While health is a major political issue and health professionals are unavoidably involved to some extent in financing and resource allocation, it is also neither reasonable nor possible to divorce the practice of medicine from the societal culture in which it is practised.
Doctors and their organisations worldwide have been jolted by the collapse of some insurance and indemnity institutions, increasing criticism of hallowed ideologies and a reduction in societal status. Among some, there are calls for ‘medical professionalism’. Much of the pageant of scientific, diagnostic and therapeutic progress is admirable, but some behaviours developed to protect status and the accelerating development of a health–disease industry could be leading to professional self-destruction.
The sociocultural and political influence of medicine on citizens individually and collectively has never been stronger. Conversely, and despite the socialisation of medicine, the criticism of conventional health practitioners and their practice by society has never been more vociferous or sustained. Health is a major political issue, especially at a local level. This is well illustrated by the usual community response to a threatened regional hospital closure.