Monday, 28 March 2011

In which the NHS is a wonderful thing

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 Cast off any outdated notions of grime and stodge: these days, London’s restaurants are a wonder to behold) is good; our sense of humour is great.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.


Rebecca said...

Believe me, there are a great many Americans who would love nothing better than to have Britain's type of "socialized medicine" here in the States. And most of the others would want it, too, if they weren't so ignorant about the situation. I can assure you, we are no strangers to incorrect diagnoses, inefficient management or scandalously bad care. We just get to pay through the nose for it.

Unless we are over 65.

Medicare provides whatever our senior citizens require for a relatively small co-pay. A comparatively low-cost supplemental insurance will make the coverage 100%...except for some drugs, for some people.

Sigh. It's just a tiny bit complicated. And the program is being cut. By the politicians voted in by a lot of the senior citizens who kept crying out, "We don't want socialized medicine, but leave our Medicare alone!" Medicare being, of course, a type of socialized medicine.

You know, medical care provided by the government and paid for with our taxes.

I mentioned ignorance, right?

In any case, I am thrilled you did not actually have a pulmonary embolism. It really would have put a damper on the nice memories of your New York trip.

Among other things.:)

theperpetualspiral said...

I have nothing but praise for the NHS, even as a top heavy and occasionally inefficient unit, it did once save my life.

I do often think that if more money was directed to patient care rather than management, then it could shine as an example to the world about how health care can be provided, but then I find myself climbing onto a soapbox that I am unlikely to step off for some time.

Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

I too have always had good experiences with our health service. Apart from the time my doctor put my chronic shoulder pain down to being right handed...sigh...

Besides, you only have to travel around America (not Disneyworld, but the bits they don't want you to see) to see the amount of barmy bonkers mental people wondering about, who in this country would probably be sectioned (for free) and / or given free medication or mental health care (for free), to see that the NHS is a pretty good thing.

Gin Operated said...

I'm with you all the way. Whether it was a home visit and an ambulance, plus amazingly kind hospital staff, the day the husband had excruciating stomach pains; the way my GP swung into action when I crawled in with quinsey; or the time and effort that went into getting my Uncle through one last family Christmas, whenever I've needed the NHS for the big things it has been astoundingly good.

Glad you're feeling better x

The Cynic said...

The NHS is not free. We pay an enormous amount in tax, and the government borrows a similarly enormous amount, to pay for it for us. It is "free at the point of sale", that's all (this is not to contradict your comments, just to inform them).

Blonde said...

Rebecca: I'm sure there are, but we never hear anything about them on this side of the pond! I just can't understand why people wouldn't want there to be a national service that takes care of people's health. Very, very odd. But thank you - yes: a pulmonary embolism would have been a bit of a damp squib. Not to mention expensive had it happened in NYC!

TPS: With you the whole way on re-working the management structure, my friend, the whole way. But if my choices were as it is, or not at all, then I know which I favour. (Saved your life?! Yikes... Do we get filled in on that little gem?!)

PDEWYMO: Wow. Y'see, it's little things like that which I just wouldn't think about otherwise. It really is one of the best things about the UK.

G_O: Damned right. The care that my grandparents both got at the end was second to none (I'll leave gushing posts about MND charities and Marie Curie for another time...). Even not being a massive lefty (ahem), I am a massive, massive fan.

The Cynic: You are right, of course, and of course: it costs a phenomenal amount of money to run. But the salient point - that it is free at the point of use, for everyone - is the crucial bit. It doesn't discriminate - whether you've paid into the system or not. And that, actually, is something to be pretty damned proud of.

Brennig said...

I've used NHS emergency twice. The first time, as a 10-year-old boy, was life-threatening and involved a seven-week stay after two operations. The second time, ten years ago, resulted in a healing process that took over a year and included many operations, scans and so much therapy.


And I'm extremely glad that you're not about to croak on us because, you know, I'd miss you about the place.

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