organisation, and lack of long-term solutions.
The NHS is a system that has had to undergo many alterations and adjustments since its birth, with its expenditure exceeding initial expectations even in its early years. These teething problems have developed to growing pains, and now to arthritis. For some, privatisation is the remedy as a privatised service might give patients a greater choice of treatment, reduce waiting times (something I’m sure we all would appreciate), and would ultimately give the NHS a much-needed chance for a new beginning.
However, would privatising the NHS be a case of throwing the baby out with the bath water? After over 70 years of its existence, privatising the NHS would likely mean eliminating many sources of care and treatment for low-income families and individuals. The choice of either paying the bills and buying food or going to see the doctor is one that may become far more commonplace. One only needs to hear a few stories of people refusing an ambulance across the pond because they know they won’t be able to afford treatment to know there is a clear moral problem with private healthcare implemented across an entire country.
Nevertheless, it’s undeniable that the NHS has been under severe strain for a long time, a state only worsened in recent years – this state cannot be maintained. Complete privatisation isn’t the answer to this, but perhaps a form of compromise is.
Demand for free healthcare is rising constantly, but the impact of this demand can be softened. Firstly, those who can genuinely afford paying for healthcare in this country (GP appointments, prescriptions, hospital treatments, etc.) should pay. Those with lower incomes who cannot feasibly afford all these things should have free access, but it must be ensured access is warranted – if citizens were generally more educated in the realm of health and medicine, then some strain could be taken off the NHS as ordinary people would know how to treat some ailments themselves without the need to go to a GP.
It’s impossible for the NHS to provide mostly ‘free’ universal healthcare to the entire population of the UK – it was impossible in 1948, and it is still now. The cost for treatment/consultations can be subsidised according to the individual’s income. The NHS should focus on making their primary care facilities solely government-owned in the long term to free up money to redirect back into patient services. This issue isn’t a black and white matter of privatisation versus nationalisation, it is a matter of utilising both to form a moral and more sustainable public healthcare system than the one which currently exists.
Has Boris forgotten about the vulnerable?
Boris Johnson has announced it’s time we live with Covid-19. But he hasn’t told us how.
The perception our prime minister, weakened by scandals, is trying to appease to his backbenchers is not all that farfetched. Many of these backbenchers have businesses and investments impacted by Covid-19 restrictions and wish for life to return to how it was before March 2020.
And they’re not the only ones. I’m sure we all miss aspects of how our lives were before the global pandemic. We ask ourselves, if we don’t return to normal now, then when? What are we waiting for?
And then we feel guilty, because at the time of writing, around 200 people are dying within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test. The pandemic isn’t over, and we will live with its consequences for years to come. The government expects us to live with Covid-19, while there are still people still dying from it.
You may remember the Government’s public health campaign, ‘Can you look them in the eyes?’ featuring profound, close-up shots of vulnerable people on ventilators with the intention to reveal the harrowing reality of Covid-19 to the public. It’s a shame the government’s fear mongering campaign didn’t impact them.
With Hancock’s lack of remorse for the affair that broke his own rules whilst he was Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, to Boris Johnson’s numerous parties, not one day before the Queen sat alone at her husband’s funeral. The stark reality here shows those acting as our government are simply unable to control themselves, and follow the rules to the point they need to scrap them.
If you’re uncomfortable about going out with Covid-19 still in effect, with seeing vulnerable friends and family, it’s understandable, given what we have gone through in the last two years.
Simply look at the first two months of 2022. The first wave of Omicron hit us hard between December and January. Families were back in isolation for the second Christmas running. This highly transmissible, airborne virus was spreading like wildfire.
And in February all restrictions were lifted.
We live under the anxiety where new, more highly transmissible variants lay on the horizon. We know from our lived experience how deadly this virus is, with a fresh wound in our recent past.
This is not to say it’s wrong to want your life back after living in limbo for so long. Perhaps the issue isn’t even relinquishing the legality of Covid-19 restrictions. Those who want to get back to normal should be able to. However, those who don’t are left with nothing in place to facilitate that, or to help protect them.
With many people receiving statutory sick pay if they are off work with Covid-19 find their wages lowered. This was previously topped up by a Covid-19 relief fund which is now gone, and with the ever-increasing cost of living, statutory sick pay just doesn’t cut it.
We may never know, truly, if Boris is doing what he thinks is best or whether it is to garner popularity from his backbenchers. What we do know however is that vulnerable people still remain vulnerable.