The NHS is a mass of contradictions. It is the envy of the world but no other country has tried to copy it. It is all that is good about us as a nation, but it is constantly in crisis. The NHS is perfect, but nobody is happy with it. People like the idea of it, but neither patients nor the doctors and nurses working in it are satisfied with conditions. There are big problems that too many are afraid to criticize, mistaking dissent for disloyalty. Sometimes the sheer mass of contradictions I hear in one day are overwhelming and make a rational analysis of the system nearly impossible. I have come to the conclusion that the NHS is as good as it will ever be.
All the problems currently faced by the NHS are the types of problems endemic in any socialised system. Problems including, but not limited to; needlessly long waiting lists, endlessly expanding bureaucracy, resources pooling in management, an insensitivity to the needs of the people paying for it, or the people working in it, and an inequality of care based on where in the country you live and what conditions you have. These are all problems typical to any socialised system. Whether it be farming, manufacturing, or health care. To be fair, the NHS works surprisingly well for a socialist system. Were the rest of the country not broadly capitalist, there would be no means of creating or funding a socialised health care system. It seems that the NHS persists because it is only with health care that people are surprised there are downsides to a nationalised industry.
It is, however, not just patients stuck on waiting lists, the health care equivalent of bread lines, who are dissatisfied with their care. British doctors are threatening to leave to go and work on the Continent and in the Antipodes, stating with their actions, if not with their words, that other health care systems are not just better to be treated in but to work in too. If the NHS is the envy of the world, why are so many doctors so keen to leave? We now exist in a bizarre Catch-22 where doctors are leaving to work in insurance-based health care systems who utilize the private sector to a much greater extent, but simultaneously continue to bitterly oppose the NHS being reformed into an insurance-based system which utilizes the private sector to a much greater extent.
The NHS cannot be made better without reform that would make it less socialist, and that would be a good thing. As long as we have the socialised health care system that we do, doctors, nurses and patients must bear the downsides of a socialised health care system too. Every British doctor who leaves the UK to work in Australia or New Zealand is a testament against the NHS, and reinforces that the unwavering, unquestioned support for the NHS is a form of political Stockholm Syndrome. It is time for us to see the NHS for what it really is, rather than base its value on the intentions that created it.
It’s only a matter time before the government has no other option but to liberalise planning regulations so that more housing can be built. No amount of minor tinkering around the edges of the problem with policies such as ‘Help To Buy’ will solve the housing crisis. The problems of the UK housing market is not a consequence of foreign buyers or immigration. Even with both of these factors out of the equation there still wouldn’t have been enough housing. Housing is expensive because there is not enough of it. This problem is caused by pure government failure.
For too long, housing policy has been made on a false assumption that we are running out of green space when less than ten per cent of this country is developed, and that figure includes parks and gardens. Initially these regulations were designed to protect the countryside and prevent urban sprawl. The government failure of housing regulation was designed to prevent a future *possible* market failure. This is government regulation that was designed to stop something that hasn’t happened and may never have happened. Instead a real, acute government failure has occurred in the name of fending off an imagined market failure and a whole generation of Britons will suffer because of policy based on a misconception.
Contrary to popular misconception, the UK isn’t short on social housing. By European standards, the UK has a relatively high level of social housing. The problem arises from the fact that unprecedented demand for social housing is from middle and working class people who, a generation ago, would never have had to rely on social housing. A decline in home ownership will eventually have a knock on effect for economic growth as people won’t own homes to use as collateral to get business loans and are already saving and investing less in pension funds. Another adverse effect is that people won’t have a home to sell in order to pay for their care when they reach old age.
The human misery that results from pure policy failure in regards one of our most basic human needs, shelter, is incalculable. My grandfather paid the mortgage and fed and clothed a family of four on a single working class salary. What does it mean for families and relationships, when both parents have to work and commute long hours to afford a mortgage? Everyone in my generation now knows a couple who moved in together when they really shouldn’t have, but were tempted by rising housing costs to do so. This means there’s no choice for men and women who would prefer a traditional family. For children, this means being shuffled from child minder to babysitter and seeing their parents less.
Proponents of the Greenbelt say it is designed to ‘protect the environment,’ however, pushing commuters further into the countryside means more traffic and more emissions not to mention the inconvenience of having to commute for hours upon hours. I predict that eventually one government will be so inundated with the consequences of refusing to tackle the housing crisis, a large housing construction boom will occur all over the Greenbelt just like the post-WWII prefab building program. Building moderately on the Greenbelt now could mean saving it from development you like even less in the future. Although, prefabs are nicer these days.
In every other way, our lives are so much better than our parents, but because housing is such a fundamental need, the housing crisis has impeded our ability to enjoy our unprecedented consumer choice and freedom. Where would we be without government nobly stepping in to save us from the horrors of urban sprawl? If you’re in your late 20s and 30s, the answer is: ‘more likely to be living in a comfortable suburban home you own.