Sixty five years ago today the post-war Labour Government, determined to combat social injustice, created the National Health Service and put an end to people being denied healthcare because they could not afford it.
Until that day illness came with a financial, as well as personal cost, the ending of which has undoubtedly been one of the most successful things any British Government has ever achieved.
Fast forward to 2013 and the NHS is still going strong, and is one of this country’s most cherished public institutions. It stands as a symbol of fairness and common decency, and an example of what civilised society should strive towards.
More so than any other public body, it represents our commitment to one another with a pledge to ensure that no person, whatever their background or social status, will be left to suffer illness alone.
It is that idea of shared responsibility that has made the NHS is so popular, and ensured that it has endured with its founding principles largely unchanged since 1948.
However, despite the popular belief that the NHS is politically untouchable, we now have a Government that is making changes that pose unprecedented threats to our health service.
Despite specifically pledging not to do so, David Cameron embarked on a massive top-down reorganisation of the NHS which has sucked resources away from frontline services, and brought chaos to local services at a time when funding is already being severely squeezed.
Besides the practical difficulties being caused by this upheaval at the frontline, the reforms are also designed to introduce further marketisation into the NHS, which some fear will lead to health services being privatised and for profit.
This is not in the interest of patients or in line with the services’ founding principles. So whilst it is important that today serves as an opportunity to celebrate the successes of the NHS over the past six decades, it should also be a time for us to reaffirm our commitment to it, and pledge to preserve it for the future.
I hope that in 2015, we have a Labour Government that can reverse Tory attacks on the NHS and ensure that we have a health service run in the interests of patients, and available to all who need it.
Date published: July 5th 2013