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Colin Barker

Declining Health

(Autumn 1963)

From International Socialism (1st series), No.14, Autumn 1963, p.36.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Socialised Medicine in England and Wales
Almont Lindsey
Oxford University Press. 45s.

This study of the National Health Service 1948-61 is invaluable. Professor Lindsay seems to have read everything that has ever been written on the subject (a task in itself) and there is not an aspect of the Service that he does not deal with in detail. The book is likely to be the most complete reference work on the NHS for some years.

The book is aimed partly at the American medical profession, whose opposition to and propaganda against the NHS is notorious. Lindsey shows beyond doubt that the NHS, as it was shaped by Bevan, entirely justified itself not only to the public but also to the (initially hostile) medical profession. Where the book is weak is in its discussion of the financing of the Service: the author has missed the Tories’ slow chipping away at the redistributive aspects of the NHS and the welfare services generally. Relative to Exchequer expenditure, flat-rate contributions (i.e. regressive taxation) have risen; and charges have been introduced and extended. While drug company profits have risen enormously the original conception of the NHS has been quietly abandoned. In a way Lindsey’s determination to produce a completely unbiased study has made his book a little dull; and the development of the NHS could profitably have been related more closely to its social and economic background. But these are comparatively minor blemishes; nearly 500 pages of hard factual material make this the most useful book on the subject to appear so far.

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Last updated: 24 March 2010