A human rights vision for health care is not modest. But it doesn’t need many words. Let’s try it:
We need a health care system that
· meets the needs of everyone,
· is free at the point of delivery,
· is based on clinical need, not ability to pay
That sounds too ambitious? Too expensive? Too disruptive of the status quo? Except it already exists. Just not in this country. These are the principles on which the National Health Service of England was founded exactly 60 years ago. Happy Birthday, NHS!
While we’re celebrating our independence from Britain, they are celebrating their health care system, conceived on July 5, 1948. So what did we miss out on? For example, a strong commitment to protecting our health, as set out in the proposed preamble to the new NHS constitution:
“The NHS belongs to the people. It is there to improve our health, supporting us to keep mentally and physically well, to get better when we are ill and, when we cannot fully recover, to stay as well as we can. It works at the limits of science – bringing the highest levels of human knowledge and skill to save lives and improve health. It touches our lives at times of basic human need, when care and compassion are what matter most.”
The new draft constitution is currently open for comments from the people – everyone can participate in designing their health care system’s guiding principles and values, rights and responsibilities.
But what about translating commitments and principles into practice – how has the NHS fared in reality? Let’s hear it from some who should know, NHS staff and patients:
‘I’m proud to work in the NHS because we treat everyone regardless of insurance, age, race, religion, social class, etc. I chose to be a nurse in the NHS to help people become healthier, help them through their illness and to just work with a wide variety of people.’
‘Where else do you have people with different skill mix, cultures, beliefs come together for one common goal of improving someone’s wellbeing?’
‘Such a wonderful dream 60 years ago – free health care is a great thing and has huge numbers of dedicated staff.’
‘The NHS is a beacon and the greatest example of how a society should care for the disadvantaged.’
‘No matter who you are you’re equal in the NHS. Long may it endure.’
‘It is free at the point of need. I have had many operations over the years (I am 77) and hope that the NHS is Never privatized either overtly or by the back door!’
Despite this praise, the threat of privatization, afflicting public services throughout the world, is always all too present. U.S. hospital corporations have their eyes set on new overseas markets to rake in further profits. Let’s hope people in Britain have heard about poor health outcomes in the U.S., and will keep their doors shut to these modern day invaders from the New World. May they look forward to another 60 years of universal health care.