Having a late lunch at her desk this afternoon, PRimage MD, Judy Viitanen, tuned into the Radio 4 Friday play, ‘Stuffing Their Mouths With Gold’, by Jerome Vincent – broadcast by the Beeb to mark the founding of the NHS in July 1948.
Athough at times it became more of a lecture than a drama, overall it made for enjoyable listening, as it followed the strategies of Aneurin Bevan in his fight to create a free health service. Following the Labour landslide victory in 1945, the new Minister of Health knew he had the chance to bring about a real revolution: the creation of a free health service. But he had a devil of a job on his hands getting both the Royal College of Physicians and the dissenters in his own Party on his side. He had to placate the consultants, who want to keep their private fees, and the politicians who want an end to a two-tier health service ….
Placating the consultants won, hence the play’s title, “Stuffing Their Mouths With Gold” – which is an attributable quote from comments made by Bevan at the time. Listening to the sagas of Bevan trying to broker a deal between his Socialist colleagues and the RCP, Judy had a feeling of ‘deja-vu’ — in light of the current dynamics in the NHS of July 2008, the drama’s portrayal of the dramatic clashes six decades ago seemed to resonate the sagas that Alan Johnson, the current Secretary of State, and his health ministers are having with medics and the BMA! Plus ca change?