It is always fascinating to see Conservatives fail to fully grasp the consequences of socialised medicine. On the one hand, they are perfectly happy to put up with high income taxes and VAT to fund what is generally considered to be a world class healthcare system. But on the other, they often fail to recognise that this implicitly necessitates curbs on personal freedoms. The ability of other people to get better is suddenly linked to our own obligations not to wilfully abuse our own personal heath.
The NHS is as British as elevenses (though ironically elevenses is probably something to avoid to ensure its viability). It has practically become a religion during these uncertain times. Doctors and nurses are saints and Boris Johnson is pope with SAGE as his cardinals. Yet it’s important that such reverence should not understate the challenges that the NHS faces from 21st century British life.
Alcohol has arguably never been stronger, cheaper, nor more readily available. High calorie processed foods laden with saturated fat and simple carbohydrates have never been more available. At the same time the family unit has broken down. Freshly prepared food eaten together at the dinner table is being ditched in favour of convenience. How progressive and enlightened we all are!
It is not that the NHS is not fit for 21stCentury life: we are not fit for the NHS. Obesity rates in adults and children are soaring and we move less and less. Along with that comes a range of preventable conditions like type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure, joint problems etc. Before everyone’s joints finally give up, perhaps we should recognise that free-at-the-point-of-use healthcare does not come with freedom of choice.
The sugar tax should have come as part of wide-ranging reforms into British life. Children should be taught how to cook; children might well be able to do so, but what is the use if they can’t cook anything more advanced than beans on toast?
Then there’s exercise- or the lack thereof. Fractured and unsafe communities mean that parents often do not let their children play outdoors as much as they used to. So why not get that exercise in school? Some of the most academically prestigious schools in Britain have some of the most physically active pupils.
What this boils down to is that these Britons are not worthy inheritance of the NHS. For various reasons, we have allowed ourselves to slip into the slumber of modern life. A healthy population is a nation’s greatest asset; healthy people can become soldiers, firefighters, and police officers. They are more fertile meaning that there’s demographic sustainability for the community. An aging population is another growing problem that we’ve yet to fully comprehend. George Osborne’s sugar tax should be the start of a health revolution to make us all worthy of the promises of universal healthcare. Your marginally more expensive sugar-laden soft drink be damned!