Yesterday evening I went to a book launch. It was for John Lister’s new book, The NHS after 60. John was one of the founders of London Health Emergency, 25 years ago, and has been central to campaigns to defend the NHS ever since. He has always supported the trade union movement and, in turn, Health Emergency has been mostly funded by union bodies.
John made a short speech. He made two key points. Firstly, the book was written to celebrate the ideals of the NHS at its inception. After 60 years, and much battering, he believes there is still a lot of the original NHS remaining that needs to be defended.
Secondly, he gave a warning about the pace of change. Although the book covers the full 60 year history of the NHS, two thirds of it is about the period since 2000. The Labour Government has introduced massive changes, bringing the market into all aspects of the NHS and increasing the level of privatisation, at a pace the Tories could have only dreamed about.
John has written the book as part of his campaigning work. As he says in its conclusion: “I hope this book has provided more ammunition to all those wanting to pursue this fight.” I think he has done that job.
It is often difficult in the midst of local fights over reorganisations, or defending members at the latest disciplinary, to see the big picture. Reading John’s book is a useful antidote.
John Lister, The NHS at 60, Middlesex University Press, London, 2008