Thoughts on Our National Health Service


Too many people and not enough money to go round. It has been like this for a very long time. Money will always be found for war, but there’s never enough for peace. Growing old is a curse that all must come to – if they survive long enough. Being valued for what you have contributed throughout your lifetime is no longer relevant. If you’re old – you’re a nuisance as soon as you need those regular visits to the GP or hospital.

About ten years ago there was a vibrant older people’s movement holding enthusiastic annual rallies at Blackpool that engendered little or no coverage by the national media. Neither the much publicised Joan Bakewell, Tony Blair’s appointed Older People’s Champion, nor Ruth Marks, the Older People’s Champion appointed by the newly devolved Welsh Assembly Government, considered it worth making the effort to do more than send representatives rather than appear in person when invited to attend.

As for the NHS, it’s been a gradual descent for a once great concept into the current chaos since Barbara Castle was Health Minister and started tinkering with a system that was working reasonably well. Sadly, successive ‘Health Ministers’ have considered it their duty to add their own five-pennyworth of tinkering ever since – until we are now faced with a mire of bureaucratic paperwork, mismanagement, and wasted money that probably began with the catastrophic mistake of getting rid of matrons, deputy matrons, almoners and the chairman of the board of governors who oversaw the day to day running of every hospital and then replacing them with a plethora of clerks, secretaries, receptionists, administrators, managers and chief executives; all of whom have to be paid – some with exorbitant salaries – instead of providing the necessary number of nurses and doctors so vital to an effective service.

Nurses used to be trained in their own hospitals – and were excellent at their job – they had to be or matron would have descended on them like a battle-ship in full sail. Nowadays, too many new nurses have degrees first, then start nursing. They are adept at pressing the right computer buttons, but appear to be sparing with the actual caring-for-patients that might involve menial tasks like washing and tending to the very personal, but basic side of nursing as we knew it. This might of course be because numbers are too few, or because those with degrees consider themselves too well qualified for such demeaning tasks; either way, patients suffer – with often fatal results.

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