Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations LIFE AND DEATH

In defence of a National Sickness Service

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: (Published 04 January 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:19
  1. Iona Heath, general practitioner, London

    A reconstituted National Health Service that prioritises prevention of sickness would fail all those who are ill now

    It has become commonplace to describe our current healthcare arrangements as a National Sickness Service and to call for a transformation to a genuine National Health Service that would prioritise prevention above cure. This is the sort of facile sloganeering, beloved of politicians and policymakers, that systematically ignores the implications of the rhetoric. The proposed transformation is already shifting the focus of health care away from the needs of the sick towards those of the well, from the old to the young and from the poor to the rich. Is this really what we want or need?

    Societies fail whenever someone who succumbs to a treatable illness causing pain, suffering, or premature death is unable to avail themselves of effective treatment because of the lack of money to pay for it. In the context of heightened social solidarity immediately after the second world war, UK society set out to ensure that this situation would not arise again through the creation of the NHS. In …

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