Nearly everything the Tories say and do is, in the final instance, a reflection of the needs of global capital. They are the mouth piece of the corporate world and have been since the arrival of the Thatcherite neoliberal revolution. Even national capital now plays second fiddle to global capital. And of course we should expect nothing different. Labour in government however has proved to be equally compliant and even in opposition we struggle to find a radical edge to their policies. No more so than in respect to the NHS. So the big Labour ideas around the NHS is all about protecting budgets, getting more staff in and merging health provision and social care. Fair enough in itself, but on further refection these  policies go nowhere near addressing the real issues concerning health care in the 21st century in a post industrial age. With a dramatically aging population relative to the working population, and the demand for treatments that will supposedly provide an ever increasing life expectancy, the status quo simply will not suffice. Something far more radical will be required.

The Tory Party and those Tories currently at home in the Labour, Liberal and UK Parties know exactly what their big radical idea is – privatise the damn thing. Labour in Government gave a big push in this direction by inadvertently or otherwise introducing the PFI scams into the equation. The NHS is still paying the bills for that little Blairite wheeze. But where is Labour’s big radical idea for the NHS today? It simply doesn’t have one. And the reason it doesn’t have one is it is stuck in the mind-set of cure rather than prevention. And until it reverses that equation it will be forever desperately looking for ways to finance a financial black hole. Even if a British Government were to double expenditure on the NHS, it would still, under the current model of health care, find itself eventually propping up a sinking ship. 

To be truly radical, Labour must switch the whole priority of the NHS from one of curing existing ailments to one of preventing them. Of course such a reversal sounds radical. And it is. It’s also just damn obvious. Go to any high street in Britain and what do you see? Purveyors of junk food by the dozen. One after another they are stuffing the nation full of burgers and kebabs and pizzas. And for desert? Mountains of sugary sweets and cakes all washed down with rivers of sugary drinks. This is a daily occurrence for millions of British citizens, parents and children alike, and no amount of medical intervention is going to halt a national decline in our collective health. There is a huge class implication to all of this but one the Labour Party would rather not acknowledge. Too sensitive I suspect. Nobody likes to be lectured on their poor eating habits.

Add to our increasing poor diet we can add the national trend towards a sedentary lifestyle. Or to put it more bluntly, we are rapidly becoming a nation of obese layabouts. We simply don’t exercise nearly enough to burn off the high calorie diet that we have all readily bought into. Although I suggested health is a class issue, it is not exclusively so. The middle classes are also slipping into poor habits and  as for alcohol over-consumption, we note from the latest statistics that the middle classes could teach the prols a thing or two. The middle classes simply carry out their over-indulgence a little more discreetly than us noisy plebs. Knocking over a bottle or two of fine wine in the privacy of one’s own castle is just as detrimental to health as swigging back the pints in your local boozer.

Of course there is another dimension to our deteriorating health profile than just poor diet, over consumption of alcohol and too little exercise. And this one definitely cuts across the class divide. We are nearly all, to some degree or other, suffering from high levels of stress and anxiety. It can present itself in a host of ways, the most common being sleeplessness and perpetual tiredness. Left to fester and this anxiety can manifest itself in long term depression And what is the NHS expected to do about this volcano of stress? Pump us full of anti-depressants and sleeping pills. Well I suppose it dulls the pain but it certainly doesn’t remotely begin to address the root cause.

It’s all a rather depressing picture if you’ll excuse the pun. A nation hooked on sugary junk food, a sedentary TV culture and a cocktail of pills to dull the senses .And when the obesity level gets critical, offer the patient a stomach stapling operation.  It all boils down to a modern dystopia that you would hardly believe if it was served up in a sci-fi novel. And the dystopia is made all the more sinister when you remember that lurking behind this health time bomb are the avaricious transnational pharmaceutical companies and food giants like Heinz, Coke and McDonalds.

So when we consider whether a shift of emphasis from cure to prevention is a radical idea, we should remind ourselves that to do so is to confront the power and near omniscient influence of the corporate world. And what could be more radical than that? Little wonder our political parties are shying away from such an approach. No party, with perhaps the Greens as the noble exception, are going to talk about taking on the might of the transnationals. Incidentally, the main political parties could do a lot worse than to devote some serious time to the Green Party manifesto on health – a comprehensive and inspiring document offering a holistic approach to the nation’s health, incorporating among other things the declining state of the environment, the chronic and criminal state of the housing market and the rapidly deteriorating working conditions that so many must now experience.

 Rupert Murdoch and the rest of the rabid tory press would certain would take an exceedingly dim view of any anti-corporatist health policies put forward by any of the major parties. So it seems Labour is either content or just too frightened to do anything but stick with the crumbling status quo with just a few tweaks to differentiate its policies from its Tory rivals.

If the  establishment of the NHS was a radical concept in 1945, and it most definitely was, and if today’s Labour Party wants to honour that radicalism it must be equally radical and shift its entire approach from one of budgets, drugs and surgery to that of education, education, education. GP’s must quit dispensing the mind numbing drugs and instead educate and encourage the populous to live a more healthy life. Oh and a hefty dose of government regulation against the corporates would not go amiss either. Force the food industry to clean up its act and take the sugary poisons and the rest of the junk out of the food chain once and for all. The real crisis of the NHS is not so much lack of resources but the totally wrong orientation. It’s time to be truly radical again. Adopt the new slogan: Prevention is better than cure.   

End JPK Copyright 14/4/15

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Last Updated ( Sunday, 19 April 2015 17:20 )