This is our truth, tell us yours
Picture the scene. It is a hot summers Sunday afternoon, and your young baby wont settle. You are not a medical professional but you know something isn’t right. It’s fretful, wont feed and as far as you can tell from the thermometer strip which doesn’t seem to want to stick to the babies head, it has a temperature. Deciding to try the simple things first you strip it, and that is when you notice the rash.
Every meningitis campaign has warned you of the dangers, and the symptoms, but it is impossible to ask a crying six month old if it has a stiff neck, or an aversion to light. You have a rash though, and a fever, and need help quickly while your partner reads up on how to do the glass test on a baby who wont stay still and hasn’t read the same books.You are living hand to mouth and have no car, no internet and no family nearby. You need a person who knows what they are doing, even while you send silent prayers to whoever might listen that you are overreacting.
Luckily you have someone at the end of the phone. Not the Tory bastardized NHS Direct but a service run by trained professionals who call you back and know what they are doing instead of reading from a computer generated check list. They arrange an appointment with the emergency out of hours GP and less than an hour and a half later the baby is sitting in a childrens ward surrounded by the people who can help.
Luckily it was just a rash, after 8 hours of observations you return home, apologizing profusely and being told never to be sorry for being alert to what could have been so serious. This is what the NHS is meant to do, and it is what NHS Direct helped so many people with. It signposted, it gave guidance, it reassured and perhaps most importantly it ensured that other services were not overwhelmed. We could have gone to A&E, but if it had been meningitis then any delay could have been fatal.
NHS direct closed today, the ConDems watered it down introducing NHS choices which is little more than a multiple choice website. They have hidden its closure, bringing it forward, and the news isn’t even reporting it. NHS Direct, a vital lifeline for so many is no more. What will be the implications? Without the signposting of NHS Direct more people will be forced to go to A&E, overburdening an already creaking service. Then the Condems can claim the NHS isn’t up to the job of universal provision, even while they have created the issues that are causing the NHS to creak at the seams. Reducing services, creating bottlenecks, ignoring the risks this puts people in, all of these are deliberate policies.
The Tories and their simpering wingmen in the LibDems want to privatize the NHS. They see universal provision as an anethma to all they believe in. If you have not earnt the money to pay for decent health care, you do not deserve it. The Tories know though that the NHS occupies a very special place in our hearts. If they are to dismantle it, and they have already started, selling off the blood transfusion service for example, then they need to convince the public the NHS is failing. Deaths on trolleys in A&E is an excellent way for them to claim, look, the NHS cannot do the job. The closure of NHS Direct is another body the Tories are being allowed to bury in the massacre of public services, we need to wake up before there is nothing left.
- That is why no amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical or social seduction, can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party that inflicted those bitter experiences on me. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin. They condemned millions of first-class people to semi-starvation. Now the Tories are pouring out money in propaganda of all sorts and are hoping by this organised sustained mass suggestion to eradicate from our minds all memory of what we went through. But, I warn you young men and women, do not listen to what they are saying now. Do not listen to the seductions of Lord Woolton. He is a very good salesman. If you are selling shoddy stuff you have to be a good salesman. But I warn you they have not changed, or if they have they are slightly worse than they were.
- Speech on 3 July 1948 at the Bellevue Hotel, on eve of the entry into force of the National Health Service.