The NHS: A Sick Turbot

I’ve just read a report that NHS England are planning to stop ‘ineffective’ treatments, with changes starting as early as next year. These ineffective treatments include tonsil removal, hysterectomies, carpal tunnel syndrome release and varicose vein surgery, among thirteen others, in non-life threatening situations.

These treatments will only be offered by the NHS if they offer a “compelling” benefit to the patient, and there are no other alternatives.

As I realist, I understand that over the last eight years the budget for the NHS has been chipped away at by the Conservatives. It’s had its funding cut and a great lack of investment across the board, just so Tories can point to it and say:

“Well look, the NHS simply doesn’t work anymore.”

“It doesn’t work because you haven’t given it the money it needs.”

“Well look, we gave it some money and it’s dying on its legs, like a sick turbot.”

“…Turbots don’t have legs.”

“Well look, that’s ridiculous. They do for people who can afford legged turbot.”

So, also as a realist (the strange kind of realist who imagines flatfish with legs), I understand that the NHS has to make budget cuts in places, in order to stay afloat and continue serving the people of Britain to the best ability its budget will allow.

As a reactionist, I’d like to say that’s bullshit, and that this is how it starts.

I absolutely despise any slippery slope arguments, yet I’m about to make one. Sometimes small things happen, that eventually lead to big things. Usually they don’t, like when people say:

“Well if we let gay people get married, what’s next? Can I marry this pig? Or this table-lamp or this sea cucumber?!?!”

“Mike, you sound like you want to marry that sea cucumber.”


But not all arguments like this are logical fallacies. For example, if I said three years ago that the rise in far-right politics would lead to a known rapist and toxic reality TV star being leader of the free world. Most people would’ve said that I was exaggerating, and they would’ve been right to do so. Or that in Nazi Germany in 1938, if someone had said that Jewish people being told to wear “cute” yellow badges would’ve eventually lead to their imprisonment, torture and execution a few years later, you’d have been laughed out of the country. Or shot, probably shot.

My point is that sometimes small things do lead to big things, and that’s what this announcement by NHS England looks like to me. So allow me to slide down a slope of Tory cost-cutting.

Oh, and before anyone quotes the statement from Theresa May about increasing the NHS budget over the next several years, NHS workers and experts have said that this is the minimum amount of money that the NHS needs to survive. It’s not an investment, it’s a continuation of the sorry state it’s currently in.


For now, patients at risk of serious harm from these seventeen conditions will still be offered treatment. But that makes it all the easier for them to, in a few years, say that they no longer offer these treatments at all. Telling the public that they must go and seek out private healthcare for these procedures, which many can’t afford.

But in 2030, when we’re on the slipperiest of slopes, the NHS will be forced to announce that they can no longer provide any form of chemotherapy. It’s just too expensive, they’ll say. I’m sorry, some people are simply going to have to suffer and then die. Oh, unless you can afford the cost yourself. Cancer will never be cured, but it’ll be treatable for the rich. Eventually becoming widely known as a pauper’s death.

In 2040, when we’re all sliding off the edge of the slope, the NHS will be forced to make a statement declaring they’ll no longer be offering surgeries of any kind. You can still see a doctor for free, receive diagnosis and a prescription (for £160.80), but you’ll need to go private for any surgical procedures. What’s that Charlie my son, you have a brain tumour? I’m sorry, your Mum and I are only making a “living wage”. Yes Charlie, I do see the irony, but don’t worry, you won’t have to for much longer.

And finally, in 2050, when David Beckham’s head-in-a-jar is Prime Minister and TRUMPBOT4000 is Pope, the NHS will serve its last patient. It’ll be a sweet old man, who remembers the days of entirely free national healthcare. He’ll unravel a list of symptoms to his NHS doctor, who’s now operating out of a tent in a field. The doctor will respond with a defeated tone, “I’m sorry Mr Smith, your only option is to sit in that ditch over there and wait for death. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m needed in the private sector, to bleach Katie Hopkins’ asshole.”

I know this is all an illogical argument to make. Especially the last part about Katie Hopkins, who’ll have inevitably been murdered by her own children in the mid-30s.

It’s just, as I was reading the report, I got this feeling in my gut. Like this has all happened before with other national services that were defunded and neglected, only to be privatised and sold to the highest bidder, to the disadvantage of the general public.

As someone who is now being billed for his healthcare, please protect your NHS. It may have seemed like a bit of a shambles in the last seven or eight years, but that’s because someone has pulled the plug out from the bottom, and is draining all of the life-giving fluids. Sometimes literally.

It also goes without saying that a partially-working NHS, kept on life-support by the Tories, is still better than the alternative; People on or below the poverty line dying because they can’t afford treatment in a private-only healthcare system. Which I know for a fact is happening here in the US.

I’m probably just needlessly worried about today’s report, and everything is going to be fine for the foreseeable future. Just remember that sometimes slippery slopes do lead to drastic landslides, no matter how illogical they sound.

Defend universal healthcare, it should be a basic human right in the 21st century, but here we are.

Today is Saturday, June 30th and thank goodness for my grown-up, science genius wife who has good health insurance. We’re fortunate.

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