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National Health Service

Book Review: 'The NHS - A Picture of Health?'

Sick service

'The NHS: A Picture of Health?' by Steve Iliffe (Lawrence and Wishart 1983 p/b £3.95 224pp)

This book, written in a fluent, easily readable style, examines health politics from the industrial revolution to the present time.

The author, a general practitioner in North London, is already well known to readers interested in health politics as a regular contributor to medical and political magazines, as a member of the editorial committee of Medicine in Society and a pamphleteer for the Communist Party of Great Britain.

The first chapter deals briefly with the years leading up to the formation of the Health Service and describes how, in the 1830s, cholera, syndicalism and Chartism "emerged from the slums and threatened to harm the established order" and that although repressive measures followed, the government realised that some reforms had to be made to reduce the threat to established power.

Editorial: Capitalist Health Warning

On 4th March 2017, tens of thousands of people marched through London in support of the National Health Service. This winter, hospital waiting times had grown and in the Accident and Emergency (A&E) wards, patients were stranded on trolleys while waiting for beds to become available. This has been exacerbated by the crisis in social care, where elderly people have had to be cared for in NHS hospitals, because of a shortage of places in care homes. Last year, there was a dispute with the junior doctors, who objected to new contracts, which would worsen their working conditions. This is against the backdrop of a squeeze in government funding made in response to the economic downturn in 2008-2009.

Editorial: Who Cares Who Cares?

Stirring the public conscience became part of the entertainment industry some time in the early eighties. At first, unsuspecting viewers in leafy suburbs noticed nothing more harrowing than malnutrition and death thousands of miles away, and threw loose change at the spectacle. A vogue for tales of glue sniffing and dragon chasing in dank, inner city garages then led to terrible addiction to earnest debate among experts, a form of exorcism which suddenly made way for a string of fresh concerns.

Proper Gander: Bed Pan Humour

Proper Gander

There are easier places to work than in a hospital, juggling bed pans with NHS bureaucracy. One way of coping is by having a gallows sense of humour to relieve the pressures with a droll remark or two. This side of life on a ward is rarely seen in earnest doctor-dramas like Holby City or Casualty. Instead, switch over to the comedy Getting On (BBC4) for a more realistic look inside our healthcare system.

Filmed in shakycam mocumentary style, the show follows the staff working on a geriatric ward. The three main characters are played by the programme’s writers, including Jo Brand, drawing on her early career as a nurse. For her character, Kim, a spoonful of wit helps the medicine go down. She wearily struggles with the stifling policies, procedures and market forces of the modern NHS.

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