Speaking on GB News, Ms Widdecombe spoke of the vision of Aneurin Bevan, the Labour politician who founded the NHS after becoming Health Secretary in Clement Attlee’s post-war Government. Speaking to Dan Wootton, Ann stated her belief that though Bevan chose to bring his vision to reality, that service is now outdated after “it was set up on false premises”, but the vision of free health care is still paramount.
Ms Widdecombe said: “First of all let us recognise that the NHS is never going to be able to meet every last demand that is made upon it.
“There were serious flaws in Bevan’s vision for the NHS which were perfectly understandable at the time, perfectly so, but which haven’t stood the test of time.”
She noted how Mr Beavan had assumed national insurance or ‘the stamp’ would make a big enough contribution, though 80 percent now comes from taxation.
She also noted his view that the demand on the health service would decline as a result of having free healthcare for all.
However, “he never foresaw the explosion of medical and surgical science which began in the 60s and just kept going.”
She said: “He did not foresee the rise in longevity. In the 1950s average women’s longevity was 69 years, by 2017 that had become 83 years. He didn’t foresee that; he couldn’t have done.”
In March, the Government addressed the impact of the pandemic on the health service, but also admitted that “even before the pandemic there were problems in the sector”.
The Government’s health and social care plan states: “5.5 million people in England are now waiting for non-emergency treatment, at least 900,000 more than before the pandemic, and average NHS waiting times are over ten weeks, up to 40 percent since before the pandemic.”
Ms Widdecombe proposed: “The first thing we have to do is to ask ourselves if we were starting again without a health service, we were starting afresh, knowing now what we didn’t know then, what would we do?”
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Mr Wootton agreed and said: “It’s actually sick that I can go and see an NHS GP for free…I should have to pay to see my GP.”
He argued that with a new system that gives free health service to the vulnerable and leaves others to pay for what they can afford, we would “get much better service” from GPs, “and a lot of the tax money would go to what actually matters which is into the treatment of cancer for example.”
Ms Widdecombe concluded that a successful revival of the NHS would have to start with “practitioners, users, academics, statisticians, economists, [having] an open, mature debate with nothing ruled in, nothing ruled out and then see what we can do. I’ve been asking for that since 1998.”