25 Aug 2009

Tell truth on NHS

Back to blogging - last few days been trying to catch up on emails - here's one that could do with your help....as you will know there's a fierce debate in the US about Barack Obama's proposals for public healthcare, and our British healthcare system has become a political football. This blog touches on two campaigns and then reminds us of Michael Moores film Sicko' (available in Blockbuster locally).

Cartoon: Russ

Here's what campaign group 38 degrees has to say: "Opponents, including some British conservatives, are deliberately misrepresenting the NHS for political purposes. For example at the bottom of this message we've pasted a forwarded email from right-wingers appealing for NHS "horror stories" to spread round America. The NHS may not be perfect, but it is worth standing up for. We've made it easier to tell ordinary Americans the truth about British healthcare, by teaming up with a leading American website Mother Jones. They'll reach over 2 million Americans with our message of support for the NHS. Please add your name, and share your stories our how our health service has benefited you or your family. The more people who add their name, the more likely this is to send positive ripples across the US."

Meanwhile Avaaz has also launched a campaign in the US - here is what they say: "US healthcare is run by large corporations - it's the most expensive in the world, but ranks 37th in quality, and 40 million Americans can't afford any care at all. It's an awful system for people, but corporations make enormous profits, so they're fighting to keep it. If they win and Obama fails, the Democrats could lose the Congress in elections next year. If this happens, progress on every global issue is endangered, from climate change to the war in Iraq."

Show your support for the NHS by adding your name - click here. And click here for the Avaaz campaign in the US.

38 degrees continue: "Mother Jones is a US web site and magazine which reaches over 2 million Americans every month. They want to cover our perspective on the NHS. As editor Jay Harris says: 'Right now, the media coverage about the future of my country's healthcare system is filled with distortions and lies about the NHS. Ordinary British people can help bring sanity - and facts - back into this debate by stepping up to set the record straight. Please help!'

"It's up to Americans to decide whether or not to adopt public healthcare in the USA. But currently lies about our health service are being spread by special interests backed by huge sums of money. We can help balance the debate by setting the record straight and sharing real stories of what it's like to have a healthcare system where getting decent treatment doesn't depend on the state of your finances."

See myths about the reforms here. In fact I would like to have seen more about the campaign here in the UK to "Keep Our NHS Public" - it seems that while the US are looking to the NHS we have been far too much following the US down the road to more and more privatisation. I came across an old Guardian article here that shows the massive profits being made on PFI schemes including those with the NHS.

Unlike the Thatcher privatisations of the 1980s, the whole NHS is not being put up for auction. Instead, it has been slowly parcelled up into bite-sized pieces and handed over to private control bit by bit by Labour. This is happening on such a scale and at such pace as to make it a unique phenomenon - yet it is hardly in the news....

Alex Nunns, of Keep Our NHS Public, said: "Unbeknown to the public, the NHS is paying astronomical sums of money to the private sector. When the NHS is making cuts and closures across the country, it's time to ask if this is the best use of public money." Indeed.

See also the 2005 report "In the Interests of Patients? Examining the impact of the creation of a competitive commercial market in the provision of NHS Care".

All this reminds me of 'Sicko' when Michael Moore travels to Britain, France and Cuba in his documentary diagnosis of the US's healthcare system. When it came out the Green Party highlighted how continued privatisation (by stealth) of the NHS is turning the NHS, step-by-step, into that model of ill-health - the US health care system.

'Sicko' demonstrates the dreadful state of US health care driven by private profit, which despite spending 50 per cent more per person than the UK, still leaves tens of millions without access to health care. Stuart Jeffery, Health Spokesperson for the Green Party said at the time: "Michael Moore's new film shows us exactly what kind of health care system we must avoid. It is therefore shameful that the UK is incrementally adopting the US system, with increasing privatisation of health care and support services, and an increasing reliance on the health care market to provide care. We have seen the appalling waste of money that the Independent Treatment Centres have provided across the country, the huge amount spent on private management consultants, and the disgraceful Private Finance Initiative that has mortgaged hospitals across the country and driven up costs. Yet, Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems are all wedded to their corporate friends. We will be showing our support for the NHS demonstration on the 3rd of November. and at this Friday's UK opening of Sicko, and we thank Michael Moore for showing us clearly how a health care system should not be run."

However for those who have seen Sicko it is worth reading Allyson Pollock, author of the excellent book NHS plc, in the Guardian on 'What Sicko doesn't tell you..' - see article here.

1 comment:

Philip Booth said...

From Starhawk:

Hey friends,

Just a short note today to urge you to write or call President Obama and urge him to hold strong on health care. An article this morning I found in Truthout suggests he is about to bow to Republican pressure and drop the public option. Of course, most of us would strongly prefer a single payer system, like the rest of the civilized world, but at minimum we need that public option. I for one cannot wait to drop my incredibly overpriced private insurance—which, as an aging woman who has been self-employed all my life, I now spend more on than I do for mortgage payments or food each month. And I’m one of the lucky ones—I have insurance, (thanks to my mother nagging and nagging me to get it back when I was in my twenties) and I’m basically pretty healthy.

I know so many people who don’t have health insurance at all—and because of it, don’t get health care. They don’t get regular checkups or preventive care. They put off getting needed things done, and when they can’t put something off any longer, they end up either getting substandard care or going to the emergency room where care is far more expensive for everyone (and that’s why you often have to wait hours to get seen there!)

I hear a lot of people complaining that Obama is not progressive enough. Damn right—he’s not. But the only way he can move in that direction is if we mount enough public pressure to counter the virulent right-wing shock troops. So stop complaining to me and send a letter to him. Go online and leave a comment. Call the comments line (It’s hard to get through, which I hope is a good sign!) Show up at the town meetings in your area.

Some of you might say—why bother with the system, isn’t it broken beyond repair? Doesn’t this prove it? But this battle isn’t just about the health care issue, or whether electoral politics can work. It’s about whether a small group of well funded thugs can hijack the system against the will of the vast majority, stick a knife into the back tire of that old clunker, democracy, and force it to pull to the right. If they succeed, they’ll be back for more on other crucial issues—like climate change, probably the biggest issue any of us will face in our lives. If they succeed, we’re taking that sharp turn back toward Thugville U.S.A., sister city of Fascism, The World.

Here’s the contact info: Stay on the line until you hear that calm voice, more soothing than your personal therapist, who wants to hear your story!

White House
Comments: 202-456-1111
Switchboard: 202-456-1414
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500