The National Health Service (NHS) of Britain, recently celebrated its 75th anniversary.
Established by a Labour government in the aftermath of World War 2, on 5 July 1948, to provide equal access to free healthcare services to everyone, regardless of age, gender, and financial status.
It holds a special place in British people’s hearts, and, according to YouGov, 87% of Brits are proud of the health service, making it the second most popular British institution behind the fire brigade (91%).
But despite a government expenditure of £283 billion in 2022, the NHS is facing a crisis, thanks to 13 years of Tory austerity policies. There is a personnel shortage, with more than 112,000 vacant positions, and it looks like the situation is going to get worse, with healthcare professionals trying to move abroad, hoping for higher salaries and a healthier work/life balance.
Those that haven’t left the country have gone on unprecedented strikes demanding better working conditions and better pay.
In a report published in June, the King's Fund highlighted the NHS's challenges, pointing out that the UK lags behind other countries in life expectancy and avoidable deaths due to delayed treatment, with more than 7.4 million people on the waiting list.
Another survey by King's Fund showed that 51% of Britons are dissatisfied with the quality of treatments, particularly citing long waiting times for doctor and hospital appointments (69%), followed by staff shortages (55%) and a view that the government doesn't spend enough money on the NHS (50%).
The dissatisfaction was reported across all ages, income groups, sexes, and supporters of different political parties.
But the majority of the British population does not support a radical reform of the NHS, such as introducing mixed funding where patients pay for some treatments through their insurance.
A survey by Ipsos’ UK KnowledgePanel and The Health Foundation said that despite these concerns, the public’s commitment to the founding principles of the NHS is as strong as ever, with 90% of respondents believing the NHS should be free at the point of delivery. 89% said that the NHS should provide a comprehensive service available to everyone, while 84% said that the NHS should be funded primarily through taxation.
And even though Sunak's father was part of the NHS, you'd be wrong if you thought that that would make him empathetic towards its challenges.
The situation is not to be taken lightly.
If there's one thing that makes not just the UK, but any country what it is, it's the everyday people that have to fight tooth and nail to survive.
The cards are stacked against us, and without the NHS, people would be one health scare away from being homeless, as it's evident from our neighbours on the other side of the pond, who have to choose between insulin and bankruptcy.
Immediate, human-centered action must be taken to ensure that this beloved institution will be able to provide quality and free healthcare for generations to come.
Anything else would simply be catastrophic.
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