A view from across the pond, what UK citizens told me about their healthcare system


I participate in an international forum discussion group.  A couple of days ago I posted the following item and as you can see I asked for the UK perspective on their National Health Service.  All of the comments you see following my text are directly from UK citizens.  I have not edited them (except for a few instances of horrendous spelling).  I have not added my own take on all of this, but I thought you would find their perspective of us interesting to say the least. It may not be what you think.

My post on their website: 

“The UK health care system is being drawn into the raging debate in the US.

Here is text from an article that recently appeared in the Wall Street Journal. Having never been to the UK (except a stop at Heathrow), I have no idea what he is talking about, but it does not sound good.

For those of you with firsthand knowledge, what do you think?

“Not coincidentally, the U.K. is by far the most unpleasant country in which to be ill in the Western world. Even Greeks living in Britain return home for medical treatment if they are physically able to do so.

The government-run health-care system—which in the U.K. is believed to be the necessary institutional corollary to an inalienable right to health care—has pauperized the entire population. This is not to say that in every last case the treatment is bad: A pauper may be well or badly treated, according to the inclination, temperament and abilities of those providing the treatment. But a pauper must accept what he is given.

Universality is closely allied as an ideal, ideologically, to that of equality. But equality is not desirable in itself. To provide everyone with the same bad quality of care would satisfy the demand for equality. (Not coincidentally, British survival rates for cancer and heart disease are much below those of other European countries, where patients need to make at least some payment for their care.)

In any case, the universality of government health care in pursuance of the abstract right to it in Britain has not ensured equality. After 60 years of universal health care, free at the point of usage and funded by taxation, inequalities between the richest and poorest sections of the population have not been reduced. But Britain does have the dirtiest, most broken-down hospitals in Europe.

There is no right to health care—any more than there is a right to chicken Kiev every second Thursday of the month.

Theodore Dalrymple is the pen name of Anthony Daniels, a British physician. He is a contributing editor to the City Journal. “”

 Here are their replies and discussion: 

Mad as hell and I'm not going to take it.
Mad as hell and I'm not going to take it.

Yes, I would want to know their opinion. I just know from my stepsister, a physical therapist in Wales, that the facilities they have are inadequate. And the wait for an MRI is over 1 year! But it might be totally different in other areas. A good question to ask. (I am not assuming from the beginning it is the worst, because I think every system can use improvement) 

I think that is one of the biggest load of old bollocks i have ever read. The NHS is second to none.  No need to check your wallet before you phone for an ambulance either No ! Anything negative people can find is used in the raging debate. And Fox News is very good at finding the maverick dissenter ie Daniel Hannan

There’s much wrong with our system but it is a million miles from the picture painted by “Theodore Dalrymple”. Me and many of the people I know have had pretty much excellent service from the NHS.

We can always improve the system, not least in the top-heavy administration/bureaucracy. We are not dying in our beds like some Dickensian novel, as some Americans would have the world believe. 

I have lost most of my family to cancer as well as my husband having advanced cancer and surgery. The NHS could not be faulted in any example. yes, there will always be stories of bad treatment but you get that any where in the world. I have also had my share of open surgery and I could not praise them enough. My husbands after care is second to none. The big difference with the British NHS is that beggar, rich man and immigrant will all be treated the same. 

I have had first hand experience of the NHS as has some of my family.
I am glad you have found them most excellent as I have. 

The NHS could be a lot better than it is, I shall relate two recent events that brought me into contact with the NHS, and the observer can make their own mind up compared to their own healthcare system.

A work mate had an accident carrying glass, the breaking glass slashed the back of his wrist and caused a deep gash to the top of his head.  After arriving at Accident and Emergency his details were taken by reception, he was seen almost immediately, his wounds treated and an X-ray of his head taken.
The waiting time between the different treatments was long and painfully slow.

My 42 year old daughter suffered with headaches and complained to her doctor who arranged for tests at several hospitals, seeing several specialists, before diagnosed to have a benign brain tumor. She was off work for approximately 6 months receiving several treatments and tests, until she had an operation to remove the tumor. She stayed in hospital for 6 days, and is now hopefully on the road to a full recovery.

Both had no worries concerning need to pay before or after treatment, their taxes had covered their right to the best treatment available. 

I personally had wonderful care when I was in hospital in London and Ireland years ago. I couldn’t have gotten better treatment and care. The doctors, nurses and aides were terrific, warm and had great bedside manners….something that some of our doctors do not have here. 

You can have choice that is what is important…The NHS is fundamental in any society. 

Bollocks, poppycock, piffle, coswallop, havers, nonsense, gobbledegook

It’s a load of bollocks. No one would claim our system is by any means perfect but many are getting annoyed at the ridiculous claims being made about the NHS in the American media. Why on earth bring us in to it? The claim that has really sparked it is one made in Investor’s Business Daily that Stephen Hawkins-who was receiving an award from president Obama this week

What we find shocking about America is that someone can be refused treatment if they don’t have insurance or that people have to bankrupt themselves in order to pay for the care of relatives.

