The National Health Service is the jewel in the crown of great Liberal ideas. In the midst of your Spring conference, I urge you to be reawakened by the spirit of Beveridge and return our NHS from the precipice to which your partners in government are pushing it.
‘We should regard want, idleness, ignorance, squalor and disease as enemies of us all …..That is the meaning a social conscience, that we refuse to make a separate peace with evil.’ Quite so. Beveridge’s vision of a welfare state should still say it all for the party you lead. The proposals in the Health and Social Care Bill will lead to the break up of the greatest statement of Liberal aspiration for fairness and free health care for all, based on need, not on ability to pay. The current proposals lay open our most cherished public service to the perversity of European Competition Law – a licence for private companies to challenge state provision, dip in, and duck out of services depending on how much they might make from them. The public purse will be emptied by privatised health commissioners, buying services from privatised health service providers. Those who cannot afford to take themselves out of reliance on our vestigial health services will be left to suffer and die as are one fifth of the Americans now. We will need a new Beveridge to remind us of what we have lost and what we must recreate.
‘“Ignorance is an evil weed, which dictators may cultivate among their dupes, but which no democracy can afford among its citizens.’ The combined ranks of health workers, trade unions, Royal Colleges, patient interests groups and large numbers of your party cannot all be accused of ignorance about the true intentions of the Health and Social Care Bill. The evil weed is being cultivated by your partners in government- you can grow it with them, or chop it down.
‘The object of government in peace and in war is not the glory of rulers or of races, but the happiness of common man.’ Please do not sacrifice the principles of why you wish to govern for the attractions of office- power for its own sake, instead of power for good. You have it in your power to call for the withdrawal of this poisonous bill.
Do not let the darker words of Beveridge come to haunt your office. ‘The trouble in modern democracy is that men do not approach to leadership until they have lost the desire to lead anyone.’
John Middleton Public Health Physician