Most of us speak from the heart when we speak about the NHS.
It’s something far more than a service; something far greater than a national institution.
It’s an integral aspect of British life.
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to describe the NHS as a theatre in which our lives’ greatest triumphs play out alongside our most heart-wrenching tragedies.
It remains the Labour Party’s finest achievement: universal healthcare delivered free of charge at the point of use.
Few of us could imagine living with the American system that accounts for 66% of bankruptcies. Few of us could imagine having to keep money aside for an unexpected medical emergency, something that only 40% of contemporary Americans have done.
To the British mind, such a system is unthinkable… except when we compare it to the provision of social care to the elderly.
Currently, one in every ten senior citizens spends more than £100,000 on care. Many who were fortunate enough to have owned their own homes will spend the property’s entire sale price on meeting the cost of their infirmity.
I regard this as a terrible, senseless injustice. Why do we invest so much in people, from childhood to retirement, only to give up on them at the end?
What is a working life worth, if it amounts only to the hope that we amass enough ‘wealth’ to cover the cost of being old?
With the Tories cutting £4.6 Billion from social care budgets during the previous Parliament, the injustice seems not merely senseless, but terrifying.
Councils face unacceptable pressures; the burden on the NHS has been significantly increased; the elderly, too often, endure unbearable neglect.
Hence I was excited to learn that the Labour Party, the Party that gave us the National Health Service, plans now to give us a National Care Service. Led by Jeremy Corbyn, a Labour government will plug the Tory funding gap, pumping £8 Billion into social care budgets over the lifetime of the Parliament, and create the National Care Service to run parallel with the NHS at an initial cost of £3 Billion per year.
A transparent consultation process will assess the viable funding options.
Providers of care will sign up to a new program of ethical standards, restoring the confidence that has been lost in the system as a result of the Conservative government’s brutal cuts. Care providers will earn a living wage. The market for care provision will be more robust.
Most importantly to me, the National Care Service will provide free ‘end of life’ care.
I’m a Leftist – a collectivist, I make no apology for it. I don’t believe that a person – any person – should be bankrupted by their medical bills. I believe that healthcare should be socialised. I can see no moral argument in favour of allowing people to go without the care they need simply because they can’t afford it. We’re a society. We shouldn’t measure each other’s worth in monetary terms.
Equally, I don’t believe that the elderly should see their finances erased by the cost of care; I don’t believe that the price of poverty in old age should be neglect.
There’s no need for it.
We’re a society. We pick each other up; we carry each other.
When the time comes we lay each other to rest.
Fundamentally, I do not believe that the culmination of a human life should be a bill.
Jeremy Corbyn’s plan to create a National Care Service will draw the clearest line yet between the compassionate Socialist and the greed-driven Capitalist who puts a price tag on infirmity.