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A local debate about the NHS

A balanced post at Ipswich Spy on the Health and Social Care Bill, at present being debated in the House of Lords, ends with this:

We criticised David Ellesmere’s Labour group for running a campaign against the Tories on the NHS. We now think we were wrong to do so, that he was absolutely right to push them on the NHS. Even the local Tories are confused about what is going on.


This contrition is sparked by piece written by another local blogger, Gavin Maclure, a Conservative.

I happen to agree with Maclure that doctors are not the right people to run the National Health Service. But I profoundly disagree with much of what he says about it.

Why, I wonder, is it “rabid Socialists” who say how wonderful are our nurses and doctors. He does have a dig at David Cameron (I think he is a Tory) for his support of the NHS too. He distains all who trust their medics.

He goes on to say: “Even Lenin would have found it difficult to dream up the NHS – it is a perfect Communist organisation where everyone is treated the same as if we were all the same.”

Well, Lenin had been dead for a quarter of a century when the NHS was formed. In Lennin’s time I don’t believe anyone it the world would have dreamed of such an organisation. If anyone dreamed up the NHS it was William Beveridge who was for a time a member of the Liberal party.

It fell to Nye Beavan, in the post-war Labour government, to bring in the NHS. He certainly saw it as a step on the road to socialism but his plans were constrained by the opposition of doctors.

Eventually he got their co-operation by allowing consultants to work for the NHS and continue their private work. “Stuffing their mouths with gold,” he called it.

In various ways governments of all hues have continued to appease doctors ever since. So I have great concerns about putting doctors in charge of the shop.

Maclure seems to have a visceral hatred of doctors and the health service. He complains about being told he could not see a doctor and been given an appointment with a nurse practitioner “whatever one of those is” who could not help him.

I have no reason to doubt his account but some of the best, most competent people I have come across in the health service have been nurse practitioners.

If Maclure’s behaviour reflects the intemperate way he writes about doctors, I am not in the least surprised that he has bad experiences.

The NHS is not perfect. There is waste of money. There are good doctors and nurses and bad doctors and nurses. But on the whole it is a lot better than health services in most countries and does not deserve the “permanent revolution” it has been subjected to by Labour and Conservative governments. That is a Marist term.

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