It’s easy to pick areas or instances where things have gone wrong-there are a lot of issues and arguments about how and what should be provided and the quality of care can vary considerably- and yes it does cost a lot-but not nearly as much per head as yours does it seems. But in the UK people who wish to move away from the basic principle behind the NHS are very much on the lunatic fringe of british politics. 

Well, there’s your answer. “free at the point of service”. It’s paid for by our taxes.

If you are unlucky enough to get seriously ill during your life, you will need hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of consultancy and treatment. None of which is chargeable to the patient because it is “free at the point of source” and EVERYBODY is entitled, rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief.

Try taking the NHS away from us and you’d have one mother of all battles. 

Barack Obama’s stepmother: I owe my life to the NHS – Telegraph
Obama’s stepmother thinks it’s a great service. On the other hand, when I had a heart attack in 2004, I was taken into hospital and told they had to test for enzymes released by the heart after a heart attack. The test had to be done 12 hours later. 12 hours later and no one came to take the test. Apparently, there were no doctors.  In the end I discharged myself after being lectured about quality of life. So where are the doctors, I said, and if I don’t earn any money, I won’t have quality of life anyway. 

My older daughter became very ill in the UK after the birth of her son – (she has dual English / Australian citizenship). The NHS gave her and her baby the absolute best care, immediate and complete. When she was discharged, that was it.

I’ve also been present during a life threatening emergency in America where paramedics had to call three hospitals before they could find somewhere to take the barely breathing patient, who was an American citizen, had double pneumonia and hadn’t been able to afford health insurance. Last heard, the debt collectors were still phoning during the night.

America needs to find its own solution here, suitable to the needs, expectations and perceptions of its own citizens. Misinformation and propoganda about other systems are unhelpful. 

Isn’t this just a large dose of penis envy on your part? Get your own health care system perfectionised and then criticize ours.

Good god, I’ve just read about a poor girl who was being bullied because she had no eyelashes. Our NHS just gave her a PIONEERING eyelash transplant. How much would her parents have had to sell their home for in order for her to have that in the US.? 

It costs about 8% of our GDP – how much does the US system cost? As I understand it, about 18% of your GDP.

The quote in the original post was one of the most biased and deliberately misleading pieces of politically inspired spin it has been my misfortune to read and bears little, if any, connection with reality. 

As mentioned elsewhere nothing is free, but the service is available to all regardless of their financial situation when they need it.

We also have choice, along side the NHS if you so wish you can opt for healthcare insurance and get priority treatment in NHS or independent hospitals by NHS or private Doctors……this is the controversial face of the NHS, taking away from the ideal that it was meant to provide. Some argue the fees earned by private healthcare using NHS facilities helps to fund the NHS.

If you asked me where I would prefer to become ill and need emergency treatment, by far it would be in the UK………..with all its faults. 

If you’re strapped for cash, out of work, without access to a few thousand quid, you won’t be denied treatment for that reason. The real problem is that there can be too many people needing the same type of treatment and they may not all get it – transplants, for instance.

If you work, you pay a National Insurance stamp weekly or monthly out of your wages. The amount id linked to your salary. For what is available of the NHS, the cost is a pittance say for example you are diagnosed with cancer. The benefit is that should you ever lose your job and be unable to pay your NHS stamp, you will still receive the same surgery and care as if you were working.

I just get the feeling of ‘Lets attack the Uk because Obama can’t get his own health care plan right.’  The opening post is nothing but lie’s. 

It’s more a case of let’s distract attention away from our system by changing the subject. It’s a classic tactic in political debate when you are losing the rational argument to either attack the character of the proponent of the measure you disagree with or play on the fears of likely supporters. Pointing at someone else is the easiest way to do it as well as print stories and rumors that play to pre held or carefully cultivated misconceptions.

The basic heart of the debate is the question do you think it morally right that people should be able to access medical care if they need it or should only those who can pay for it be able to do so. If the answer is yes people should have access then the question becomes how do you pay for and run it. If the answer is no only those who can pay for it should then basically you are saying those who are poor are a waste of space. Since the latter is now generally an unacceptable way of looking at things you have to find another morally justifiable reason for being opposed to the concept so you need a completely spurious but compelling counter argument or bogey man.

The reality is what we or any other country have done is completely irrelevant to the debate about healthcare in the states-except in so far pinching some of our solutions might work-but we have devised ways that suit our culture and temperament. You should do the same.

Quite frankly we look at what is going on in the states and wonder why anyone would NOT want universal healthcare for all it’s flaws. Horror stories about the UK’s healthcare are just a scare tactic designed to prevent people thinking. 

If you think that the NHS is not suitable or any good then you can choose private but ultimately you will be able to choose, the NHS in England is seen as a human rights issue in the same way that JFK proposed.

It is the fundamental principle for a nation to care for it’s citizens, the NHS is a marvelous concept.

I see this attack on the UK system a diversion tactic by the insurence companies in the US who would lose out if the US adopted our scheme. Naturally they would want to paint us in a bad light due to the amount of money that would be lost by having a free for all system.

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