OPINION: Is our great big public health circle heading back towards 1945?

If Lansley is not an idiot, then he is out to privatise UK healthcare.

In some ways it’s nice to be vindicated: it’s a good charge for the ego – but equally, it confirms one in the view that while many people are mad, it’s not you. The Google/Verizon thing was a classic case in point….but the danger of vindication is that it can also evoke exactly the certainty of rectitude that makes our political elites so unbearably smug and humourless.

I get tons of stuff wrong. I get given bum steers. I fall for the odd plant and hoax. Everyone involved in this business has to make that judgement call just before pressing ‘Publish Blog’. Today, for example, I got an anonymous (ie, disguised) tip that the EU ‘direct tax’ suggestion was a dry run for a later attempt to slip through obligatory bailout contributions whether member States wanted to donate or not. It would’ve been a crackerjack story, but two calls later it had been dismissed by people I trust as bollocks: and as the whole point of The Slog is meant to be deconstructing the testicular, being careful before running anything is 95% of the battle.

So I publish this short piece now with that in mind. Because my initial fears about Andrew Lansley’s botched NHS proposals are beginning to harden into a near-certainty that he may actually have the destruction of public health services as his objective.

What started this musing was a middle-weight Tory ticking me off for thinking Lansley to be a berk. “You’re quite wrong” said the source, ” he is very precise and focused. There is a clear method to his way of working, and it is impressive”.

In possession now of this information, I’m still left asking myself the questions (a) why give even more money to the (primary care) doctors least open to NHS stricture; (b) why invest nothing in that older half of the major built part of the (hospital) NHS which is beginning to crumble; and (c) why leave the new hospital equipment budgets starved of badly-needed investment?

The conclusion I’ve reached is this: the medium to long-term plan is to give the primary care function back to those GPs who thus far have demonstrated little in the way of ‘patient-facing’ philanthropy – and wait for things to get fiscally desperate over the next three years before asking the private health sector to step up to the table and rescue the hospital in-care mess by, er, buying it.

Now loyal Sloggers will know that I am a chap of increasingly anti-Fluffy, Right Wing views. But my admiration for Nye Bevan remains undimmed…..and I won’t have his realised dream buggered up by Tories who know not what they do.

Aneurin Bevan was not a Big State socialist. He modelled the NHS on the local charity hospitals he had known as a kid. Towards the end of his life, he correctly divined that the health service he’d pushed through would turn into a many-headed monster – and he bitterly regretted not completing his plan for a national network of devolved community clinics. “The purpose of power” he once memorably wrote, “is to give it back”. Tory Big Society or what?

But the baseline motivation which drove Bevan immediately after the Second World War was clearly stated: “To banish the fear of medical bills from the less fortunate in our land”. And sixty-three years on, I still think that while good health is not a human right, it should be the aim of any civilised society to at least try and guarantee it.

It seems to me that if Andrew Lansley isn’t a pillock, then he is being deliberately obtuse about what the NHS needs. That is, rigorous means testing to make the privately and corporately wealthy pay more towards it; and a more sensible and just means of funding it involving at least some element of insurance which would be the responsibility of every individual with the means so to do.

Lansley’s plans look to me tonight like a Minister preparing a State industry for privatisation. A return to the financial health anxieties that preceded the NHS would be a crime against the British people. There are a hundred better economic and moral routes to be pursued before that one.