Marion Birch is director of Medact, an organisation of medical practitioners that campaigns over the healthcare implications of war, poverty and environmental change. She spoke to Socialist Worker about plans, recently backed by Gordon Brown, to renew Britain’s Trident nuclear weapons system.
‘We are looking at costs of anywhere between £10 billion to £25 billion to replace Trident. There are complexities over whether you replace the delivery mechanism as well as the missiles - all these unknowns.
In contrast the NHS deficits this year amount to £512 million.
It is a complex issue because the money would not necessarily be spent on healthcare. Because of privatisation issues in the NHS, money going in does not necessarily stay there.
But the money could be put back into the NHS. Currently people are being laid off, changes that are completely “cost driven”, and at the same time they’re talking about vast amounts of money for a hugely destructive and probably useless “deterrent”.
The money could also be used to help people beyond our borders. For example, it could be used to meet the goal of spending 0.7 percent of GDP on development assistance.
Coming from a health professionals’ organisation, I am concerned that the money is going into something that could massively increase mortality for somebody somewhere.
Nuclear weapons kill and maim through a thermal blast that incinerates people, or lead to long, lingering, painful deaths through radiation.
There’s a long history of health professionals campaigning over this issue, and saying that there is no adequate health response to nuclear weapons.’