Above: chart of most common forms of spinal injury
Novelist Sarah Perry suffered an excruciating injury and instead of getting access to the spine surgeon
at the spine clinic she needed straight away, as you’d imagine would be here in the 21st century (not the 12th), -she’d have grown up, as you and I did, thinking that the NHS was getting better and better.
Instead she got a shock:as while she waited for access to the operation she needed she was put on masses and masses of opiate style painkillers that she quickly became addicted to.
Although she writes winningly:
about the experience, she only links it tangentially to the real problem which is that we’re all being conned into accepting an austerity view of the NHS when in actual fact what’s happening is that resources are just being spent on painkillers…masses and masses of them.
The institutional memory that everyone shares yet rarely questions is the normative reality of how we are received into these places, into hospitals is that they’re places where things are done and noone stays, long long corridors that everyone obediently walks down where nothing is allowed to grow, change and develop it’s a place for disorientation and alienation rather than connection, social learning and innovation.
Painkillers inside hospital and outside hospitals in pharmacies, in supermarkets, in convenience stores, online, harm lives, stomach, kidneys, eyes ears etc etc as well as the rhythms of living and connection with reality.
The NHS spends £20 billion every year on drugs of all kinds. How much of this massive amount of money is painkillers of all kinds, how much of that £20 billion is not now for treatment and drugs instead money? And if it’s a large amount of that budget how can we change the culture that normalises it?
Drug problems are inside and outside the supply chains that greedily consume dreams of a better way of life.
The essential relation of the NHS is with reality, not the reality of predicting outcomes before people have even got off the starting blocks in narrow minded and, actually, cruel. It’s eugenics and the story of underclass failure: when it should be the story of an NHS that came out of a recognition that we all want a future that is ours, is unknown and yet good.
Health is part of our liberation, independence and interdependence. But limiting some people’s access via disablement should be called out for what it actually was. In the 1990 census a new category was introduced: ‘limiting long term illness’. Instead of connecting this category to values of equalities and inclusion, this category has been used by health venture capitalists to facilitate planning their profits around determined social exclusion.
Drugs are part of that supply chain understanding I’d argue, inside and outside the NHS.
Let’s get back to curing everyone, that a cure isn’t an oddity, a rarity but the norm.
The reason the Blair government didn’t succeed was because Tony Blair, who came out of the same background that conflates privilege with superiority was fed the depressing statistics about the ‘health future of Britain’ by institutional investors and their lobbies (cancer statistics, disability and impairment information that were really about vested interests in social exclusion that were busy removing and time limiting citizenship for more and more people).
Time limited rights, agency and gang labour, rentier economy, created permanent and enduring hardship and stress, problems that the NHS alone couldn’t solve.
We know this.
Blair abandoned plans for some of his universalist infrastructure projects to improve the health and the aesthetics of the UK (like taking electricity cabling and pylons underground) because he was shocked and awed by the gravity of the lobbyists arguments.
That they lied and they continue to lie and line their pockets needs to be represented, these people are shortening the lives of the rest of us.
If we remove gang labour, the number of properties anyone can own and rent to thirty, making owning a really accountable social enterprise then we’d be on to something, if someone who rents pays half the council tax and the landlord pays the other half then you’d move to a perception of investment property as a mutual, shared enterprise where the tenant’s life and rights are respected and the landlord is permitted to make a future for themselves and their family but with less aggressive exploitation, much more sensitivity and respect.
If we remove agencies from the employment process, if we give back the right to a contract of employment from day one without probationary periods, that we choose the right person first time, that we train, develop and grow, if we look at the problems of the professions and recognise that we’ve overburdened them and under burdened others with social responsibilities, social responsibilities need to be shared much more widely: we need to create new kinds of jobs between professional and unskilled, jobs that can help revalue what’s already here, what’s being done but help more people make sense of who they are, what they do, more of the time.