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The health service under the BNP

Ami Banerjee
Last edited 17th March 2010

It’s unlikely that anybody living on this island missed the furore surrounding the appearance of British National Party’s chairman, Nick Griffin, on the BBC’s Question Time. I will not comment on Mr Griffin’s misguided views and statements, because they have been covered and analysed to death in the broadsheets, the tabloids, the radio waves and the TV screen
this week. However, I did check out the BNP’s website to look for their health policies, listed under “First Class Health Service for a First World Nation: BNP Health Policy”.

Just like Griffin, the policy statements on the surface may seem vaguely sensible to some people, but you only need look just below the surface to see the true colours: ill-thought-out nonsense. If racism is the fundamental tenet of a political party, it is difficult to hang coherent policies from that hook. Firstly, the BNP would “replace 100,000 NHS bureaucrats with doctors, nurses and dentists” but it does not mention anything about healthcare managers, health economists, and many allied health professionals needed in a modern health service, or how it would conjure up these home-grown 100 000 health workers! Secondly, they would “Train and pay to retain British doctors, nurses and dentists instead of looting the Third World of staff who are desperately needed in their home countries”. Although many doctors and nurses are attracted to work in the UK as economic migrants, they are free to do so as long as there is a demand for health workers in this country. Ethical recruitment from poor countries is a key goal for all UK employers and the brain drain has been increasingly recognised and debated in recent years. However, forcing British doctors to stay in the UK or African doctors to stay in Africa is no more feasible than closing UK’s borders tomorrow. The BNP should acknowledge the extent to which the NHS has relied upon foreign health workers throughout its history and the contributions that ethnic minorities in this and other employment sectors have contributed to the richness of life in Britain today.

The medical literature is rife with examples of the negative health effects of racial disparities from around the world. There is no example yet that racial discrimination will be good for the population as a whole, or for any individual element of the population. Much more reasonable and human ways to address inequalities than the BNP proposals are: better data collection and the use of ethical and human rights frameworks to make sure that every member of our society has access to healthcare.

Perhaps the most chilling policy statement reads “We will see to it that no money is given in foreign aid while our own hospitals are short of beds and the staff to run them”. Mr Griffin and his supporters would do well to read about where government money is currently being spent. It is not just British people that grossly overestimate how much they spend on foreign aid, the Americans do it too. The BNP’s misconception is deeply worrying because the rich nations are already underspending in terms of the UN target of
0.7% of GDP for international development assistance, and there are better ways to save government money.

Remarkably, the BNP is pro-prevention: “….more emphasis must be placed on healthy living with greater understanding of sickness prevention through physical exercise, a healthier environment and improved diets”. This, as far as I can tell, is the only positive in the health service under the BNP.

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