Thatcher and our NHS


For many the outpourings of praise heaped on Mrs Thatcher strike the sourest note.  For us she symbolised how our country began down the wrong road; from a post war journey where we hoped for greater social justice, equality, tolerance and comradeship to the rise of rampant individualism, the death of society and the rise of greed is good.  Those who gained no doubt welcomed the change as they banked the proceeds, but the promised trickle down from allowing greed to triumph never materialised – the price was not worth paying.  The price for many families and communities was very high.

During her period in office our NHS went through some of the darkest days, starved of funds prone to annual winter crisis with patients often waiting so long for vital treatment that they died.  Her response was not to invest, to support the hard pressed staff, to show her personal support.  Her solution was the start of fragmentation and the rise of the myth that competition is what delivers reform best. The solution she favoured of privatisation, markets and competition eluded her throughout her time in office and it is ironic that in the week of her death we see the worst aspects of the pro markets Health & Social Care Act coming into force.

When we think of all she stood for we can work out what we need to do to prevent it.  Labour in power did much that restored our NHS in terms of investment and support but it never fully removed the quasi market; trying many equally unsuccessful versions of commissioner/provider split.  But our NHS has proved resilient and the ideological drive to destroy it has not yet succeeded.

For the next general election Labour has to offer a real alternative of the kind now being developed by Andy Burnham beginning with the repeal of the Health & Social Care Act and all that symbolises.

“If Margaret Thatcher is re-elected as prime minister on Thursday, I warn you. I warn you that you will have pain ­ when healing and relief depend upon payment.”

Neil Kinnock 1983