Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Hounding Rufus

On 26th January this year, the comedian Rufus Hound announced that he was intending to stand as an MEP for the National Health Action Party. Which is super.

After all, Mr Hound is, at least, standing up for something that he believes in. Unfortunately, Mr Hound is rather ignorant of the state of healthcare—around the world in the present day, and in this country in the past.

On 26 January, your humble Devil—being a helpful chap—decided to help Mr Hound with some advice. Mr Hound has kept the comment in the pending queue—a superbly political response which, whilst hiding the facts from his band of sycophantic fans, prevents one from accusing him of deleting any criticism.

Luckily, thanks to WordPress's habit of displaying one's own comment (even when not approved), I am happy to reproduce my words of wisdom, below…

I think it’s great that you are actually getting up and doing something—as you say, no one wants to be one of “those people”.

Unfortunately, there are some errors in your reasoning.
“Up until 1948, only wealthy people had access to doctors.”
This is not actually true.

It is a fact, for instance, that the seven great hospitals of London were all built and maintained by private subscription: that is, horrible rich people digging into their own pockets and funding the building and maintenance of hospitals—including special bursaries for treating large numbers of very poor people. (Indeed, just look at the huge public displays of generosity that enabled the Elephant Man to be permanently housed in one of the largest London hospitals.)

More than this, throughout the 1800s and up to the early 1900s, at least three quarters of the working population—plus their spouse and children—had access to doctors through Friendly Society memberships (the Friendly Societies were like trade unions, and—for a small subscription—paid out-of-work benefits, and (being the biggest employers of doctors) primary healthcare).

This largely came to an end when the British Medical Association—whose members didn’t like being pushed around by working men, nor the fact that competition depressed their wages—lobbied the government to amend the 1911 National Insurance Bill to make it a state-collected tax (rather than state-purchased Friendly Society memberships).

At this point, access to doctors was more restricted because the doctors’ quid pro quo was a doubling of their wages.
“The NHS is the one of the single greatest achievements of any civilisation, ever, anywhere in the history of the world.”
Which is why no one else in the world has ever tried to emulate it. The nearest is Canada, but their hospitals are all owned by councils, or charities, or private entities—and they all compete, thus keeping prices down and outcomes up.
“It’s also the most cost effective health care system in the world.”
I’m afraid this isn’t true either. The Singapore Health System, for instance, costs half what the NHS does (per capita) and has far better survival outcomes.

As I said, I admire what you are doing; however, it would be even better if you researched the subject and thus, unlike most politicians, were able to speak from a position of knowledge.

I highly recommend a book, by ex-Labour Councillor David Green, called Working-Class Patients and the Medical Establishment.


I hope you enjoyed that. And that you will, when considering Mr Hound's candidature, act as you feel is right.

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