Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Hey, socialistic medicine isn't all that bad

America is currently being misinformed about the British NHS (National Health Service), as Obama tries to get his healthcare programme approved. I have no wish to interfere in US politics but I feel the horrific lies should be countered. I have somewhat overrun my 300-word limit - blame passion.

Welcome to the Offshore European Gulag (otherwise known as Great Britain) where we put seventy-year-olds on the front step on winter nights and break up their remains for kindling the following morning. Where our hospitals saw off more wrong legs than right (and left) legs. Where the government forces you to pay for health care which it denies you when you get sick. A land racked by plague and runny noses for which our incompetent foreign doctors have no cure. Welcome to socialised medicine and over to your tour guide – Rush Limbaugh!

On the other hand, how about this story on telly last night? A patient in the West Midlands received a transplanted liver from which part was removed and used as a transplant to a baby. A woman in the same hospital who had a liver complaint fatal only to women received a healthy liver and her liver was transplanted to a young lad (coincidentally from my home town, Bradford). All doing well. Tens of thousands of pounds worth of surgery for a small payment deducted from everyone’s pay-cheque..

Vast and wealthy private interests in the USA, egged on by the Republican Party, are attempting to terrify sectors of the American population into rejecting Barack Obama’s health care scheme for the poor by citing what happens under such “communistic” schemes as Britain’s NHS (National Health Service).

As well they might. The NHS is one of the biggest organisations in the world and employs 150,000 people. Inevitably things go wrong in a service that size. Luckily the people who run it are able to improve their performance by copying super-efficient large organisations in the private sector. Like General Motors (Joke, if in rather bad taste).

Not only does the NHS make mistakes it gets a bad press. Newspapers seize on surveys about dirty wards and run them big. It’s quite irrelevant that these newspapers happen to support the Conservative party which is to your Republican party what a meerkat is to a grizzly bear.

The word is out in Britain, the NHS stinks. I was subjected to this opinion only last week. Where was the evidence garnered? I asked. Oh let’s not bother with evidence, the opinion is “prevalent”. Especially in papers owned by the Great Axeman of Evil himself, Rupert Murdoch, who also owns that simon-white source of impartial information, Fox News.

But alas for my informant I know something about his background. Within the last decade he’s had his cataracts done and his prostate set to rights. By the NHS. And the service he received? “First-rate,” he says. Clearly the NHS were trying to change his mind about them but failed miserably.

I cast my mind back over the NHS I know about personally. In my case an endoscopy arranged within a few days and the results provided there and then. The patience of the hospital staff caring for my father-in-law who, maddened by Alzheimer’s, hated the world during his final days. A follow-up on a breast cancer check for my wife conducted with professionalism and the sweetest of sympathy. Yeah, the NHS stinks.

And perhaps the most telling encounter of all. My much wealthier cousin had a private health package and was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer. But the surgery did not take place in a private hospital. “Oh no,” said the surgeon, “we’ll use Bart’s (a renowned NHS hospital in central London), the facilities are much better there.”

If labels like “socialised” and “communistic” are applied to health care, usually by people who haven’t the faintest idea what these terms mean, then they are stigmata I will cheerfully bear. Better a live Red than a capitalist dead as a matter of principle. And incidentally I do have experience of US health care and it is superb. My younger daughter was born in Pittsburgh and my Blue Cross/Blue Shield covered it all bar $20. Such a picky amount!

Just one sad moment. The baby was overdue and this led to a forceps delivery which, unlike in NHS London with the elder daughter, I was not allowed to watch. Never mind. Our doctor brought her out to show me and in all innocence and without a hint of accusation I asked about the head bruising. I shall never forget the stricken look on his face. He thought I was complaining and, worse, I might sue. Not in a million years. But might his fear have been a byproduct of a market-led system?

One final comment. An American political analyst interviewed by the BBC last night said Obama’s programme would be a “tough sell” given the state of the US economy. In fact, Britain started to introduce the NHS in 1945 when London and many of our manufacturing facilities had been bombed flat, when most of our merchant shipping fleet was at the bottom of the Atlantic, when we owed the US billions in War Debt (only paid off a few months ago) and when the Cold War was getting into the act. Course, things are much harder for the US now.