One of the strange aspects of human psychology is how individuals react in disasters. The “it can’t happen to me” mentality, whereby people carry on behaving as if nothing was amiss in the midst of chaos, until it is too late. This is well illustrated by the King’s Cross fire where it was reported that commuters were still entering the station despite the smoke billowing out.
There is an element of this mentality in how we react to the treatment of the NHS by successive governments. Although we believe full well that they can screw it up totally by repeated and ill thought out reorganisations, none of us believes, deep down, that the governments really want to destroy it completely. That is something that we are unable to contemplate.
But they have form.
In the early 1980s the British armed forces maintained eight military hospitals in the UK (as well as a similar number abroad). Up until that time it was inconceivable to all that these hospitals were under any threat. The military medical services had provided free medical care to soldiers, in peace as well as war since long before the NHS. Even in peacetime they had a valuable function. Soldiers with, what would in the NHS be seen as low priority conditions, such as torn meniscus, would be seen, operated on, rehabilitated and back on duty in weeks, as opposed to months or years in the NHS.
And then, almost overnight, they were gone.
Princess of Wales Hospital Ely Cambridgeshire, closed 1992
Princess Alexandra Hospital Wroughton, closed 1995.
Royal Naval Hospital Stonehouse Plymouth closed 1995
Cambridge Military Hospital Aldershot, closed 1996.
Queen Elizabeth Military Hospital Woolwich, closed 1996.
St Mary’s RAF Hospital, Halton, Bucks closed 1996
Duchess of Kent Hospital Catterick, closed 1999.
Royal Haslar Hospital Portsmouth, closed 2009.
Soldiers were no longer treated rapidly, and returned to duty, and today are treated as a disposable commodity, being medically discharged at the drop of a hat. The Government had promised that soldiers would be prioritised and fast tracked within the NHS but this promise proved worthless.
So they have closed down entirely a complete health service without a qualm. Why should we believe therefore that the NHS is safe in their hands.