Why the UK health service is not America’s concern

Following the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics, the world’s media was awash with reaction and opinion. Not all of it glowing. A fair few overseas commentators seemed to find the NHS section of the evening somewhat troubling.

For those that don’t know, the NHS is our National Health Service, set up in the wake of WWII, state-owned and funded by taxes.
Many US Republicans (and some Democrats too) point at our NHS when arguing against many of President Obama’s planned health reforms. A lot of what I read today was woefully inaccurate at best, and rantingly offensive at worst.
Our health service *is* free at the point of delivery. There is no ‘gaming’ it. We do have a private health sector, which is thriving. So, if you have the money you can choose to pay rather than use the NHS. You get treated by the same doctors, sometimes in the same hospitals. But you get treated sooner.
All emergency treatment is via the NHS – from heart attacks through to car accidents, shootings, stabbings etc.
The use by people in the US of the term “socialized” health care means nothing to us. That simply is not what it is, not what it feels like.  It is a hollow ideologue’s term to defend their distaste for providing health care for all members of society.
It is my belief that the true test of a society is how it regards the less fortunate and those in need of help. But I keep that opinion to myself. I would never stoop so low as to lecture people in the US, for example, on what their health system lacks – because I don’t live there.
The UK’s NHS is far from perfect. The waiting lists are too long. There is too much emphasis on measuring the wrong aspects of patient treatment and not enough on actual patient care. Some hospital governing bodies (it’s done regionally) have run out of money. The quality of care you get is often due to how much the people you are treated by actually care about what they are doing.
My father died in early 2011 and was treated very badly in hospital during the last week of his life. My mother’s cancer wasn’t diagnosed, despite many warning signs, until it had advanced to the point where it was declared inoperable. My oldest son was left with a ruptured appendix for almost two weeks before one particular doctor realised what was going on – he dodged a one-in-a-thousand bullet.
Most people in the UK know someone that’s had a bad experience at the hands of the NHS.
Most of us also know someone who received life-saving treatment, or life-changing care at the hands of the NHS.
It’s always fascinating to read what people overseas think of our country. But, mostly, you are all speaking from positions of varying ignorance. The opinions I value most are from those who caveat their comments by declaring themselves onlookers, not behaving like experts.

Can we fix it?

I’m sure I’m not the only person who came down with Barack Obama fatigue last week, although it’s deeply unfashionable to admit such a thing.

Don’t get me wrong. I think he is very impressive and there is something reassuring about knowing there’s an intellectual in charge of the US. Of course, he’s got a loooong way to go before he’s as funny as the last guy. But that’s not such a bad thing, I guess.

During the G20 palaver there was a great deal of attention paid not just to what was said, but to the way in which Obama says things. For me, the fatigue began to take its toll thanks to the seemingly never-ending stream of pundits on Radio 4 talking about him. How is he different, why is he different, etc etc.

One thing’s for sure, I don’t need to hear another reprise of his famous “Yes We Can” speech. My oldest son was the right age to get into Bob The Builder a few years ago. Let me tell you, I’ve heard the phrase “yes we can” so often it just doesn’t do it for me anymore.

Mind you, part of me would like to know what things would be like if the new US administration was left in the hands of a claymation builder with a gang of talking steam rollers, cement mixers, cranes and so on. At least they could have played an active part in rebuilding those bits of the world the Bush administration had broken.