As a national institution, the NHS has surpassed the Monarchy as the one which kindles and maximises our sense of national pride. NHS has become shorthand for social democracy, for an idealised model of public service. Its sterling work looking after our hearts is symbolic of itself as a beating heart for the nation.
It is perhaps unsurprising that there has been a flurry of interest finding its way in to the core of public strategies for the NHS, given the threat to its sustainability which has erupted in to crises as recently as this summer. For example, the Barker Commission has recommended reimagining its core values to reflect the challenges posed by demographic demands like higher life expectancies, changing disease burdens and an ageing population.
As evangelists for the original virtues on which the Atlee government founded the NHS, virtues which swept away the evils of the five pillars, for example, want, you might say the Barker Commission is a cynical government attempt to erode the foundations on which our laureled public service has been based, and on which it has thrived, and succeeded, and inspired health services the world around.
But the ideology of the Barker Commission is not apparent. It appears for all extents and purposes an impartial, factually accurate and objective analysis of the challenges the NHS faces relative to changing demographic factors. That is to say, it is scientifically legitimate. Moreover, it is consistent with Tom Paine's radical view of social democracy to redraw the constitutions of its institutions as often as possible, to preempt their decay.
Chris Hay of the Kings Fund cited the Barker Commission during a recent lecture on the state of the NHS broadcast on BBC Parliament. He drew a sharp distinction between the expectations of the public for a health and social security system as sophisticated as those in Northern Europe, and our complacency with the scissor hands of parliament shredding public spending to US levels and coalescing our model of health and social care with the marketised system in the states.
He noted that whilst it is inspiring the NHS stokes more national pride than the Monarchy, it is the biggest issue of concern, left and right, beyond Brexit, imbued with an aura of pessimism, with only 15% believing things get better for the NHS, being ever aware of the dearth of funding, and jobs.
On the left, and right, then, we can all agree the only feasible future for an NHS that continues to inspire national pride and meet the demographic demands of a changing population is one which codifies proper investment, funding, and a democratic organisational infrastructure redolent of the Northern European healthcare systems, not the charlatan shark system of the states.