Friday, 14 August 2009

The NHS is free

I have worked in the National Health Service (NHS) all my working life.
I have been a patient of the NHS all my life.

And I'm staring open mouthed at the TV news about some Americans attitude and ignorance to the changes that Barack Obama is trying to instigate.

So just to set the record straight, cause I'm angry at the lack of knowledge, this is what the NHS provides.

From the minute a woman thinks she is pregnant she can go and see her GP- General doctor who usually works out of a health centre. She will be referred to a Midwife that she will see in the same place. And she will be referred to her local Maternity unit under the care of a Consultant for her delivery. ALL THIS IS FREE.

Once the baby is born, the GP,midwife, and health visitor will all visit the mother and baby at home. The GP usually only once, the others as they are needed. ALL THIS IS FREE.

As the child develops, he/she has access to the health centre to see the doctor, for any childhood ailments. And if the child needs specialist care, from a physician to a psychiatrist they will be referred. ALL THIS IS FREE.

Throughout our lives here in the UK we have access to a GP as often as needed, the other people employed in a health centre, will be nurses, both inhouse and district nurses, who visit in people's homes. Counsellors in many surgeries across the country, all though services are sketchy in parts and well served in others. Chiropody, orthodontics, family planning, acupuncture are just some of the services that can be found in a large health centre. The nursing and counselling ARE FREE. The other services may may make a small charge depending on financial circumstances, in that anyone on benefits, WILL NOT PAY.

If a hospital referral is required to any specialist it is FREE. Where there is a charge is in very expensive IVF treatment.

Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy are FREE. Operations are FREE, admission on to the wards is FREE. Food in the hospital if an inpatient is FREE. Drugs on the whole are FREE.

Where the health service struggles, is that some of the new drugs coming on the market are very expensive and it does become a lottery to an extent. The same is true of ever advancing procedures that save lives. There is only a finite amount of money in any country for health care. And if it's your relative that needs that drug of course you will feel that you are not getting good enough care.

So it is a struggle sometimes to justify paying for one thing and not another of course. But we do not turn people away because they do not have the funds to pay.

No-one in the UK goes bankrupt trying to pay for medical care..... See Michel Moores film called Sicko to see what happens to normal Americans when they can no longer pay for their care.

It is not ideal, the UK health service, it is vile hanging round an emergency room on a Saturday night waiting for care. We do not have enough money for some services, or think to give to them. It is a top heavy bureaucracy. The resources required to keep the wards clean are not as good as they could be. But as a service for the population it works even if it creaks sometimes

But the people on the front line, those of us that work in it know that we are doing a valuable job, and we also know that if we need the care we can have it as well and IT WILL BE FREE, for all. Not just those with insurance, or those so poor that they are eligible for medi care. It is that group of middle Americans I feel for, those that look at needing care and because they don't have sufficient insurance don't get treated.

I think if anyone who is currently ranting about what Obama is actually saying would realise that,that is what he wants Americans to have. The right to have enough insurance to have their medical needs met.He is not proposing a health service like ours here.

But for anyone opposed to his policy, I ask you to ask yourself the question, who is going to pay for your treatment if you get ill. I know the answer if I ask it, and it's the NHS, and for that I'm grateful, even with it's faults. And I'm happy to pay my taxes so I can use the service as often as I need it ALL FOR FREE.


Pam said...

Hi Byrdie - a well thought-out rant. We are similar with our health system here. Our medical staff are entirely overworked, hospitals and aged care understaffed, but think that's world-wide.Cost of some medications is however an issue,particularly when drug companies make such enormous profits.People should not have to feel guilty about being sick and feel the added pressure of eating into the family finances because of it. Stand back friend, and let me on that soapbox, because I'm with you on this and feel strongly about it!

Helen said...

Well said ... bravo! Our system is so incredibly screwed up, it is unbelievable.

Angela Recada said...

Thank you for this! I am so tired of all the ignorance, misinformation and fear that surrounds this topic here in the US.

Mel said...

The Brit was amazed at the speed in which he received his rotor cuff surgery--and was wow-ed by the hospital, physicians and service.

And then he saw the bill before the insurance picked it up...and what was left after the insurance paid out what was 'covered'.

Today, with his mother receiving care in the UK the only complaint he has is about the speed in which things are done.
But truly--doc's there don't take 'one more patient' to pay for their golf membership fees before heading out on a Friday evening. k.....I'm giving opinions and not fact....cuz boy do I have an opinion on cost and ethics of health care in the USA.

