Life Support

  • 8 March, 2022
  • Politics
  • Publications

Publication date: 08 March 2022.

How good is the NHS, really?

That is the question this book seeks to answer, as the health service emerges from the gravest crisis in its history with more money – but greater challenges – than ever before.

During the pandemic, voters made extraordinary sacrifices to save the NHS from collapse. Thanks to these efforts and the dedication and bravery of the NHS workforce, hospitals were able to treat patients with coronavirus, but millions of others lost out. Now an exhausted and depleted NHS workforce faces a huge backlog. The gap between supply and demand for publicly funded healthcare has never been so wide.

With record numbers waiting for treatment, the politicians’ answer has been to spend ever more taxpayers’ money. The question is whether throwing cash at the problem will work.

Every day, millions of patients receive care that is fair, good or outstanding. In keeping with Nye Bevan’s founding principles, the same treatment is available to rich and poor, free at the point of need. Public support for the concept remains overwhelming. Yet for every positive NHS experience there are negatives: care that is substandard, disjointed and arrives too late. A cult of secrecy surrounds errors and failings. Politicians on all sides dissemble and lie.

This book seeks to strip away the spin and uncover the true state of the NHS: the good, the bad and the ugly. It explores an increasingly urgent question: in an era of pandemics, can the NHS provide the quality of service patients deserve?


An insightful and thought-provoking guide to the challenges facing the NHS after it has been through the trauma of Covid, and as it looks ahead to how to embrace the rest of the twenty-first century. Much of the analysis and many of the stories will ring true to anyone who has experienced the NHS first-hand. Anyone who loves the NHS and wants to see it thrive would do well to read this book.

Rt Hon. Matt Hancock MP, Secretary of State for Health, 2018–21

This is a brilliant account, exhaustively researched with a balanced assessment of the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s a great narrative of how incredible our NHS can be but with chilling stories of the damage some patients have suffered and of a culture that is often closed and defensive. I hope this book will trigger an urgent debate about whether our NHS is as good as it can and should be – and what therefore should be done about it.

Sir Stephen Bubb, director of Charity Futures and the Oxford Institute of Charity

“A tour de force … This book is a balanced, thoughtful account which recognises the existence of vested interests within the health sector and its frighteningly challenging agenda of rising demand and expectations, workforce shortages and the urgent need to adopt new ways of working. It recognises the power and value of the great ideal that underpins the health service but is not starry-eyed about its prospects … For anyone seeking a better understanding of how our most cherished institution really works and its prospects, this is a must-read.”

Niall Dickson CBE, former chief executive of The King’s Fund, the General Medical Council and the NHS Confederation

Buy the book
Related Stories