Tuesday, 14 January 2014

My National Health Service

Buying travel insurance is a pain in the ass. It gets even worse when you have a “pre-existing condition”. Suddenly your insurance goes from “Hmmm... that's good” to “Holy Hell! I better sell a kidney!”. I had to buy some recently and, for a week and having bipolar, it cost me the best part of £50. Touch wood I won't have to use it.

Which got me thinking about our own health service. For those who don't know, I live in the UK, home to one of those branches of socialised medicine which has been held up as an example for Obamacare. People moan about the NHS, and there's rarely a day when it's not in the news. Normally for the wrong reasons. Across the world, people only seem to pick up on bad nurses, or killer infections, or overpaid managers (Yeah, I agree on getting rid of them), or a multitude of other little things. Apparently the NHS is on the brink of falling apart or is about to be sold off to private companies. Apparently we live in a third world country because we have socialised medicine. Rarely do they look at the bigger picture.

Thankfully, despite a number of accidents, I've never had to take an ambulance ride to accident and emergency (although I seem to have spent an awful lot of time there for various things including burns, one overdose, several broken bones, a couple of snapped ligaments and after care for a few bits and pieces). Thankfully, I also don't have an on-going illness (other than the biopolar, which I'm able to manage myself) so my story is probably very different from other peoples. But the treatment and help I've received is nothing short of outstanding. Yes, I moan when I can't get through to my doctors because the phone line seems to be constantly engaged. But, much like in places which don't have socialised medicine, I can choose which doctor I want to see. Heck, I can change medical practices at the drop of a hat (and am planning on it).

When I overdosed, I wound up damaging my brain. I was put into a protective bubble of doctors, social services, mental health practitioners, and pharmacies. Without it, I probably wouldn't have been able to get back on my feet.

Not all treatment in the UK is free. Dental care and eye tests still have to be paid for. It's the same with prescriptions, but having seen how much my drugs cost PER pill, £7.85 for a month's worth of medication is a bargain. But, because I'm a low paid worker, the only thing I have to pay for is my glasses. Everything's paid for through National Insurance, a tax which is taken out of my pay check. And it's not thousands of pounds per year. It's a few pounds. Tax from other things (sales of alcohol and tobacco) also helps to fund the health service.

I'm blessed to know, and work with, several nurses who've been involved with the NHS. All of them speak highly of their time there, only changing jobs because they wanted a change of scenery. All of them are the kind of people you'd expect to be nurses; kind, caring, always smiling, and with a solution for everything.

To put it bluntly, our now privatized rail system (once British Rail) is now worse than the NHS. You pay stupidly high prices to travel a few miles, yet none of the money seems to go back to fix a struggling system. And the prices for rail tickets go up by at least 4% every year.

Other people might despise it, but I love the NHS. I love that we pioneered socialised medicine. But what Obama needs to do is come over here and see how it really works. Our system wasn't built overnight, and it doesn't require us to hold a several thousand pound a year policy. Like any kind of service, our NHS isn't perfect. But it's always been there when I need it the most, and I'm truly and honestly thankful for it.

No comments:

Post a Comment