The holidays are here and OurNHS has some summer reading suggestions. Our contributors review three new books on the problems - and
solutions - facing our health services.
Academic and democracy campaigner Stewart Weir reviews NHS
SOS, currently riding high in the bestseller lists. In it, doctors, analysts and activists document
what Weir unapologetically calls a “double betrayal” - a betrayal of our NHS,
and of democracy itself. The “horrible history” of how the the Health and
Social Care Act was passed last year is forensically exposed, with a particular
focus is the collusion of most of the establishment. Weir
concurs with the books contributors that there are a few heroes - Royal College
of GP Chair Clare Gerada, Lord David Owen, and openDemocracy’s own Oliver
Huitson amongst them. The challenge
for us all is to expose and oppose the gradual dismemberment of the service. Weir
worries the public is still “essentially unaware” of the real story.
NHS SOS focuses
on high politics and the big money behind what is happening to our NHS. Roger
Taylor’s “God Bless the NHS” is an interesting counterpoint, foregrounded in what
is happening in our hospitals, suggests Veronica Beechey. Taylor is both
influential and controversial - his company, Dr Foster, produces the hospital
mortality figures that have featured prominently in this week’s headlines. In an
even-handed and wide-ranging review, former Trust governor Veronica Beechey
finds much of value in Taylor’s focus on quality and the culture of the NHS. Utlimately however Beechey is lessimpressed
by Taylor’s “reductionist” view of patients as data. Her review presages much
of the current critique of an over-reliance on statistics alone to explain what’s
happening - and needs to happen - in our NHS.
confines of the hospital walls, what is austerity itself doing to our health? The
Body Economic exposes the devastating impact of the dismantling of healthcare
and social welfare systems, with compelling anecdotes and vigorous academic
research. Public Health Director Steven Watkins finds himself “in awe” of the
authors - particularly their illuminating expose of ‘flat earth’ neoliberalism,
disavowed by many of its architects even as governments pursue it. Watkins calls
for a wide readership for the books powerful - though incomplete - argument for
state intervention in health and social welfare.
There is only a
short window of time to save our NHS - these books provide a road map for understanding how we got here - and where we might be going.
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