Yesterday, the NHS turned 75, and virtually all the newspapers have joined in the chorus singing its praise.
The idea of nationalized healthcare free for all at the point of delivery is undoubtedly a good one. I’d even say that, for a civilized country, it is an essential concept. The notion that an individual who had the misfortune to fall ill might have to ruin his/her livelihood to get treated is absurd and obscene to me.
The NHS was created the same year that I was born. Even though I did not grow up in the UK, I cannot imagine a healthcare system where people have to pay to get or stay healthy. To me, ‘free’ – it is, of course not free at all but merely free at the point of delivery – is a human right just as freedom of speech or the right to a good education.
While reading some of what has been written about the NHS’s 75th birthday, I came across more platitudes than I care to remember. Yes, we are all ever so proud of the NHS but we would be even more proud if our NHS did work adequately. I find it somewhat hypocritical to sing the praise of a system that is clearly not functioning nearly as well as that of comparable European countries (where patients also don’t have to pay out of their own pocket for healthcare). I also find it sickening to listen to politicians paying lip service, while doing little to fundamentally change things. And I find it enraging to see how the conservatives have systematically under-funded the NHS, while pretending to support it adequately.
How can we be truly proud of the NHS when it seems to be dying a slow and agonizing death due to political neglect? In the UK, politicians like to be ‘world beating’ with everything, and I am sure some Tories want you to believe that, under their leadership, a world-beating healthcare system has been established in the UK.
Let me tell you: it’s not true. I have personal experience with the healthcare systems of 5 different nations and worked as a doctor in 3 of them. In Austria, France, and Germany for instance, the system is significantly better and no patient’s finances are ruined through illness.
Now there is talk about reform – yet again! Let us please not look towards the US when thinking of reforming the NHS. I have lived for a while in America and can tell you one thing: when it comes to healthcare, the US is not a civilized country. If reform of the NHS is again on the cards, let us please look towards the more civilized parts of the world!