Chris Renwick Speaks on The National Health Service at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

Historian Chris Renwick says the public should be “quite profoundly worried” about the future of the National Health Service and has predicted charges for “particular” services.

“I would suggest we should be quite profoundly worried about the future of the National Health Service as a universal provision,” he told the Edinburgh International Book Festival. “I can see the introduction of charges for particular things…unless there is a move towards a kind of fundamental shift in…behaviour. That’s the problem we face at the moment, changing people’s behaviour.”

Renwick was referring to the increasing burden placed on the NHS from “lifestyle” health issues such obesity, diabetes and heart disease, and not just among older people, but those in their 30s and 40s.

“We can fix some of those problems but they involve telling people what to do, they involve telling companies how to sell their products,” added Renwick. “If we don’t tackle those things…I can see a gradual introduction of charging and we end up just with a core service that’s almost like the one we had 100 years ago, where you can see a doctor but you can’t go to hospital without charging for it.”

Renwick, Senior Lecturer in Modern History at York University, was talking about his new book, Bread for All, which examines the origins of Britain’s Welfare State and also contemporary challenges. “Is there someone out there who has either both the stomach and the courage to tackle some of these problems?” he asked rhetorically. “That’s the issue.”




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