When dying is right
January 24th 2017, 15:28
Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) is rated the fifth largest employer—not in the UK and Europe, but in the world! A remarkable 1.7 million people are employed by what is sometimes referred to as the ‘jewel in Britain’s welfare crown’. The only bigger global employers, in decreasing order of size, are the US Department of Defense (3.2 million), the People’s Liberation Army of China (2.3 million), Walmart (2.1 million) and McDonald’s (1.9 million).
But unlike those bigger four entities, the NHS is creaking and may be close to its last breaths of life. In fact, think tanks like the UK’s King’s Fund, tasked with finding ways of making the NHS more sustainable, have been saying it could go bust in just a few years. But with Brexit and Trumpism making people more flexible in terms of their vision of the future, that’s probably not as much of a shock as it was when the possibility was first mooted a few years ago.
Indeed, its financial collapse could be seen as part of the healing response, requiring it to jettison the bureaucratic junk, and bad and unnecessary medical practices, that have become synonymous with parts—but definitely not all—of the NHS behemoth.
But what’s at the root of the failures that could lead to the death of this nationalized system that offers ‘free’ (actually taxpayer-funded) health services to all and sundry?
As ever, the answers aren’t simple. The bigger the beast, the more complex the problems and the more difficult they are to fix. This is also a major case of ‘elephant-in-the-room syndrome’, where those responsible fail to voice things that seem patently obvious to those looking in from the outside.
One of those ‘elephants’ is the fact that the NHS is massively overburdened by easily preventable conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and mental-health issues, and it’s never been able to find ways of fixing these problems outside of its own infrastructure of GP surgeries, hospitals and clinics. Such places are designed to treat or manage disease, not prevent them.
Another elephant is incredibly poor management, as too many doctors (who are trained in medicine and not in business) have found their way into administrative roles that they can’t adequately fulfil.
Only last week, I heard that one major London hospital cancelled nearly £80,000-worth of operations because the heating had broken down in some operating theatres, and surgeons were unable to find someone responsible for it. The management system was simply too amorphous for such a practical detail.
Yet another elephant in the room is the indisputable evidence that drug-free, natural approaches represent the most powerful medicines we have, especially when dealing with the very chronic diseases crippling the NHS.
Yet both the UK and EU governments have consistently been putting up roadblocks to our access to the best natural healthcare products and services available.
As the EU obstacles have been among the most draconian seen anywhere in the world, the UK’s bid to distance itself from EU laws with Brexit provides a huge opportunity to develop a healthcare plus associated regulatory system that genuinely works in the interests of the people.
But to get to that point, massive public and political pressure is needed. We have to dismantle the obstacles and get on with it sooner, rather than later, because it’s not just something we would like, it’s essential to the wellbeing and survival of our future generations. Big Food and sedentary lifestyles provide the fodder that makes us sick at ever-younger ages, and the pharmaceutical-dependent medical model profits from treating and managing—and deliberately not curing—the diseased population.
Through a House of Lords Select Committee report published recently, the NHS has been given further guidance by panels of carefully selected ‘experts’ aiming to make the system more sustainable. But it’s only more tokenism and lip service that, as history has repeatedly shown, will come to nothing.
The NHS is simply too big and unwieldy to change fundamentally—its very structure is the problem. It may have been a jewel once, but now it’s based on UK government data and responsible for the same degree of risk of preventable deaths as British military personnel deployed in war zones of the Middle East.
If the NHS weren’t broken, it wouldn’t need fixing. It’s now time to consider that the best way to fix it is to let it die, to pull it off its life support sooner rather than later.
Let the winds of Brexit bring with it a change in direction that will allow the entire edifice to be reimagined as a dynamic, resilient health service that genuinely acts in the interests of the British public. To do this, it will have to not just manage disease, but also be responsible for preventing it, and it will need to become a lot less dependent on the use of new-to-nature drugs. The days of a ‘pill-for-every-ill’ approach have never looked quite so numbered.