Mark Thomas regales us with a peppy portrayal of his health-check on the NHS, in commemoration of 70 years since its inception. The NHS is our biggest socialist element in UK society, and Thomas – a lefty politico-comedian – embarked on a month-long residency at the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust to find out what state the NHS will be in when he needs it most.
A well informed, sophisticated introspection on all that’s wrong with our NHS
In an extremely well rehearsed and presented performance, Thomas fuels the audience with anecdotes of miners' cottages with an electricity supply which ran for 4 hours per day; a run down of his time on a resus ward; and the priorities of the privatised market. There’s a rather gory film clip of stomach fat being burned away, which is so real the audience can almost smell the singeing, acrid aroma. Thomas utilises the full stage appropriately, with various interspersed mechanisms mixing up the pace of delivery, and the medical sink with disinfectant providing a good backdrop for this medical themed show.
Peppered with one-liners which provide a comical interlude to the stark facts and figures we are presented with, Thomas condemns the wearing of crocs, as well as quips about being born ‘screaming at politics’ due to being born in the hospital opposite the Houses of Parliament. These provide light relief to the figures Thomas presents, like the disparity of 22 years of life expectancy between residents of Kensington and those of nearby Grenfell. Thomas also attempts to crush our white-knighting of the NHS, demonstrating that although British exceptionalism has us believing our NHS is the best in the world, it’s actually significantly poorer in terms of outcomes than many other countries. Conversely, he highlights the passion and care of dementia nurses putting a former bouncer on door duty and medics in the renal unit working unceasingly when three organs are donated in one weekend.
This is a well informed, sophisticated introspection on all that’s wrong with our NHS, and why so much more needs to be done to make it fit for purpose. The only thing missing from this superb performance was Thomas’s characteristic pathos and passion and a call to arms. What can we, the average audience member, do to help this situation? How can we get involved? One leaves the performance with a heavy heart, wondering what will become of us, and what stage the NHS will be in when we need it most - with no answer on how to change that.