Stick Up for the NHS – a relative’s perspective on the NHS and politics

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The National Health Action Party held its launch event for London’s European election at the Roxy in Borough. What follows is the transcript of East London resident Andrew Sharp’s (second from right) speech for this Stick Up for the NHS rally.

UPDATE: a recording of Andrew’s speech is now available here.

“My brother Matthew died of cancer aged six. I was four. Matt’s death had a huge impact on my life, on my sister’s life. It’s only since having kids myself that I can appreciate the horrors my parents endured. Our story though sad is not unique. We all hold love and loss in common. They are part of life for all humanity. In England we hold the NHS in common too. It supports us in our times of deepest need.

What would have happened to my family without the NHS? Steve Smith, creator of the Big Up the NHS blog made me question this during the #withouttheNHS twitter storm in March. I contributed two tweets that sum up why I must now stick up for the NHS.

The first was about Matt and my family. It reads:
#withouttheNHS my parents would have had to bankrupt their young family when my older brother was ill with cancer”

For two years the NHS cared for Matt, just as it cares for us all. No payment required beyond the taxes we already pay. If forced to pay my parents surely would have bankrupted themselves trying to save Matt’s life. And then failed. Don’t be fooled by my accent. We weren’t rich. I’m the milkman’s son, and not in some jokey metaphorical way. Any parent would willingly bankrupt themselves wouldn’t they, if they thought they could save their child’s life? And if that attempt failed? They’d lose their child, their home and their other children’s prospects in one fell swoop. Without the NHS this could happen to any of us. That can’t be right can it? Not when we already have a better way; a National Health Service way.

Some people think the NHS will always be there but it’s looking precarious right now. Some would say ‘get health insurance’. Well, cancer care is an expensive business and have you ever known an insurance company dodge paying out in full on an expensive claim? For your car? A burglary? It’s happened to me. It happens all the time. It happens to millions of people in America where healthcare is startlingly expensive.

Did you know that healthcare costs are the number one cause of bankruptcy in the US, causing 62% of bankruptcies? People go bankrupt just trying to stay healthy or to keep a loved one alive. Of these people over 75% do have health insurance, but it doesn’t pay out leaving them destitute. And what of those who lack the means to pay? Should we let them suffer? Just let them die?

We don’t need to worry about any of this do we? We have the NHS. Our politicians have promised that our healthcare will remain free at the point of need. So whilst they marketise and privatise our NHS we’re being promised private healthcare for free, right? Don’t believe that, not for one moment. Free at the point of need is just what they say now, a stop gap. Charging will follow.

Politicians and their promises lead me to my second tweet of the twitter storm which reads:
#withouttheNHS I would have less pride in this country. The NHS speaks to our democracy, compassion and civility. Let’s keep it!
We all rely on the NHS at some time in our lives. The NHS is a power for good, a democratic institution that looks after every man, woman and child irrespective of social status or financial means. It’s a marker of great civilisation.

We see how politicians subvert democracy to pursue their own agendas for the NHS. Do we see compassion and civility? Do we see them in the coalition government’s approach to sick and disabled people and the work capability assessments? Where is the compassion towards those forced from their homes and into destitution via the implementation of the ‘bedroom tax’? Where is the civility to people who face the humiliation of having to rely on food banks to feed their families? A growing number of people suffer from malnutrition across the UK. Government policy is doing real harm to people’s health and placing further strain on an already beleaguered NHS.

I don’t see much compassion or civility in our politics, yet I do know that our nation is full of compassionate, civilised people. I only recently started campaigning and already I have seen so much passion for the common good, so much will to sustain the NHS that sustains us all. This fills me with hope and propels me forward in my certainty that I too must stick up for our NHS. I know that when I need it, the NHS is there for me, just as it was for my brother. Just as it is there for all of our loved ones. I want the NHS to be there for my kids, and for their kids too. Please join me in this fight. Vote for the National Health Action Party on 22nd May and together let’s stick up for the NHS.

Thank you.”

Andrew will be campaigning at St Thomas’s Hospital on Thursday 1st May from 17:00 to 18:30. Andrew’s brother Matthew was cared for and sadly passed away at St Thomas’s in 1977. Please join him. It’s also his birthday on Thursday – no gifts required but a donation to The National Health Action Party would be appreciated. You can donate here.

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