THE FAMOUS Cambridge University scientist Stephen Hawking has spoken up to defend the NHS and has publicly exposed the Tory plan to privatise it and replace it with a US style insurance scheme under which those who are not insured will have to crawl away and find a place to die.
Professor Hawking, who has had motor neurone disease for most of his adult life that has impaired his movement and ability to speak, delivered his indictment at a conference at the Royal Society of Medicine in London.
The author of the famous ‘A Brief History of Time’ said that he had to speak out because of the role the health service had played in saving his life, and then allowing him to have a life, saying that without the NHS he ‘wouldn’t be here today’.
He recounted that in 1985 when he caught pneumonia in Switzerland doctors attending him suggested his ventilator be turned off to end his life, but his wife refused and he was flown back to Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge where he received NHS treatment and recovered. Fourteen years after that, he had pioneering throat reconstruction surgery in London after his condition worsened and he was struggling to eat and breathe.
He said: ‘I have had a lot of experience of the NHS and the care I received has enabled me to live my life as I want and to contribute to major advances in our understanding of the universe.’ He denounced the increase in private provision of care, including the use of agency staff that was leading to profit being extracted out of the health service into private companies.
Hawking warned: ‘The more profit is extracted from the system, the more private monopolies grow and the more expensive healthcare becomes. The NHS must be preserved from commercial interests and protected from those who want to privatise it.’ He warned that there was no substitute for a publicly provided, publicly run system and that ‘We cannot afford not to have the NHS.’
Hawking continued to indict Health Secretary Hunt who in order to further his struggle against the junior doctors to impose seven day working in the NHS had claimed that 11,000 patients a year died because of understaffing of hospitals at weekends. Hawking said that the government had failed to carry out ‘proper due diligence’, particularly with regard to whether there would be enough staff.. and that four of the eight studies cited by Hunt were not peer reviewed and that he ignored 13 papers which contradicted his statements.
He concluded: ‘Speaking as a scientist, cherry picking evidence is unacceptable. When public figures abuse scientific argument, citing some studies but suppressing others, to justify policies that they want to implement for other reasons, it debases scientific culture. ‘One consequence of this sort of behaviour is that it leads ordinary people not to trust science, at a time when scientific research and progress are more important than ever, given the challenges we face as a human race.’
The completely discredited Hunt has responded. Normally resignation would be the result of such a withering criticism, and exposure from such a source, but Hunt has no shame and has not only decided to soldier on regardless and defy the truth, he has sought to hit back with shameful insults.
He began by tweeting that Hawking was a ‘brilliant physicist but wrong on the lack of a weekend effect’ in the NHS. He continued that the study into mortality rates associated with weekend NHS services was ‘the most comprehensive ever’ – this does not say much for all of the other studies!
The wounded Health Secretary then charged that Hawking’s concerns, about the government seeking to transform the NHS into a type of health insurance system seen in the United States, were a ‘pernicious falsehood’. This is another step too far by Hunt. Hawking has spoken out and now others must act. Principally this means that the TUC Congress meeting in September must call action to defend the NHS and put this government out.
This means calling a general strike. The WRP and the YS are holding a national lobby of the TUC on Monday September 11 to demand the TUC calls a general strike to bring down the Tories and bring in a workers government that will save the NHS by carrying out socialist policies. Make sure that you are there and that you bring a delegation with you!