“We need a counter-attack of just this kind”

This is the response from Julian Tudor Hart to a request for his support.

“Congratulations on your initiative. We need a counter-attack of just this kind.”

“When Nye Bevan made everything free in the NHS he designed in 1948, he knew what he was doing.  He took all health care completely out of the marketplace.  Health care was no longer a commodity, sold for profit and bought from fear.  It became a public service, a gift from taxpayers when they were well, to people with the misfortune to be ill: from each according to his or her ability, to each according to his or her need; a first helping of socialism, within which to learn how to behave in a new world of solidarity, where people would co-operate to help each other, rather than compete in an endless battle to reach the top of a dungheap.

 

Few people today remember that for the first five years or so of the NHS, there were absolutely no charges for anything.  Not only all prescriptions were free, so were glasses, eye tests, and all dental care.  Charges for these were re-introduced not because this was necessary, but to re-establish the principle that nobody must ever have anything they haven’t paid for personally, because even in Attlee’s cabinet, there were few real socialists.  Then as now, most of them paid more attention to what was said in the Daily Mail than the opinions of their voters.  When they re-imposed charges, Bevan resigned.

 

The contribution made by prescription charges to the NHS is much smaller than most people think, and there are other more effective alternatives.  One is to reduce wasteful and ineffective prescribing, particularly of antibiotics for minor virus infections for which they are in any case ineffective, and only help to develop resistant bacteria like MRSA.  The government is rightly campaigning to do this, and the BMA agrees with them.  Another would be to renegotiate the prices of medications, which are in many cases outrageous, bearing no relation to their true costs of production.  At present, pharmaceutical companies get a return of around 20% on their investments, guaranteed by an agreement between them and the government which has never been fully disclosed to the public because of commercial secrecy.  MPs should have tackled this long ago.  But in any case, this is not the main point.  We need to keep our eye on the ball: get back to the NHS as a gift economy, our first installment of a better future, where all of us move forward together, instead of each one trying to get ahead of the rest.”

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