O NHS, "vai durar enquanto houver gente com a fé para lutar por ele" (Bevan).
England is not alone in its assault on universal health care. Many European countries are cutting health service budgets in order to get help in dealing with the banking crisis. In 2012, Portugal raised user charges for health care by €150 million. In 2013, charges will be raised by another €50 million. Between 2011-12, Greece increased user fees and cut the country’s health budget by €1.4 billion. The Czech Republic cut their budget by 30%. At the end of last year Spain used the extraordinary device of a royal decree to repeal overnight its universal health care law and major reductions in health spending have been agreed in Ireland, Ukraine, Latvia, Romania, Hungary and Iceland, the Czech Republic, France, Netherlands and Austria. In all these cases, as in England, households are being forced to take on more of the financial risks of illness, rehabilitation and nursing care.
Meanwhile, in the low and middle-income countries of the world, international aid is increasingly aligned with policies that rely on households continuing to pay for health care. These policies set aside the World Health Organisation’s long-standing commitment to elimination of co-payments: an era of safety nets in which tax financed care is limited to the impoverished has replaced the era of universal access.
The results can only be diminished services for the poor and not-so-poor in a climate of growing injustice. Proponents of the argument that tax-financed or ‘free’ health care is a privilege we can no longer afford are unable to explain why universal health care was instituted when the world’s economy was very much smaller than it is today. If the UK could create an NHS when the country was literally bankrupt, why in England (but not in Scotland or Wales) can the government not sustain the NHS today?
The answer of course is political not financial. These changes are the culmination of a transition from public to private responsibility and control as market dogma spread by large global corporations and financial institutions has penetrated only to abolish an institution that has defined us in our own eyes and internationally. By repealing the government's mandate to provide a health service, the Health and Social Care Act 2012 marks another backward step in this long recessional from universality.
Bevan link said of the NHS it “will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it”. Many millions of people fought over a century to establish it, millions of us are still fighting for it today; on the streets, in our hospitals, in our campaign groups, in our trade unions, in the corridors of the BMA and the RCN, in the Royal Colleges, in local government and in our parliament. This wanton destruction of the legacy of two world wars and more than a century of activism and commitment to universal public health care is a public health catastrophe. It is an act of tyranny. The NHS in England must be re-established. Our response must be political too.
Allyson Pollock and David Price - Duty to care: In defence of universal health care link