The NHS: Something good

There are always stories in the media about the poor state of the Heath Service in this country. We have all heard the sorry sagas of unacceptable waiting times, botched operations, and postcode-lottery drug administration. You could be forgiven for believing that the NHS is on the verge of collapse; swamped by high demand, pressurised by an increased immigrant population, employing staff who have no interest in the job. This is not my experience though, and I feel that someone needs to put the opposite view, just for a change.

In any organisation as large as the British National Health Service, there will always be errors. It is impossible to provide a service envied the world over, without accepting the reality of mistakes being made occasionally, and the odd member of staff who is not up to the job. I do not wish to detract from individual cases of tragedy, or to comment on them. Instead, I would like to offer an overview of where it does work, instead of criticising every tiny aspect of where it does not. I must start by stating that I know of nowhere else where a system like this exists, and works. We pay a relatively small amount into our National Insurance Scheme, and receive huge benefits in return. Those not working, or unable to pay, receive exactly the same care, free of charge.

Of course, I would like to see an end to prescription charges, still paid in England. I would also like to see a return to completely free dental care. With the right party in government, this would all be achievable. Despite this, the care provided really is exceptional. Those of you who are healthy enough not to need to visit a doctor, hospital, or other medical service provider may wonder what all the fuss is about. One day, you will find out. It is naturally more difficult to provide a good service in areas of high population density. Or is it? When I lived in London, I could normally see a GP within a week. If that wasn’t satisfactory, I could sit in the surgery, and would be seen after the other appointments. Attending a clinic in one of London’s busiest hospitals, University College, I was seen in under an hour. I only waited one week for the appointment to arrive too. At the same hospital, I waited just fifteen minutes for a blood test, and the results were with my doctor in four days. By my standards, by any standards, that’s very good.

Here in Norfolk, despite constant publicity to the contrary, it is even better. My GP has contacted me at home in the evenings, something unheard of in London. The out-patient appointments at the Norwich and Norfolk hospital are efficient, and thorough too. The staff are friendly and committed, and patients are never left to feel that they are an intrusion. The consultants and junior doctors take time to explain your case, and their treatment, and interact with you as if you are an adult, who wants to know what is going on. It is true that the regional Ambulance Service has a poor record. Given the legacy of poor management, under-funding, and the sheer physical geography of this region, that is understandable, if not excusable. The whole county has only two main roads, few dual-carriageways, and no motorway. Remote villages, weather problems, and the logistics of running a service covering six counties, all adds up to a problem that needs to be solved.

There are few major hospitals in this county. The ones that do exist are constantly criticised, with little balanced reporting of their struggle against the problems that they have to deal with. But there is little mention of the many good things. Mobile clinics, that remove the difficulty for patients of having to travel into the towns and cities for treatment. Sensible use of smaller hospitals, to provide out of hours GP clinics, geriatric care, and other community-based services. Widespread use of mobile community nurses, offering visits and treatment in the patients’ own home. We have had occasion to attend Eye clinics and Diabetic clinics, and my step-daughter has received very good service from the Maternity Department and Midwife team. Nothing seems to be too much trouble. Telephone calls to any branch of the NHS here are dealt with quickly and professionally. E mails are answered promptly, letters are sent out when due, and text message reminders of appointments are also commonplace.

I didn’t need the NHS for most of my life; but as soon as I did, it came through.

There is no magic wand to wave to make this service faultless. Given the increasing and ageing population, financial restraints, and new advances in medicine, it is always going to appear to be catching up. But it is undeniably good. And when you need it most, you will realise just how good it is.

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13 thoughts on “The NHS: Something good

  1. Pete, ObamaCare is a joke here in the States. According to Jonathan Gruber, it was deliberately made obscure to confound the “stupid” American people, and is debatably unconstitutional. I never enrolled in ObamaCare. As for quality of health care in the States, I can’t offer a real opinion. Here in Las Vegas, though, perhaps because of its many famous residents and the fact that it is a tourist destination, we have a number of excellent hospitals and health clinics. I live only 2.33 miles (3.75 km) from a hospital and its adjacent medical/dental community. By the way, those who cannot afford ObamaCare can apply for Medicaid.

