Published: 5 January, 2012
THE full splendour of our National Health Service can be seen in – of all places – the Queen’s New Year Honours List It is the appointment to the Victorian Order of Dr Jonathan Jagger, a leading eye specialist, at the Royal Free Hospital – an honour personally bestowed by the Queen.
Dr Jagger has been selected from among the nation’s eye consultants to care for the Queen’s sight Yet, every Wednesday, at his clinic on the first floor of the Royal Free, ordinary members of the public use his services – just as members of the Royal family do.
He probably sees up to 10 patients in the morning and early afternoon clinic, along with his fellow doctors. And that is where the unique splendour of the NHS hoves into view.
Surely, nowhere in Europe or America, will you find ordinary people able to use the services of such a prestigious star of the eye world – free of charge.
In other countries it would be unthinkable for such an eminent consultant, as a matter of course, to routinely see complex cases simply referred by the GP to the hospital.
Unless they ask for Dr Jagger, and few will, the clinic manager, will simply place them on the list for him as they would for the other opthalmologists.
This is not to say that other senior members of his profession in other countries will only make their services available to the wealthy.
Exceptions will be made but only after special arrangements have been made.
Here, anyone can see the great man.
It is not difficult to guess what the great founder of the NHS, Aneurin Bevan – a cabinet member in Attlee’s post-war Labour government – would have made of this.
To him, the cardinal principle of the National Health Service was that it had to be free at the point of delivery, to anyone, however high or low.
The NHS became the victim, first of Mrs Thatcher, later Tony Blair, now David Cameron, all eager to shape it into an over-managed, market driven, self-funded service which, of course, it was never meant to be.
Its destiny, in the eyes of Bevan, was that it would be a free service, funded from tax and the public purse.
Politicians should stop meddling with it.
Britain should be proud of it.