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.
Beyond the 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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