The NHS is the third largest employer in the world after the Chinese Army and the Indian Railways.
The NHS celebrated its 60th birthday in July 2008 having been created as part of the radical, reforming Labour Government of post Second World War Britain in 1948. The NHS was a fundamental part of the new Welfare State.
The founder of the NHS was the eloquent Welsh MP Aneurin Bevan. Among Mr Bevan's many wonderful quotes was this one that I love most;
‘No longer will wealth be an advantage nor poverty a disadvantage. Healthcare will be provided free of charge based on clinical need and not on ability to pay.’
Call me old fashioned if you like but this statement from the great man underpins why our NHS is still the envy of many parts of the world.
What we forget sometimes in Britain is that our health service is a UNIVERSAL service provided to all citizens based on clinical need.
It has been good for me to be away from the NHS for almost 4 years because I have been able to see the service from ‘outside’ and I admit I have sometimes been critical of what I see.
However in recent discussions on Tom Peters Blog I’ve been delighted to see so many people praising the NHS. Dare I suggest there have even been some envious glances from our friends across the pond that we have a well established and (generally) well-loved universal healthcare system?
I will continue to criticise the NHS where it fails patients and their families but let me be clear about something.
Until I see hard evidence that a privately funded healthcare system provides at least as good a service to the WHOLE population of Britain as the NHS currently provides I will continue to promote the NHS as the right way to organise the healthcare for the ENTIRE population.
It is simply not good enough to make shallow unproven throw-away woolly statements like ‘the market must decide.’
One key criterion of how a country should be judged is surely how it treats it most vulnerable and most ill citizens. In Britain I feel we can and should be very proud that successive governments since 1948 have not seen fit to move away from universal healthcare provided through the tax funded NHS and I for one hope we never do.