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    1. Thanks David. I do not know much at all about about US healthcare. We hear about Blue Cross, and patients having to have insurance, or go to a hospital that provides free care etc. But I cannot claim knowledge of hard facts, as I have never been there, or been exposed to the system.
      I do know that Americans I treated in London were generally surprised that there was no charge for the ambulance, or for emergency care. If they were admitted, there were charges levied if they had insurance though. All UK and EU citizens receive free treatment, as do most Commonwealth passport holders too.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  2. They just need to stop outsourcing every bloody thing! Costs a fortune, service provided is bad, costs a fortune to get out of contract! And every time we change govt they throw the baby out with the bath water! Maggie almost drove the NHS into the ground. Labour put a lot into it and reduced waiting-times, then call-me-dave changed it all again. Perhaps it needs to be taken out of central government control to stop all these changes happening, so policies put in place have time to work!

    I agree that we should all have access to free dentists. I haven’t had one for 10 years and it is very expensive paying privately. And it is wrong that in England prescriptions aren’t free when they are in Wales (and Scotland?). I live 5 miles from the Welsh border so how fair is that? (OK I do get them free now I am over 60, but others don’t).

    Rant over! We do have a great system, despite the flaws (getting to visit a GP is a very real problem) and I feel sorry for countries like the USA who can’t see the real benefits of providing free health care for ALL its citizens. But if we want an excellent service (as in Scandinavian countries) then we have to start paying higher taxes!

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    1. We also use a private dentist. It is not that much more than paying the ‘contribution’ and we couldn’t get on a local list when we first moved here. Seeing a GP is not a problem locally, but that may be unique to our practice, as I don’t know about the others.The prescription fiasco needs to be sorted, but Labour won’t do that; at least I have heard no promises from them.
      I just think that overall, it is very good, and we always moan about it, when we should give equal time to praising it. (At least you had a good rant!)
      Regards as always, Pete. x

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      1. Well I worked in the NHS for several years (IT not medical) and saw how money is wasted. And also how difficult it is to balance the drug budget. People don’t realise how important good managers are in running the service, they think it is all about the medical staff. Saying that I believe a lot of managerial tiers can be cut.

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  3. Pete: I endorse everything you have written about the NHS in this blog. As you know, I have been using this service since the age of 11 (I am now 66) and it has never once let me down. Here is one example of how it cares for its charges: one afternoon, feeling unwell I walked into the Renal Transplant Outpatients’ Clinic – within 15 minutes I was in a hospital bed. Six hours’ later I underwent a major operation for a bowel obstruction. It should be noted that this was Christmas Eve/Christmas Day. If I had been born in America I would have been dead many years’ ago. We have a lot to thank Aneurin Bevan for. BPC

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    1. More than anyone I know Brian, you are a living testament to the lifelong care afforded you by the NHS. Despite many ups and downs over the years, you are thankfully still with us. This is thanks in most part to the skill and dedication of many different staff.
      Take care old friend. x

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  4. Well done Pete, good post… I now need the NHS, and have to say I have received great service to date. However there is no denying that the service is in severe straits financially and the future does concern me.

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    1. Thanks Sue. They do struggle with various problems and difficulties, yet still seem to help us when we need it. That’s why I think it is such a maligned organisation. I hope that your problems are soon sorted, and thanks as always for taking time to read my posts and comment.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  5. I think your NHS here is equivalent to our Philhealth here. It is a requirement though for everyone to pay monthly contributions (whether you are employed or retired as long as you haven’t reached 60 yet). We often hear the “poorest of the poor” are given free membership to be honored in hospitals where they are accredited. I don’t know what’s their criteria to select families who belong to the lowest income group. Government health care here needs lots of improvement. We go to private hospitals which cost the earth but they have the most excellent service.

    In our language they always say, “bawal magkasakit” which is tantamount to saying “it is a sin to get sick” because if you have no money, you can’t avail of good doctors and hospital care.

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    1. Thanks Arlene. Some people here do use private (and expensive) health care, but there really is no need. It is normally just to get something done quicker, but it is rarely better. You do get a nice room, a TV, refreshments, and a choice of food, but it all comes at a price that most cannot afford.
      The NHS works well, and even with its faults, it is still an excellent service.
      Best wishes from England, Pete.

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