Requiem for the National Health Church
From the Rev'd Dr Peter Mullen:
The NHS is the new national church. Worshippers are very devout but, just as members of the old national church the Cof E were wont to argue the toss in Synod or squabble over whether to have a fortune-teller at the garden fete, so worshippers in the new national church exchanged insults this week in the House of Commons. Don’t worry, there will be no major schism in this new church, for its members are fiercely united in their faith. Unfortunately, this means that there will never be any serious attempt to remedy the many faults and failures of the NHS. Religious commitment to it runs so deep that any suggestion it might be drastically reformed amounts to blasphemy.
As I said, this is unfortunate. For in 43 years of priestly hospital visiting I have noticed a falling off in standards. Going back a little earlier than that to recollections of my hospitalisation as a boy, I recall the hospitals as icons of orderliness, efficiency, cleanliness and run hierarchically with military precision. Every morning at 8.00 there was a most evocative sight: the day nurses would begin their shift by gathering around the ward sister’s desk for prayers. Christian prayers. Our progressive adherence to the New and Great Commandment 'Diversity' would never permit such an atrocity.
During the last 15 years, I visited most of the London hospitals. Some were clean and very well run. Others were unspeakably dirty, with evidence of carelessness and neglect of patients all around. But, despite the horror stories and devotees’ squabbles in the House this week, it doesn’t matter how many unnecessary or premature deaths occur; it doesn’t matter how appalling the A&E services become; or that the new definition of a GP is your local doctor with whom you can never arrange an appointment; or that 'care homes' have become places that are not homes and where no one cares - the NHS will continue and there will be no Judgement Day.
It doesn’t matter how many extra £billions are spent or by what scale of geometric progression the army of NHS bureaucrats increases, the institution will creak on until its final and inevitable collapse which will amount to a national trauma. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Nothing will be done to remedy the inefficiency and abuses, because the NHS has the same status in Britain as that of a cow among Hindu devotees. In the old national church you might have hoped to find love here and there. In the new secular, materialistic national church you will find only sentimentality. For example, those who minister in it must never be criticised. A stranger has to learn the ritual etiquette by which employees of the NHS must always be described as 'angels…wonderful…caring…tireless…salt of the earth'. But if the salt hath lost its savour?
There is one defining cause of the decay of the NHS: the colossal increases in its funding and the barely imaginable multiplication of its senior managers and employees have created an institution which no longer exists for the health of the people it was set up to serve, but for the benefit of the hordes of highly-unionised staff who operate it. This was always predictable and indeed, more than 30 years ago, it was actually predicted by Dr Max Gammon in what has come to be known as Gammon’s Law:
“In any bureaucratic system… increase in expenditure will be matched by fall in production… Such systems, and particularly the NHS will act rather like black holes in the economic universe, simultaneously sucking in resources, and shrinking in terms of emitted production.”It only remains for the new national church to compose a Requiem ritual for its own unavoidable demise.