Friday, August 14, 2009

Why I Love the NHS

Apologies for light blogging - I'm in the midst of a particularly poor spate of health at the moment. It's really frustrating because there is so much I want to write about and I just don't have the energy. I lie in bed with ideas in my head that I'm going to have to hope hang around long enough for me to be able to write them down.

I couldn't let the day go by, though, without writing a little bit about the NHS and what it means to me. I'll jump into the political fray at some point - and I still haven't read Charlotte's posting on the subject - but I want to keep this simple. This is not an exhaustive list, but a few examples of what the NHS has done for me and mine.

I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that the NHS gave me my grandparents: when I was born, my Granny was 66 and my Grandad was 77. They did not have a lot of money. Unlike many Tory MPs, they didn't live a life of riches and privilege. In fact, they lived in this tiny, cramped two roomed flat which was up some pretty treacherous and precarious stairs. The toilet was two floors down and shared with other people. Grandad died when I was 9, but Granny lived there until 1982 when she moved into sheltered housing. She died 14 years ago at the age of 93.

Both of them suffered from health conditions which were easily managed with drugs that they would not have been able to afford if they had been in the US, where they would probably not have been able to get health insurance. If it hadn't been for the NHS care they received, I don't think they would have lived for as long as they did, and I wouldn't have got to know them. They were also my parents' main source of childcare when I was in primary school. I went to Granny's every day after school and during the holidays or when I was off sick.

The NHS gave me my sister: My sister's birth was wrought with complications and it took some skilful intervention on the part of the doctors and midwives to persuade her to breathe on her own. I don't think my parents would have been able to afford private health care in those days so it's possible that we would have lost my lovely sister.

The NHS looked after my premature niece: My niece Laura was born 7 weeks prematurely just under 17 years ago. She was in Special Care for ages in an incubator and received phototherapy for jaundice. While she was in Special Care, we saw the dedicated and skilled staff save the lives of many premature babies. Laura now has just got fantastic results in her Highers and has all sorts of opportunities open to her.

Just recently, she had a really unpleasant bout of Tonsilitis which, without antibiotics, could have been an awful lot worse - what if her parents had been in America,and had lost their jobs and with it their family's health insurance as a result of the recession? What if they hadn't been able to afford the drugs that Laura needed? It doesn't bear thinking about.

My youngest niece, Aimee, who's now 4, got Pneumonia as a toddler - a terrifying event for my sister, as you can imagine. Thankfully a spell in hospital sorted her out, again freely accessed by her parents.

Her brother, Ru, who's 10, had his appendix removed at the start of the Summer holidays. A simple procedure, but one which if he had been in the US without health insurance may not have been accessible for his parents.

I should mention my remaining niece, Emma, who hasn't had any medical dramas in her life, but, like my daughter Anna, owes her safe arrival in the world to the NHS. All the children have been immunised against diseases like Diphtheria, Tetanus, Whooping Cough, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Polio and several forms of Meningitis at no immediate cost to their families. When my husband was growing up in the 1950s, he knew children who died or suffered long term consequences as a result of these conditions.

My husband had a very severe chest infection after Flu a couple of years ago - he was treated and cured at a cost to us for drugs of no more than around £40, much less than the drug companies sell them for. If we had been on a low income, these drugs would have been provided free.

These are just a few simple examples of what the NHS has done for me and the people closest to me. I could think of many, many more. Thankfully, we've so far been lucky enough to enjoy reasonably good health, but if we need it, I know that the NHS will be there to provide us with treatment which is not dependent on our ability to pay.

There have been so many scare stories in the US about what right wing Republicans and insurance companies with their own commercial interests to protect see as state socialism. Sarah Palin has even had the nerve to talk about death panels and others have mentioned rationing.

What do they call their system, which provides excellent care for the rich and the well, but leaves a quarter of their population with no health insurance other than an extreme form of rationing? Why do they not want to give the vulnerable the access to health care that, let's face it, they need a lot more than the rich?

To me, this is big business putting profit ahead of people and, for all its imperfections, that's not something you could accuse our NHS of.

Tory MEP Daniel Hannan's appalling comments denigrating the NHS on US TV have brought nothing more than a shrugging of David Cameron's shoulders and a dismissal of him as if he were a drunken uncle at a wedding. I expect that if a US politician came over here and slagged off the American way of life on British TV, he'd have hell to pay when he got home. I remember Bush Senior slating Bill Clinton for going on protests against the Vietnam War while he was at Oxford, virtually painting him as unpatriotic.

I don't trust the Tories on any sort of public service mainly because most of them are so independently wealthy that they don't actually need to use them, but Cameron's non reaction to Hannan's comments prove that I am right to be sceptical about their commitment to the NHS. Views such as Hannan's are not unusual in the modern day Conservative Party.

I am not alone in my gratitude to the NHS. It's amazing to see that #welovethenhs on Twitter is one of the ten most popular topics and for a while today was actually ahead of the always busy #FollowFriday. When I first heard of the campaign, I was a bit concerned that the Americans might react to it as they had done to the infamous Operation Clark County in 2004 where the Guardian encouraged British people to write to voters in a marginal county to get them to vote for John Kerry instead of George Bush. To say that this did not go down to well would be leaving the eggs out of the pudding.

However, #welovethenhs is our response to wildly inaccurate lies being spread about a system of health care which may have its flaws, but we are right to be proud of.

1 comment:

Norman said...

Charlotte Gore posted again yesterday on the NHS. Her usual sloppy libertarian nonsense. I've commented in my best Social Democrat fashion.


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