I’m not ashamed to admit that I love many, many things about Britain.
I love that I can get away with drinking five or six cups of tea during a working day, and no one will look at me as if I’m slightly mad; that our sense of understatement and calm is second to none; and that we’re only any good at the sitting down sports (I don’t love that so much when I’m watching England being trounced in a Six Nations game, but the concept is amusing).
I think the Palace of Westminster makes for one of the most beautiful skylines in the world; that despite our reserve and grumpiness, Brits are astoundingly tolerant people; and that our museums are some of the finest in the world (yes, that might be because we’ve nicked the best bits from everyone else, but the point remains the same).
Our food (yes, the food. Cast off any outdated notions of grime and stodge: these days, London’s restaurants are a wonder to behold) is good; our sense of humour is great.
And – whatever Americans might say about it being ‘socialised medicine’ – our healthcare system is amazing.
By no means is it perfect: there are horrible stories of incorrect diagnoses; of inefficient management; of scandalously bad care. But I don’t know that any of those would be much better if we had a paid-for system.
Once I’d tottered out of A&E last week and back home (via an afternoon in the office… I might have been in my last few days, but that didn’t stop there being Work To Be Done), I collapsed (gently – oh, the pain) onto the sofa and thought about how incredible the NHS actually is.
Between staggering in to A&E to being seen by the triage nurse, barely twenty minutes had elapsed, and my whole stay was under four hours.
And whilst Swedish Doctor’s bedside manner left just a touch to be desired (and I imagine that might be just a difference in culture), the rest of the staff were utterly amazing. There was the sweet radiologist who made me feel less stupid that I’d not done something about my cough any earlier. There was the passing doctor who took the time to explain exactly a few of the long words that I'd not previously heard in Grey's. There was the nurse who, whilst sticking ECG pads perilously close to my tits in a peculiarly deferential way, made me feel so at ease I could forget the fact I’d had the words ‘pulmonary embolism’ delivered to me mere moments before and for whom nothing - be it a glass of water, or an explanation that I could, in fact, use my phone - was too much trouble.
I had my blood pressure taken; I was given a chest X-ray, an ECG and an ABG; and I had all the procedures explained in plain English. I walked out of UCL under four hours later, having picked up a prescription from the pharmacist for antibiotics which, a week later, seem to have mended me.
All for a grand total of the £7.20 that I paid for my prescription.
It didn’t matter who I am; where I’m from; what I do for a living; or what I earn for the staff to give me wonderful care, for nothing, and send me on my way.
If that’s socialised medicine, show me the collective.