A National Health Service

Too much of the discussion about the National Health Service¬†seems to assume that its raison d’√™tre was the provision of medical care without payment by the recipient at the time of its delivery.

There are many ways in which that might have been achieved. The diagnosis and treatment of ill health in individuals, without payment at the time, is not an end in itself, but one of the means to an end. That end is the national health. It was to that end that the NHS was created for four main reasons.

First, a healthy nation is a less unequal nation, and a national health service can be considered as part of a nation’s apparatus of social justice.

Second, the health of a nation is an important national economic resource, and a national health service can be an important contributor to a nation’s wealth.

Third, a healthy nation is a more secure nation. The development of publicly funded health services in the early twentieth century, which culminated in the consolidation embodied in the creation of the NHS, began with the discovery that a large proportion of young men were unfit to serve in the armed forces in the war in South Africa.

Fourth, pursuit of a healthier nation requires the implementation of a national strategy in which the health care of individual citizens is complemented by public health programmes of health protection and health promotion.

These are the compelling reasons why a comprehensive and integrated service, funded from national taxation and accountable to the people through parliament and via a responsible minister, is preferable to one provided by piecemeal entrepreneurial agencies and insurers. In my view, the re- establishment of the NHS as a vital national resource, should be a prime objective of any political party seeking to replace the present administration.