Thursday 21 July 2005

And it'll take more than a doctor to prescribe a remedy...

Ah, the National Health Service.

The NHS was founded in those first few optimistic years after the end of the Second World War in 1948. The founding principle was to make healthcare services available to all free of charge at the point of use.

We Brits probably take this totally for granted, but just take a minute to think about that. Free healthcare. For everyone. How many other countries can say that?

I know that over the years this dream has been heavily compromised as successive governments have gradually reduced the investment, stripped out the assets and undervalued the staff.... but parts of that dream are still there. You can still go to see your local doctor without being charged. You can still go to a hospital and receive fantastic treatment at no cost to you. Hundreds of people every day owe their lives to ready access to high quality healthcare, access to hospitals where their first concern is for your wellbeing and not the validity of your insurance.

I know it's not perfect - far from it. For starters, the waiting lists to see specialists can be enormous: if you believe what you read in the papers, sometimes you can wait years before you will get an appointment.

I mention this because my weirdy tingles have led to a referral to a Neurologist. Apparently the NHS waiting list for this kind of appointment in Nottingham is several months long. However, I pay about £4 a month to have medical insurance with work. As a direct result of this, I'll be rolling up to see the specialist next Friday.

Obviously this is good news for me, but it has made me think about the NHS. Every time someone like me comes along and jumps to the front of the queue, waving my insurance form, there is someone somewhere in Nottinghamshire who will have to wait for 6 months to get an appointment with the same specialist because they do not have private medical insurance.

£4 measly pounds a month. £48 a year.

I bet more than that goes towards the NHS from my annual tax bill.

Perhaps I should look on the brightside and hope that the money that my insurance company pays for my treatment will go towards making sure that this kind of treatment remains available to everyone, and that my consultation will better enable the NHS to be continue providing free healthcare.

I'm a little sceptical about that, I have to say. Does one private hospital bed fund two public beds, or does the public bed disappear to make room for private beds?

I'm not sure that this is what Aneurin Bevan had in mind.

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