Today’s columnist, Patrick Meleady: Don’t dismantle our NHS

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We live in days of double speak.

On the one hand the Government and its regulators are heavily criticising the NHS, demanding the service keeps a tight control on the finances, but on the other the hand the NHS is being asked to ensure standards don’t slip.

The NHS has been promised an extra £8bn a year by the end of this parliament.

But hold the applause – on the other hand that same NHS is being asked to make £22billion worth of efficiency savings to plug the predicted shortfall of £30bn by 2020.

In this context the £8bn promised by the Government amounts to peanuts.

At the same time, the Government has begun its sell-off of shares in part-nationalised lender Royal Bank of Scotland, raising £2.1bn, - a third less than the price it paid for the bank.

It sold a 5.4 per cent stake at 330p a share and the Chancellor George Osborne is being heavily criticised for selling the shares at well below the price of 500p the Government paid for them.

The 170p difference represents a loss of about £1.07billion on the shares sold.

The Government is openly hacking away at our nation’s hard-fought-for NHS and at the same time berating it for not being value for money.

The RBS shares could have been sold for a higher price in February, when they were changing hands for more than 400p,

Now the Government is asserting that the 1bn loss is a relatively small amount.

Our NHS is primarily funded through central taxation and provides in the main a comprehensive range of health services, the vast majority of which are free at the point of use for those legally resident in the United Kingdom.

The organisation of health care in Britain before the NHS in 1948 was one of great inequality.

The two primary deficiencies were a lack of access to hospital care and lack of access to health care for dependants – the families of ‘working men’.

Many of these had no formal health cover and had to self-medicate or use medicines bought over the counter from the local pharmacist.

As a result, an illness, or paying for medical attendance at a birth, could cause major financial problems and risk and at times death for families.

Dismantling our NHS is taking us back to the Poor Law days.