The argument raging in the US about President Obama's plans for a scheme to ensure that all Americans have health insurance appears to have spread over here via a 'hashtag war' - #privatisetheNHS versus #WeLovetheNHS, or some such thing.
I will say this, for trite comments, Sara Scarlett and Charlotte Gore have set an astonishingly high standard. 'We love the NHS... Like hostage victims love their hostage takers." is slightly more patronising than "If you love the NHS so much - marry it!", but as neither of them will be using the system any time soon (that would be far too hypocritical, wouldn't it?), perhaps one shouldn't be too hard on them.
Most people who have taken sides seem to have opted for the 'save the NHS' option, with the ever controversial Sara and Charlotte batting for the opposition. With the greatest respect for Sara and Charlotte, if not the manner in which they express themselves, I'm obliged to add to the weight of opposition to their stance. And not because I have a fixation for public provision over private, but mostly because I remain unconvinced that the private sector has the means or the will to provide universal healthcare.
It is an almost universally accepted viewpoint amongst the American right that state provision of things that they disapprove of is bad, and that anything that might increase the expenditure levels of the Federal Government is worse - except interfering in other people's countries, subsidising large chunks of their economy and anything that might come to their home district in the way of 'pork'.
In terms of healthcare, they are so determined to keep the state out of provision that they are apparently happy to condemn the poor to lower life expectancy and the rest of society to spending a higher proportion of GDP on healthcare than virtually any country on earth. And Sara wants us to go the same way. Bless...
There is little doubt that general levels of health and of life expectancy in this country have increased substantially as social provision has improved, be it through the NHS, social security payments or old age pensions. None of these things are, in themselves, a universal panacea, but by providing innoculations for children, medication at affordable prices (and free for the poor and the elderly) and modern surgical techniques free at the point of access, one cannot doubt that the NHS has achieved much.
It is, however, legitimate to question whether the NHS, in its current form, is best designed to deal with our future societal challenges. If inflation within the healthcare sector continues to run above that in the wider economy, is state provision capable of keeping up, especially in a time of shrinking government revenues? Can the private sector meet public aspirations and maintain its current standards?
So, perhaps, could we have the debate?