Sunday, 21 March 2010

Britain's National Health Service

I've been reading quite a lot of US - based blogs recently, and the debate about the US plans for what seems to be a very watered down version of NHS is a very lively topic at present.

As a Briton, I am of course utterly dumbfounded by this. Some US commentators seem to think that the NHS is some sort of awful warning to Americans.

(Re-reading this, I realise that I might be coming across as trying to prescribe to Americans what they should be doing. That's not my wish - I just wanted to make the point that the NHS actually made proper health care available to Britons of low to average incomes for the first time, and has become a central part of the UK cultural landscape. I just rather objected to the system being misrepresented as a bad thing in someone else's argument - as here and here. My life expectancy as a UK citizen is rather greater than that of a US citizen. Much of this is due to the UK's much lower infant mortality rate - 4.8 per 1000 births, compared to the US 6.3 per 1000 births)

The NHS is the sole reason I am here to post today. 16 years ago, I was diagnosed with bowel cancer, and within 24 hours had been admitted to hospital, given 9 pints of blood to replace all that I had lost through the perforation in my gut caused by the cancer, to get me fit to operate on, and then had my hemi-colectomy performed. I developed a pulmonary embolism as i recovered, and that was also quickly and efficiently dealt with. So, the Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy saved my life twice in a week and I remain eternally grateful to them.

Now, as a diabetic, I receive all my prescription drugs free of charge, along with regular checks both of my diabetes, and for any re-occurrence of the cancer. As I am unfit for work, the government pays my National Insurance contributions so I remain eligible for this help.

We are about to have an election in the UK, but it is a given that all political parties will declare total support for the NHS, which is probably the most popular government institution in Britain.

It's a shame that nowadays we don't have politicians of the zeal and character of the people who created the NHS out of the post-war wreckage of the late 1940s. Something to hope for when we all make our choice, presumably in May.


  1. I was relieved the bill got through in the US - am totally perplexed as to why the other Western democracies have universal health care yet there have been all these shouts about reds under the bed when the US tries to bring in a semblance of it. Onwards and upwards!

  2. I've spent enough time in the US to understand that Americans have their own way of looking at things, and that's their right.

    What got me hot under the collar was all the lies being told about how our NHS by American politicians - nonsense about "Death Councils", no treatment for the elderly, and a cash limit on the cost of treatment, amongst others. There's not a shred of truth in any of it. The UK is one of few true friends the US has left in the world, and it made me angry to see us being misrepresented in this way.

  3. By the way, follow some of the links in my "Black Watch" post to read about how NHS staff who are also military reservists are working in Afghanistan - dealing with US casualties amongst others.