As the NHS turns 70, we are right to celebrate it – and not only because it provides efficient and equitable healthcare here in the UK. The NHS is a beacon of hope to millions of people around the world, demonstrating that universal, publicly funded healthcare is possible. The world would be a better, healthier place if every country had an NHS.
But as things stand, the UK often undermines other countries’ attempts to build their own NHS. We undermine poor countries’ ability to build a decent tax base by supporting tax havens and enabling British companies to shift profits out of those countries. We promote and enforce privatisation through trade and investment agreements, threatening our NHS too. We promote private finance initiatives (PFI) for healthcare projects around the world, despite knowing that PFI has made our NHS more unsustainable. We fail to rein in big pharmaceutical companies that charge too much for drugs. And despite all this, we continue to blame the governments of poor countries for not investing enough in their healthcare systems (and indeed some that can should invest more) – ignoring our own significant role in diminishing their potential health budgets.
As the NHS turns 70, we must ensure not only that our NHS exists for another 70 years, but that we do everything in our power to promote affordable, public healthcare around the world, learning from what we have done right (and wrong), to ensure everyone, everywhere has access to an NHS.
Natalie Sharples Head of policy and campaigns, Health Poverty Action, Prof Allyson Pollock Professor of public health, Institute of Health and Society, Newcastle University, Iona Heath Former president of the Royal College of General Practitioners, Chiara Bodini and David Sanders Co-chairs, People’s Health Movement (PHM), Rob Yates Political health economist, Fanwell Kenala Bokosi Executive director, African Forum and Network on Debt and Development (Afrodad), Dr Youssef El-Gingihy GP and author of How to Dismantle the NHS in 10 Easy Steps, Dave Prentis General secretary, Unison,Dave McCoy Professor of Global Public Health, Dr Modi Mwatsama Director of policy and global health, UK Health Forum, Rosa Pavanelli General secretary, Public Services International, Bernard Anaba Policy analyst, The Integrated Social Development Centre (Isodec), Ghana, Amit Srivastava India Resource Center, Sophie Neuburg Executive director, Medact, Sarah-Jayne CliftonDirector, Jubilee Debt Campaign, Nick Dearden Director, Global Justice Now,Asad Rehman Executive director, War on Want, Jane Lethbridge Director, Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU), Elizabeth RowleyDirector, T1International, Dr Joe Holly Co-director, Global Labour Institute,Bert Schouwenburg International officer, GMB, Steinar Westin GP and professor of social medicine, Trondheim, Norway, Jonny Currie GP and public health specialty registrar and People’s Health Movement UK, Diarmaid McDonald Lead organiser, Just Treatment, Wim De Ceukelaire Director, Third World Health Aid, Kiama Kaara Kenyan Debt Relief Network (Kendren),Ricardo Navarro Cesta At, El Salvador, Abdul Khaliq CADTM Pakistan,Deborah Burton Co-founder, Tipping Point North South, Sophie Strachan Co-chair, Sophia Forum