Doctors, medicine and the NHS 1966

Like many of my colleagues I no longer try to dissuade my juniors from leaving to work in the United States. Medicine is more important than nationalism and will outlive the indifference of governments: it is better that a good man should work where he can make the best contribution to the advance of medicine than that he should stay to be frustrated by a society too myopic to appreciate his potential. A dead patient presents no economic problem.

It would be naive to express surprise at the equanimity with which successive governments have regarded the deteriorating hospital service, since it is in the nature of governments to ignore inconvenient situations until they become scandalous enough to excite powerful public pressure. Nor, perhaps, should one expect patients to be more demanding: their uncomplaining stoicism springs from ignorance and fear rather than fortitude; they are mostly grateful for what they receive and do not know how far it falls short of what is possible. It is less easy to forgive ourselves…..Indeed election as president of a college, a vice chancellor, or a member of the University Grants committee usually spells an inevitable preoccupation with the politically practicable, and insidious identification with central authority, and a change of role from informed critic to uncomfortable apologist.

Originally published in the Lancet, 1966,2, 647-54.(This version in Remembering Henry, edited by Stephen Lock and Heather Windle).

Henry Miller was successively Dean of Medicine, and VC of the University of Newcastle. No such present day post-holder would write with such clarity or honesty.