Election candidates are being asked by the campaign group Keep Our NHS Public (KONP) for their views on what is happening to the NHS. Naturally, as socialists we see nothing wrong with the idea that health care should be provided out of the resources available to society as a whole and that people should have free access to health care and medicines as and when they need them. It's what will happen in a socialist society.
Attempts to achieve this within capitalism run up against all sorts of problems, as the history and current state of the NHS show.
The basic problem arises from the fact that, as far as the minority who own society's resources are concerned, there is no such thing as a free service. Anything provided free has to be paid for out of taxation and in the end taxes fall on their property and their profits.
So, the free service gets undermined at both ends. The funds to finance it are cheese-pared and charges are introduced. Some services remain free at the point of use but come to be provided by profit-seeking enterprises. Given capitalism, the service cannot be run democratically but has to be administered by a bureaucracy whose remit is to save money by cutting costs, including the cost of paying the wages and salaries of those who work for the service.
It's a never-ending battle by trade unions and pressure groups to try to stop this happening. A defensive and often losing struggle just to stop things getting worse.
A free health service in the midst of an economy based on production for profit will always be insecure. The NHS was introduced in the first place because it suited the minority owning class to have a relatively healthy and productive workforce that, when sick, could be quickly treated and got back to work as soon as possible. Now that more and more of those needing health care are retired the owning class are less interested in paying for the NHS and it shows.
The only way to secure a lasting free health service is as part of a socialist society where there will no longer be class ownership of society's resources or production for profit. Then, all services and not just health care will be both free and democratically administered. Where will the money to pay for this come from, the clever dick interviewer will ask? Nowhere, as there won't be any money, just resources and these exist in sufficient quantity especially after the artificial scarcity and organised waste of capitalist society have been removed.
The Ten Candidates
Jacqueline Shodeke - Brighton Kemptown;
Howard Pilott - Brighton Pavilion;
Robert Cox – Canterbury;
Steve Colborn – Easington;
Andy Thomas - Folkestone and Hythe;
Bill Martin - Islington North;
Kevin Parkin - Oxford East;
Mike Foster - Oxford West and Abingdon
Brian Johnson - Swansea West;