Endocrinologist.Part of Portsmouth Diabetes team.Passionate about diabetes care
Life without the NHS
So what exactly would happen if there was no NHS? And by that I don't mean the badge or the name because I suspect THAT will always stay..it’s the principle of "free at the point of access irrespective of social background etc etc". What would actually happen? Social media, newsprint is abuzz with the theories, primarily because it's becoming a battleground for the politicians and with elections coming closer, the noise has just got a bit shriller.
And everyone has an opinion. People who have never worked anywhere else have an opinion, people have an opinion with wild fantasy laden, anecdote based remarks, and people use studies which suits them to make a point. And as ever, a practical based debate is impossible. Recently on twitter an event was held called "Without the NHS" and some of the tweets were quite interesting, fuelled with passion, laced with political beliefs, a few laced in reality but majority by those who believe it should stay as it is.
So, let me give you a perspective - having worked in a country where there is no such socialised medicine. Let's get some basic facts straight. The principle that because the NHS is free thereby ts the best medicine ever is frankly odd. The reason the care is such high quality is because of the staff and the care they provide. When folks say their relatives were saved because the NHS is here...believe you me, folks are saved by caring healthcare professionals all over the world, every day, with high quality care. Irrespective of what the system is. So what would happen if the NHS became insurance based or the principle of free for all went? I will tell you what will happen. Overall care will not suffer..it will simply become 2 tiered. Consultants, GPs..their families will continue to get high quality care because they will be able to AFFORD the insurance. For a significant number, it will, simply put, become a care system where they will pay and receive care to the extent they can afford.
Hurts doesn't it? Tugs at your ethos of socialism? Let's flip this then...how do you feel when the UK to continue provide high quality care raids other countries in desperate need of nurses and doctors to fill up their own stocks..simply with the promise of a better life? Fair? Or does the principle of socialism stop at the UK boundaries? Or does the responsibility end with donating to Children In Need or something equivalent? Tough isnt it? I have worked in a system where I have seen people sell their utensils to buy medications, take huge loans to fund an MRI, get sucked into a world of corruption where the ones who could afford did and still does afford the best treatment money can buy..and though this may sound harsh...sometimes, even better care than what the NHS can sometimes provide.
I have seen the darker side of what "healthcare based on your worth" looks like and I cannot, simply CANNOT stress enough the importance of keeping the principle of the NHS intact...not the NHS, but the principle. Today it’s a political battleground and promises being made will only stop the slippery slope for a bit, not halt it. Primary care is crumbling, hospital Trusts are struggling...its decision time folks...NHS..free for need or free for want? And Life without the NHS or the principle? There are many and many on twitter and rest who will be fine without it...but there will be many out there who will struggle...big time. I will not regale you with my tales of working in an Emergency department in Calcutta...you won't want to know it, trust me. But when you have 2 folks gasping for breath, no nebulisers around you, 1 oxygen tank- and then you also work somewhere where most people are worried about the 4 hour target rather than a tubing of oxygen...let me tell you this...you don't want to lose the principle.
The NHS will always stay...but the slope has started..some procedures already banned, some products already being pushed by companies to "buy as its amazing"...been there, done that..and it wasn't nice wearing that T shirt either. Fight for the principle- its worth it.
In simple plain terms? You have no idea what you have got- or what you are heading towards. As a professional, I will always try to provide the best care- whoever employs me...but as regards the rest? Crunch time is here