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The NHS Debacle and the American Healthcare Reforms: A Personal Reflection

August 17, 2009

Wow.  My second post and I’m already breaking my own self-imposed ban on blogging about anything political.  But I guess, if I’m going to break the rules, I may as well do it big-style – and this is about as big as it gets!  Let me state categorically before I even begin, that I am not coming at this issue with any political agenda.  I have listened to the opinions and policies of politicians on all sides of this debate – on both sides of the Atlantic.  I have listened to the experiences of the ‘ordinary folk’ who have had experiences with healthcare – on both sides of the Atlantic.  I guess this post is just my way of trying to organise my thoughts (hopefully coherently enough for anyone else to follow them!), objectively analyse them and maybe come to some conclusions of my own about this whole mess.  If I offend anyone with my opinions then I apologise now – for that is all they are, my opinions.  The world would be a very dull place if everyone agreed with me, I can assure you!

Personally speaking, I would rather live in a country where the priority for healthcare workers was saving my life, rather than checking my insurance details.  Having said that, if I could afford to pay for private healthcare here in the UK, would I do it?  Absolutely.  Does that make me an astonishing hypocrite with naive principles and a hugely selfish streak?  Probably.  But before you write me off, please allow me to explain.

One of the main problems with the NHS at the moment, is that money is not going to where it is needed the most:  to the front line.  Nurses, doctors and specialist expertise is being sacrificed.  Instead, we have a system that is top-heavy with managers, middle-managers, line managers, and other faceless executives pocketing taxpayers money while destroying from within the institution they are meant to protect.  I am sure that Aneurin Bevan would be spinning in his grave if he could see what has become of his beloved dream.  The danger is that Obama, with his ideals and seeming need for a crusade will be doing the same in years to come.  I admire his enthusiasm to provide healthcare for all, but the reality of implementing such a system is not as easy as it may appear.

I have seen the NHS from the perspective of a patient and from the perspective of a student nurse.  And no, it’s not always pretty.  But when it works, it does an outstanding job.  I have nothing but respect for the people that are working at the front line, day after day, with minimal appreciation and little respect.  The clinical staff are a shining beacon to patients because they care – they wouldn’t be there otherwise (they are certainly not doing it for the money!).  The NHS has saved my life on more than one occasion – that is not an exaggeration, it is a fact.  They have also saved the Chipmunk (my son)’s life.  However, whether it be due to overwork, lack of concentration or other stresses that I am not aware of at this time, some clinical staff also contributed to one of the situations that put us at risk.  This is happening time and again across the entire service, and it is something which needs addressing here, and taking into serious consideration in the United States.

It has been suggested (most recently by Suzanne Moore of the Daily Mail) that one of the reasons the American public is so against ‘Obamacare’ actually has nothing to do with the policy itself, but is simply a matter of semantics:  Socialised healthcare = Socialism = Communism.  Is this really the case?  Who knows.  Certainly some in the Republican Party and many others opposed to the reforms are leaping with delight on this perception and exploiting it for all they are worth, but is this just a convenient smokescreen which is clouding the real issues?  I think so, yes.  Of course the policies need to be examined, debated and examined some more, but it is a shame that people are so easily distracted from the real issues.  It is a shame that something which could ultimately benefit those in need could be shot down in flames through fear rather than rational thought.

I have an immense personal attachment to the NHS.  I love Bevan’s ideology of healthcare which is ‘free at the point of delivery’ – regardless of wealth, class, race or religion.  I am grateful that I don’t have to live in a country where if I have no health insurance I do not receive much essential medical care.  I am grateful that the NHS is there when the Chipmunk and I need it – which lately, as some of you are aware, has been a lot.  I do not view the NHS through rose-tinted glasses.  Yes, there are some very real problems, and yes, it is these issues and more which the US politicians will have to address before they can even consider implementing a reform which bears even a passing similarity to the NHS.  Do I support the idea of the NHS (and similar schemes including the one in the US)?  Unequivocally yes.  Does it – and will it – work?  I am afraid (if it even makes it that far) only time will tell.

One Comment leave one →
  1. August 17, 2009 16:06

    Thank you for writing this, Hannah! It’s important that we on this side of the pond get exposed to *actual* experiences from those of you on that side of the pond… while I don’t think the healthcare reform bills floating around come close to providing an NHS for the U.S. (which I think may be a long-term disappointment), the sad fact is that those in this country who violently oppose any effort to diminish their considerable power (e.g., the insurers and their pocketed politicians) will do and say anything they can to paint every other “socialized” healthcare system in the darkest possible light.

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