The Limits of Charity: Tom Moore vs Austerity
May 9, 2020- By Elinor Jones
Amidst a wave of charitable efforts aimed at supporting the NHS, Elinor Jones asks what this tells us about the state of our beloved healthcare system.
Once a week, each Thursday night at 8PM, an otherwise divided nation comes together in unity. Strength and optimism are the underlying messages, the Churchillian references and the royal voices of support echoing a time when Britain was seemingly leading the way. Hours of news coverage has celebrated the likes of WW2 veteran Tom Moore and other fundraisers. This demonstrated how we, the public, can help the coronavirus effort by sewing scrubs for hospital staff, and donating money to doctors and nurses. The message from the government is clear and simple, emulating wartime slogans such as ‘your country needs you’ in short, succinct and unambiguous campaigns to ‘protect the NHS’.
In these three small words, meant to avoid confusion, the Government directly highlights their own failings, which have been laid bare for the world to see as the pandemic took hold. To protect something is to ensure keep it safe from harm or injury. The primary job of the National Health Service, however, is to provide care to those in need, free at the point of access, protecting anyone who requires help. Coronavirus has taught us that we, the public, are being asked to provide the care, ensuring patient and staff safety where the Government have failed, whether this is financially, through charitable donations, through provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) and by staying at home.
Whilst the efforts of fundraisers are admirable, they are allowing the rhetoric to shift from a critical one to one of national pride and victory; I am not denying positive news stories, I am concerned at the speed with which we are quick to forget the deeper societal issues that have left us with a chronically underfunded health service.
Whilst the efforts of fundraisers are admirable, they are allowing the rhetoric to shift from one of societal issues to one of national pride
The NHS was set up to prevent this need for charity healthcare, to ensure the safety of a nation whose striking economic divide had been illuminated by the horrors of war. Countless lives have been and are continuing to be lost, and I fear we will surrender in defeat soon. In areas of greatest need, the inner-city hospitals in areas of greatest deprivation, our frontline-workers are given inadequate, homemade armour, to fight an enemy much greater than the virus itself: years of austerity. In a supposedly world-leading healthcare system, Tom Moore’s £32 million could plug a gap for equipment, staff costs, vital medicines. Instead, the considerable sum of money so joyfully raised will go unnoticed in a system that has been at breaking point for many years. In the last decade we have had shortages of an estimated 43,000 nurses, seen record waiting times in A&E and seen ‘underground’ sales of blood supplies to private firms.
Whilst the spirit of the NHS is still very much alive through those who have committed their purpose to providing and supporting the care of those in need, the only people taking care of the precious healthcare workers are the public. The public, and people hit hardest by the economic collapse and job cuts COVID-19 has brought. The NHS is not a charity, and unfortunately, no matter how much money we raise in our gardens, little can be done to plug the Government-sized hole from the funding and management of Britain’s health system.