Professor Allyson Pollock warned on Thursday “that it is not too late” to save the NHS, “but we must act now.” Newcastle University’s Director of the Institute of Health and Society gave a lecture in the Curtis Auditorium as part of the Insights series of public lectures.
The 360-seat auditorium was full to capacity with healthcare professionals, campaigners, students and concerned members of the public. An overspill room had been set up to deal with the extra number of attendees to watch via a video link.
A considerable proportion of the room were born before 1948; Pollock highlighted that they would understand the fear of having no healthcare and had been responsible to pay exorbitant charges. Pollock reiterated on numerous occasions that the establishment of the NHS in 1948 gave “freedom from fear.”
Pollock began with a breakdown of the United States’ Healthcare system; in what she believes is the grim future we as a country are destined for.
Pollock’s statistics revealed how the U.S spends over 17% of GDP on an inefficient market economy healthcare system. 60 million people remain uninsured despite the recently introduced Affordable Care Act. 40% of personal bankruptcies relate to inability to pay healthcare bills.
The audience laughed with shock; in disbelief at the surreal, fraudulent and wasteful nature of the American system but also at the real possibility that this could be our future too.
Pollock reiterated on numerous occasions that the establishment of the NHS in 1948 gave “freedom from fear."
The skeleton of a U.S system can already be seen in the NHS now. Pollock referred to Lord David Owen’s comment that this was “no NHS that any of us can recognise.”
Since 1990 in particular, legislation has been passed that slowly erodes at the core principles of the NHS. Private Finance Initiatives introduced by John Major had been scarce, but exploded after 1997 under New Labour. Future generations are being saddled with the debt they created as private investment firms financed the building of new hospitals; yielding them enormous returns.
The Health and Social Care Act 2012 removed the duty on the Secretary of State for Health to provide a duty of care for all and opened the floodgates to private companies.
The tone of the lecture was sobering and sombre. Pollock argued her NHS Reinstatement Bill was “the only way to bring it back.” However, it currently needs cross party and public support and an MP who is willing to table the Bill. Pollock said she “would love” a North East MP to be involved.
I asked Allyson Pollock what message she has for younger people; who are unaware of the creeping privatisation of the NHS and face the future of an insurance based healthcare system.
“This is why I opened with the statement freedom from fear… there needs to be a dialogue with the older generation who remember what it is like without a National Health Service.” Pollock apologised for the mess made under New Labour. She concluded my question by saying “yours is the inspirational generation…the generation to bring it back.”