Who Cares: the play that puts the NHS under the knife in the election
The opening scene in Michael Wynne’s new play, ‘Who Cares’ is a hospital A&E. It is so well done that you can almost smell it. That combination of disinfectant, drunkenness, disease and controlled disorder.
At the Royal Court, the play is about the NHS, based on interviews with many familiar names, from doctors and nurses, from Julie Bailey who revealed the scandal a Mid-Staffordshire, to Anita Charlesworth, from the Health Foundation.
The audience is invited to promenade through the NHS: the GP surgery, outside while the paramedic has a break, on the roof having a smoke are two nurses talking about the pressures they are under, into the operating theatres.
As we go up the stairs we are given a list of treatments: amputation of toe £901.50, caesarean delivery £1,143.50, one night in hospital £225.
But the best discussions in the play are about the questions it asks about the NHS. Are we too emotional about it? Does our attachment to it stop it from changing in order to continue to thrive? Do we try and keep people alive for too long? Should we be expected to save all babies at birth or should we accept that sometimes they do not survive?
Those are the more emotive questions. Then there are the political points: targets and whether they have added to pressures on the staff, the Health and Social Care Act (there is a scene when the original bill setting up the NHS is compared with the vast bill brought in under the coalition), privatisation and whether it is coming the way of the NHS.
These are discussions that you might have expected to come up in the election, not least because it is polling so high in voters’ concerns. But it hasn’t really happened which means another opportunity lost to put these issues out there and ask the public what the want for the NHS, what they want from their own care. Where do they want to die and how? And how much are we prepared to pay for it?
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