Friday 12 February 2016

Nye Bevan and the NHS

68 years ago it was the government fighting for the NHS; in 1948 the then Minister of Health, Aneurin Bevan, was instrumental in establishing a free health service for all.  Today, the government seems intent on destroying this system the British electorate hold so dear from the top down, bottom up and sideways.  Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Health, is determined to push through plans for a 7 day a week NHS at the same time as effectively cutting pay for junior Doctors, extending their working hours and all without any extra funding coming from central government.  The Conservatives have been accused of trying to 'privatize' the NHS (not unlike the Tories) and has continually come into conflict with the British Medical Association, who represent doctors in the UK.  Talks have been ongoing over the past three years.  Stalling and break downs in discussions has recently seen a series of 24 hour walk-outs by junior doctors who work for NHS England.  This is a sorry state of affairs when you consider the history of the NHS (and the Welfare State as a whole) which was hard won, philanthropic in nature and a body that intended to look after people 'from the cradle to the grave'.  Now, it is argued by the junior doctors subject to changes to their contracts, that the government are pushing through changes that will endanger the lives of patients. 
In 1942 a momentous document was published, called the Beveridge Report, which outlined the help that people could expect by recommending the extension of the Welfare State to tackle the 'Giant Evils' in society: squalor, ignorance, want, disease and idleness. This came during the midst of World War Two; people were suffering and the promise of a Welfare State was popular with the electorate.  It was on this basis that Labour won a landslide victory in July 1945 after adopting many suggestions made in the Beveridge Report into their election manifesto, including the creation of the National Health Service; a system where everyone could receive healthcare that was free at the point of service. Funding for this would come from expanding the National Insurance.  It was a momentous time and something the British felt they deserved after fighting two wars.  There was only one sticking point; getting the doctors on board!
Before the NHS healthcare in Britain was a patchwork of different provisions; Voluntary hospitals, Poor Law Hospitals and, if you worked and paid National Insurance, you could receive some free care, but this did not extend to your dependents.  Needless to say, it was a system that saw the very poor suffer as they could not afford treatment, care or medicines.  Whereas, the very wealthy could afford the best doctors that were based in places like Harley Street, London.  
Aneurin Bevan knew he had to get the majority of doctors on board to get the NHS up and running. The Labour government has passed the National Health Service Act in 1946 without consultation with doctors, promising to create a free health service for all.  Doctors were initially reluctant because of worries about a loss of income, as they would be moving over to a salary and becoming government employees.  Bevan had to overcome this to ensure the NHS could start on the agreed date of 5th July 1948.  Bevan was a force to be reckoned with; a once trade unionist and forceful politician, Bevan was even willing to alienate members of his own party to ensure a majority of doctors were onboard with the NHS.  Bevan negotiated with the BMA to ensure decent salaries for doctors and made allowances for doctors to continue to treat private patients, earning a lucrative private income, in NHS hospitals.  This was a compromise worth taking for a system that promised so much to so many.
If only we had politicians like this today. 

Saturday 30 January 2016

Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany 30th January 1933

Today marks the anniversary of when Hitler was made Chancellor of Germany, after a series of failed attempts by others to lead a country that had been in tatters after the Wall Street Crash of 1929.  Hitler and his NSDAP party had won a majority in the Reichstag in 1932 with 37% of the vote-in a parliament that had been dogged by a series of ineffective coalition governments-on the back of a massive propaganda campaign, promising Germany's unemployed (which reached over 6 million by 1933) 'Bread and Work', with Hitler flying from city to city, parading himself as the saviour for all to see. 
The narrative goes back further than January 1933 and the preceding months of campaigning (as Hitler also stood in the Presidential election of March 1932, coming second to Hindenburg).  Hitler had been vying for control of Germany as early as the failed Munich Putsch in November 1923, at a time when Germany was going through a series of crises.  Hitler believed it would be the opportune time to seize control of the Bavarian government and declare a new republic to rival that of the struggling, and increasingly unpopular, Weimar Republic.  Hitler massively misjudged the situation as he did not get the support he anticipated nor did the Putschists have any real notion of what to do once they had taken over the local government building.  The day after, the attempted coup was put to bed when a local army force of 130 men opened fire on Hitler and his accompanying 2000 conspirators; killing 16 Nazis and wounding many more, including Hitler himself.  Two days later, Hitler was arrested and he would spend 9 months in prison for treason-a lenient sentence to say the least.  This event led Hitler to change his tactics of how to come by power in Germany from one of violence and revolution to doing it 'by the book'.  The Putsch did help Hitler in many ways as it was widely publicised, including Hitler's trial, during which he was able to air his nationalistic views.  This resonated with many in Germany as they were still reeling from the 'diktat' forced upon them in 1919. What Germany wanted, and needed, was someone to take charge and build the country back up again, even if that meant going against terms of the Treaty of Versailles.
Between 1924 and 1929 Hitler and the NSDAP struggling to gain much popular support as Germany was experiencing its 'Golden Years'.  When times are good it's not ripe for swathes of the electorate to vote for an extreme party and the moderates will do, as they are seemingly doing a good job.  However, during this time Stresemann had organised loans from the USA under the terms of the Dawes Plan and Young Plan respectively.  But in 1929 disaster struck when the USA experienced a financial crisis and recalled the loans from Germany.  This, almost overnight, plummeted Germany into a desperate state; the Great Depression had hit.  This eroded the Golden Years Germany had once experienced and unemployment rocketed.  It was during this time of hardship that people began to look to the extreme left and extreme right for answers.  Both the NSDAP and the KPD benefitted from a surge in votes and, therefore, seats in the Reichstag.  This culminated in the Nazi Party winning the majority of seats in the 1932 election.  
Despite Hitler being the leader of the largest party in the Reichstag, Hindenburg was reluctant to give him the role of Chancellor.  It was Von Papen that finally convinced Hindenburg that it was the right thing to do, under the notion that they would be able to control Hitler.  This was not to be.  What followed what a series of manoeuvrings to enable Hitler to consolidate power from as early as February 1933.  And so the history goes...