It was with deep sadness that National Health Action Party members and NHS campaigners throughout the country heard the news of the death of Professor Stephen Hawking today. The NHS has lost a great friend and champion. He spoke out and used his authority and influence to great effect to alert people to the threats facing the NHS and the importance of defending it.
When some opponents of health care reform in the United States said that if Stephen Hawking had lived in the UK he would not have survived because he would not have received good care, he put them right with a strong rebuttal. He said he was very much alive and living in the UK and grateful to the NHS for the care he had received. He said he would not be alive were it not for the NHS.
Professor Hawking was also totally opposed to NHS privatisation. He said:
The NHS must be preserved from commercial interests who want to privatise it. I would have died, but for the NHS hospital care. We must retain this critical public service, and prevent the establishment of a two-tier system, with the best medicine for the wealthy, and an inferior service for the rest. (Dec 2013)
Professor Hawking spoke passionately about the NHS at a meeting at the Royal Society of Medicine on 19 August 2017. He criticised the government’s treatment of the NHS, the threat of privatisation and the Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt’s abuse of statistics. He subsequently entered into a dialogue with Hunt who had the temerity and foolishness to challenge him. The consensus is that Hawking won that debate with many doctors writing to the Guardian to support what Hawking said.
He joined the other four claimants in the JR4NHS judicial review to challenge the government’s plans to impose Accountable Care Organisations on the NHS without proper parliamentary scrutiny, public consultation, or legislation. His participation in the JR gave it a huge boost in terms of public awareness and credibility.
He certainly brought gravity and star quality to our movement in defence of the NHS and for that we are eternally grateful and will miss him hugely.
Here is science writer and NHA Party member Marcus Chown on Professor Hawking’s scientific achievements:
Stephen Hawking was one of the most imaginative and influential physicists of his generation yet he never won the Nobel Prize. He wrote a popular science book that became a publishing sensation but which is arguably the least-read bestseller of all time. He was cruelly confined to a wheelchair by a disease that progressively paralysed him yet his mind ranged freely across the immensities of the cosmos. These are just some of the paradoxes of what, by any standards, was an extraordinary life.