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View from the house: We must defend our free health service

PUBLISHED: 08:02 15 July 2018

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The National Health Service has just celebrated its 70th birthday and last weekend I took part in street stalls in Wanstead, Leytonstone and Leyton.

It has often been said that the NHS is now the nearest thing Britain possesses to a national religion.

There are very good reasons for the affection in which our health service is held. Before its creation the fear of illness was visceral. Serious illness often meant real, grinding poverty for the sufferer and his or her family.

In most areas there were no safety nets but there were exceptions to this. For instance, the Transport and General Workers’ Union built a pre-NHS hospital in north London.

Nye Bevan, founder of the NHS, had grown up in Tredegar, a community built on coal.

Many decades before the health service the Tredegar Workmen’s Medical Aid Society was formed to provide basic health care for poor families.

During the 70th anniversary, much has been made of the fact that Bevan drew inspiration from the society when creating the NHS. This has probably been exaggerated.

But the principle of individuals being cared for by collective endeavour has applied to both the society and the NHS.

But in eight years the NHS has been brought to its knees by back-door privatisation and massive cuts.

In celebrating its creation we should bear in mind that unless a fully public NHS free at the point of need is defended, it could disappear.


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