Fine. NHS creaks a bit--but it's still taking care of the people.

Merry ME said...

Thanks for this outsider's opinion. I find it all so very confusing. With so many lobbyists advising the people who are trying to formulate a plan it seems to me a little like the inmates running the asylum. There is a lot of wrong and twisted information being passed around. The bottom line is something must be done. I pray it will not be jumping from the frying pan into the proverbial fire.

lakeviewer said...

Great summary of the British system for us Americans to understand. The majority understands that we need to do something.

Linda - Gold Coast said...

Great post FB. As Pam mentioned, our system is not perfect here either. Hopefully Barack will get the support he needs to make the changes.

trousers said...

It says plenty about the thinking behind some of these criticism of the NHS when one of the US newspapers made the following rather astonishing claim:

'People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn't have a chance in the UK, where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless.'

Not to mention that they appear to have thought that Hawwking was American because his voice synthesizer has a US accent.

They've since retracted the above but also tried to make the point that he wouldn't have got the treatement he has if he wasn't Stephen Hawking...

I'm so thankful to have seen some balanced opinion from some US commentators and bloggers in contrast with the above example.

Yes, the NHS smells a bit funny, and there are always going to be times where people have genuine complaints and criticisms, but the lies and misinformation being put out to the American people are totally off the mark, and are there to protect the insurer's interests first and foremost.

Paula said...

Well said, I am German, used to live in London and had the coverage of the NHS. Obviously being rotten spoiled from the German federal health system I struggled with the points Mandy mentioned: waiting times and cleanness. However I never had the feeling I wouldnt get what I need. When the time came to consider if I would be moving to the USA following the man of my heart - wow, enviromental issues and the health system were HUGE points for me. International health insurances (like for Expats as myself)for the USA are freaking expensive as private treatment is so very expensive in the USA. The majority of the US citizen cant afford that. For the time being I am in Germany and ensuring that absolutely everything has been taken care of before leaving thecountry again.Obviously the costs have exploded in Germany as well like in many other countries and I am now required to pay a tiny amount towards medication myself. If I cant afford to so so, I will be freed of it. From my unerstanding of the Obama health plan he tries to implement a system which is overdue for many years and many Americans in need of treatment. I hope he gets all the support he needs to succeed for the citizens. The period of change isnt an easy one and I wish all Americans the patience needed.
Once again I am grateful to receive all nealth treatments I need free of charge.

Walker said...

As a Canadian we enjoy free heath care for e3veryone if they work or not and for those that work that make over a certain amount they pay 50 dollars a month.
We have no long waits.
The problem in the states is the lobby groups that represent the privately owned hospitals.
I think, one day the American people will stand up and say !@#$You.
Great post

Lola said...

Thank you for this post, Mandy.

Here in Italy, healthcare is FREE, and sure- it creaks loudly, but it's FREE.

The most absurd qualm about President Obama's reform seems to be that "it sounds too socialist." Really?

I pray president Obama gets all the support he needs to succeed in providing his fellow American citizens with a proper healthcare system.

~Lola xx

nitebyrd said...

Oh! Fire Byrd! I just did a l-o-n-g response to Ro's NHS post. I should copy it here. :)

One point, many, many doctors in the US have become very, very rich. Socialized medicine may not allow them to maintain their lifestyle. I believe most are against any type of NHS type system.

I'm not political and I think the majority of politicians should be dumped in the ocean. Basically, neither side knows nor cares about the "common man." Their main focus is to discredit the other side. I really don't have much faith in any politician to help us.

janis said...

Very well written post! Very informative and interesting.
I agree with Rosaria, the majority of us Americans know and want something, it is all just very confusing to many.
Scary. Some people have very good health care that has been provided as a perk in work bennefits. People worked hard for having the best for their loved ones and some don't work at all, take an advantage of the system and catch a free ride at anothers expense. It is going to take alot to get things "evened" out. We understand it needs to be done, just frightened at what will be lost.
I am a supporter of our President, and have faith in him and what he is acheiving. but, I am also fearful. I can't help it. When Annie had her Appendix removed. That surgery, two day stay, and all that came with it came to a total of $21,000.00. Thankfully, we have amazing insurance that my husband has fought hard for with negotiating contracts within the union with his job.
The thought of a health care system that would be much like much of the world is exciting, but it wont happen over night.
Again, thank you for your wonderful posting. I feel better informed after reading and grateful for the opportunity :D