Friday, 18 May 2018
I’ve started and abandoned a dozen blogs since the last I posted and simply not had the time to ride those thought buses to the terminus. It’s happening more and more just lately as deadlines for real work appear on the distant horizon then suddenly loom large before disappearing in the rear view mirror; forgotten ticked-off events that mark my passage towards my own ultimate deadline. This might sound a tad morbid and forlorn but it’s natural to wonder about how we prepare to meet the end.
Oh, I’m sure I have a couple of active decades left in me yet, but how active and more importantly, with what level of agency? Given the parlous state of, well, everything, will there be enough left in the pot – both mine and the state’s – to facilitate a dignified descent into comfortable docility, or will there simply be no pot left to even piss in? Even the most optimistic of us, even the luckiest, must surely entertain dark thoughts, on occasion, about what might lay ahead.
All of which is why, whether we believe in it or not, whether we worship at its altar or avoid it altogether, we really should be concerned about the state of the National Health Service. Once a ground-breaking and quite possibly world-beating system of keeping the labour force healthy and productive it has become a deified monolith of gargantuan proportions. It employs a ridiculous number of people – yet there are daily calls for more – and it consumes a huge amount of ever-more-thinly stretched national resources. And as its customer base expands exponentially this is a situation which can only worsen.
Those who paid for it all – the elderly who now rely on it and who also need social care, now that society has abrogated responsibility to government for every aspect of its wellbeing – are unsurprisingly disdainful of how its largesse is extended to all comers. The free-at-the-point-of-use model is no longer viable as fewer and fewer people now actually contribute to its funding, yet more and more funding is demanded. The whole thing is on a one-way journey to collapse unless something new happens.
The decades-long row between Conservatives and Labour over this supposed national treasure isn’t good enough. Labour must not be allowed to get away with demanding ever more money yet having no realistic method by which to raise it. And the Conservatives must stop throwing £billions into its gaping maw while kicking the can of unpopular reform further down the road to ruin; nobody is listening when they insist that they have spent more than Labour ever did, because all they see is their grandmother waiting months in agony for a hip replacement.
The Tories have got to stop trying to appear reasonable; they lost the insincere battle for popularity far too long ago. That is the Labour confidence trick and it’s wearing thin. We don’t need reasonable, we need backbone and a dose of effective medicine – a political emetic to vomit up the flux. Stop gingerly picking at the scab and prolonging the pain; steel yourself for the sting and rip the damned thing off. People will complain whatever is done, but until what is done is drastic and transformative, the only thing you will hear will be those complaints.
When a structure is crumbling, there is only so much you can do to shore it up. There comes a time when you need to cut your losses, tear it down and start over. The NHS is not a unique and inviolable, precious thing which cannot be touched. It is just another symptom of the loss of British backbone, identity and resolve. And part of that Britishness was not relying on others to fix our problems. We may have already lost the ability to deal with all this, but if we don’t heal ourselves, who else do we think is going to do it?