Special conference to explore moral basis of National Health Service

Health professionals, patients and philosophers will come together at a special conference next month to explore the moral basis of the National Health Service.

Among the questions for discussion will be: Is the NHS merely an efficient resource for the economy - repairing citizens to make them fit for work? Or is it grounded in something more compassionate?

The NHS as 'Civil Association' is the spring conference of the Think About Health network, and is driven by research in Cardiff University's School of English, Communication and Philosophy. It takes place on April 13-14 at the British School of Osteopathy.

"The point of the conference is to ask whether ethics plays the part it should in both day-to-day medical practice and in the planning and reform of the health care service," explained conference organiser, Dr Andrew Edgar of Cardiff University.

"Since its conception in the 1940s, the nature and purpose of the welfare state has been interpreted in two complementary ways. On one hand, it can be seen as efficient economic practice, and on the other, as an expression of our moral commitment to fellow citizens - in the words of the British philosopher Michael Oakeshott, a 'civil association'."

He added: "The conference is especially timely, as the England Health Care bill is focusing public and media attention on fundamental questions about the nature of the NHS.

"Our conference will in particular address the dangers that arise when instrumental or economic justifications of the NHS start to dominate."

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