Photo: Steve Ullathorn
Political comedian Mark Thomas is about to go on the road with his award-winning show about the NHS.
Check Up: Our NHS at 70, which Thomas first performed last year, is based on a series of interviews with leading experts on the NHS, and a month of residencies in hospitals during which he shadowed doctors, nurses and clinicians.
And among the questions he raises: what’s going wrong in our NHS, how can it improve, and what will the future hold for generations of future patients?
A Guardian review of the show when it first aired at the Edinburgh Fringe observed that many of the establishment figures Thomas met – and features in his act – are critical of the way social services and the NHS have been run.
These include: an epidemiologist who noted that life expectancy of Kensington and Chelsea residents in London is 22 years shorter in the Grenfell Tower area than it is by Harrods, just three miles away; England’s chief medical officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, who pointed the finger at the sugar, alcohol and oil industries; and former health minster Frank Dobson, who condemned the private finance initiative.
“With ammunition like that,” says the review, “Thomas is able to make a smooth transition… from a celebration of the NHS in its 70th-birthday year to a critique of the complacency, under-investment and creeping privatisation that is poised to bring it down.”
Thomas himself has said of the show: “My big discovery is that public service and duty – a very old-fashioned concept – is real and it holds the NHS together.
“The fact that people love the NHS and politicians are frightened to be seen to move against it is also really important.
“If we put money into health, health outcomes improve, and people live longer. But if we live longer, there’s more of us and the NHS needs more money.”
The tour starts on 6 February in Bristol, travelling around England, Scotland and Wales before ending in London on 4 May.