My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Darzi for a towering speech, made with spirit and committed to the fundamentals of the health service. We are extremely grateful to him. I express my gratitude to all who work in the NHS for all the outstanding work that they continue to do, often in difficult circumstances. I wear no badge today, but I have a kind of badge on my head, as I am wearing an NHS bandage from treatment I had this week. I shall be going to my doctor’s surgery tomorrow morning.
It is all part of my life. I was born before the health service was created, but I have had two near misses with my life. When I was 55, I had bowel cancer and was saved by the Royal Marsden. I was quite close to death, and here I am, 20 years on and still enjoying a fruitful life, for which I am eternally grateful to the health service and the people who work in it.
I shall take a different approach from anyone else. I have a different concern about the extent to which the public and I are responsible for the care of the NHS and how we deal with it. People can take it for granted in many instances and, as a consequence, the health service suffers. We do not get efficiency and effectiveness from it because of that—people not turning up for appointments and so on. It is important to continue to look at what we as individuals can do to make the health service even healthier.
I have suggested, and raised previously with the Minister, that one way in which we might bring about a change in attitude is to know what the cost of our health services is; after all, there is not much that we get in life whose cost we do not know, but that is not so with the health service.
The Government do not like this idea because they say that it might discourage people from taking up services. That is questionable. I have suggested in turn that those who would like to know the cost should be told, so that, if they feel gratitude to the NHS, they could make a charitable contribution towards a fund. It would be a fund that not just went towards the hospital where they had been treated or given the service but would be redirected to those areas in the country where we see the most ill health and the greatest deprivation in terms of health services.
The Minister has not responded very positively to these suggestions on previous occasions, so my appeal today is not to the Government but to my fellow Peers and to MPs: we should come together and, instead of words, words, words with nothing happening, we set up an all-party parliamentary group to look at how we might establish a charity that commemorated the 70 years of service that we have had from the NHS but in turn found ways of taking in contributions from those who were able to make them and wanted to express their gratitude for the services or operations that they had had from the NHS. I would certainly be prepared to do that. We would have a group of qualified people—maybe Peers or surgeons—who redirected the funds or gave advice on where they should go in the NHS. We should do it ourselves. If the Government will not do it, this is a source of considerable money among the public at large to which the NHS fails to respond. There is great feeling for the service. I believe that people would make bequests or offerings after they had had operations. It is time that we took advantage of what is there for us. I hope the Minister will respond that when he replies.