Written by Ruth Underdown
Nurse & Nurses.co.uk Specialist Writer
When Aneurin Bevin proposed the idea of a health service for all, free at the point of delivery, would he recognise the NHS that we have today?
Before the NHS, trips to the GP were paid per visit and if you couldn’t afford it, you didn’t see a doctor.
To a large extent, the public has forgotten what it feels like not to be able to afford medical care when they need it.
Already, in these times of austerity, there are frequent reports of patients rationing their medications to save on prescription charges.
If charging came into the NHS, those who needed care just wouldn’t access it.
With Clinical Commissioning Groups now tendering to private organisations to provide care, it is only a matter of time before charges are introduced to keep things competitive and profitable.
Where the NHS has been run "not for profit" and for the interests of the whole population, private investment has become an everyday part of the NHS world.
In 2018, we will be faced with ever increasing pressures on our services and for now, we still have free care at the point of delivery. There is no need to produce your credit card, insurance details or prove your right to eligible care whilst you have a heart attack or as the trauma team are concentrating on whether your airway is stable.
Nurses and doctors are deeply uncomfortable with the prospect of this ever happening. Our duty is to the patient. It’s about the right care at the right time for the person, regardless of their ability to pay.
With an increasing older population, health needs are more complex, and medicine is creating more ingenious ways of keeping people alive who would have otherwise perished. All this costs money.
Scapegoating health tourists, immigrants and drunks on New Year’s Eve as the reason for the restrictions to NHS services is not the answer, no matter what the press may suggest.
The NHS has always been a huge vessel to steer and will always be oversubscribed and underfunded. The difficulty is funding it sufficiently for the population it serves, and staffing it adequately in a manner that retains both nursing and medical staff.
This is more than a single Parliament problem. If ever there was argument for a cross party working agreement for the greater good of the nation rather than party politics, this (and Brexit) would be it.
But is this too much to hope for?
In the meantime, the doctors will keep treating patients, nurses will keep caring for the sick, and people will continue to grow older with more complex needs and not enough resources to give them the care they need and deserve.