Sunday, 11 October 2009

Book Review: The NHS is 60

From LSHG Newsletter, No. 33, (Autumn, 2008).

The NHS is 60
Alan Woodward [edited]
Published May 2008 by the Radical History Network of
North East London, c/o, WCS, PO Box 45155,
London N15 4WR

The RaHN is a radical local history network with a libertarian bent to its deliberations and this useful booklet waspublished to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the NHS in July 2008.
It consists of an introduction by the editor Alan Woodward and a series of short chapters written largely by activists in campaigns to defend the NHS. As one might expect some of the focus is specifically on North London but many wider issues are raised.
Peter Sartori and Pauline Case-Robinson discuss the largely successful campaign to stop the closure of Mental Health Day Hospitals in Haringey, while Lesley Fisher and Terry Burton look at union struggles over the last 20 years or so from the perspective of St Ann’s, a large general hospital in the same area.
In both cases we see the realities of life in the NHS away from the management speak and fine words of politicians. Helicoptering upwards there is a response to the Darzi plan for the London NHS and discussion of the strategies of London Health Emergency. Wider still Liz Willis, the noted libertarian historian makes the case that the NHS does not have to be run in the centralised top down way it is now.
This is activist history with a wider variety of views and campaigning strategies on offer.
There is of course always room for more research. I would have liked to have seen something on the Labour Party and the NHS exploring on views of leaders and activists had changed down the 60 years of the health service. While there is, to this reviewer not an unreasonable, a line through the booklet that statism and the current organisation of the NHS is a bad thing, I’d again have liked to see an analysis of how this developed and what the consequences were. Why did Bevan choose the model he did for the NHS and how did
it manage to renew itself.
So hopefully this booklet will both inspire some more activism and some more research.
Keith Flett, Chair, Stop Haringey Health Cuts Coalition

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