Older Scots will still recall Aneurin Bevan and what he stood for.
The Welsh Labour politician is best remembered for his time as Health Minister as part of Clement Attlee’s transformative post-war government. Bevan, more than any other figure, is credited with spearheading the launch of the National Health Service in July 1948.
That’s why Humza Yousaf referenced the Bevan principle yesterday as he tried to defuse the latest crisis facing the health service in Scotland.
Bevan’s mission statement is something the NHS has aspired to throughout its history.
He articulated the idea that the health service should be free at point of use.
But the challenges facing Bevan’s creation have reached a critical point.
A leaked draft set of minutes offered an eye-opening insight into the thinking of senior NHS bosses in 2022.
The group was clearly aware of the extent of the serious problems facing a health service stretched to breaking point.
They sat down and candidly discussed a set of ideas for plugging a financial blackhole of around £1billion.
The minutes typed up and leaked to the BBC make sobering reading.
The most controversial was the idea to create a “two-tier” system that would ask the wealthiest patients to pay for treatment.
Other options included ending free prescriptions.
To be clear, these are not Scottish Government policies.
Both Nicola Sturgeon and Humza Yousaf firmly denied they would ever contemplate allowing the NHS to charge for patients.
They are right to do so.
Introducing a two-tier system would be a step too far.
But we can’t ignore the fact the NHS is in serious trouble and radical action will be required to save it.
Scotland, and the rest of the UK, has an ageing population.
Older people are more likely to require regular medical attention.
As the number of people of working age shrinks, the costs of running the NHS go up.
There is a coming time when health bosses are undoubtedly going to face some very difficult choices.
The NHS is such an accepted part of all our lives it’s difficult to comprehend now the opposition to its creation back then.
Bevan faced down opposition from Tory MPs as well as the medical establishment.
His clear guiding principles for the new health service helped him win the debate.
The NHS today, as it was in 1948, is free at the point of use.
It must stay that way even as we figure out how the health service can survive in the 21st century.
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