Book Review: Our NHS on the brink By Bernadette Hyland

16 June 2013 — Morning Star

Ken Loach is clear about the importance of NHS SOS. “Across society, there is a realisation that the National Health Service is one of the greatest social achievements and that to keep it is an enormous political challenge. This book is a weapon in that struggle.”

Edited by Raymond Tallis and Dr Jacky Davis, ‘NHS SOS: How the NHS was betrayed – and how we can save it’ it is a difficult book to read. In chapter after chapter we see the way in which determined neoliberals have hacked away at a cherished British institution.

More disturbing is that the organisations which we expect to defend it have not. In many instances, they have stood aside as the butchery took place.

Davis is a radiologist and co-founder of Keep Our National Health Service Public. She became involved in politics because of what she saw happening to the NHS in England.

“In 2005 with John Lister of Health Emergency, the NHS Consultant Association, and Alyson Pollack and several other people we started Keep Our National Health Service Public because of what Labour were doing to the NHS.”

Davis feels that, in power, new Labour “loosened the screws on the NHS” and that the present Conservative government has aggressively pushed privatisation and dismemberment of the service.

NHS SOS is a devastating read as it exposes the way in which a few people in the government pushed through legislation, including the Health and Social Care Act of 2012.

“It is an absolute scandal that they stole the NHS from under our noses,” says Davis. “It was a shocking betrayal of democracy that it was allowed to happen whilst people stood around and allowed it to happen.”

Davis and her co-writers do not pull any punches. They lay the blame not just on the Tories and their allies the Liberal Democrats but also their own medical profession, the media, trade unions and the Labour Party.

“It is extremely disappointing that over the last two years lies were told, politicians did not declare their interests and people could vote on something they had a financial interest in.”

Davis is angry, but she is not defeated by what has happened and the purpose of the book is to bring together the various individuals and organisations that are horrified by the prospect of the new NHS.

“We wrote the book to tell people what has happened and also to show people what they can do about it.”

A whole section at the end of the book gives advice on what people can do to save the NHS.

Keep Our NHS Public and London Health Emergency are just two of the organisations that are leading the campaign.

One of the characteristics of the fight to save the NHS is the range of people who are becoming involved, including many women and older people.

Davis explains: “One of the groups becoming involved are pensioners because they remember what it was like before the NHS when you had to scrape money together to pay for a visit to the doctor.”

And while Davis wants to encourage people outside political organisations to get involved with the campaign, she is sceptical about the response of Labour.

“Andy Burnham has said that when he is health minister he will reverse the changes, but the question is, what are they willing to do about it when they are in office?”

There are also bigger issues that will affect the NHS, including new legislation from Europe on tendering and competition which will affect countries on both sides of the Channel.

In the fight to save our health service Davis believes strongly that it is people power that can make a difference.

“This is our NHS and we have got to fight for it.

“It doesn’t belong to the politicians and we can get it back, but we’ve got to hit the streets and there is no question about that.”

  • NHS SOS: How the NHS was betrayed – and how we can save it, edited by Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis, is published by Oneworld Publications, priced £8.99. Available to pre-order now at

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