With a UK General election just a few months down the road; the state of the National Health Service is again being used as a pawn in the election game. ‘The NHS is being brutally underfunded,’ comes from the one side. ‘We have more doctors and nurses,’ comes from the other. The sad fact is the NHS has been underfunded by consecutive governments for years. Add to that we are all to blame for the state of the National Health Service, and it’s time solutions were discussed with all sections of the community.
When I say underfunded for years, I don’t mean five years, or ten years. Or even fifteen years. I mean 35 years.
Back in the early 1980’s I lived with my family on an estate in Hampshire. A high volume residential area of semi-detached private and social housing. Most residents were young couples with kids, whose ages ranged from young babies, to teenagers. Already the NHS cracks were beginning to show.
We dutifully phoned the local doctor’s surgery for an appointment, to be told the first available visit was three, four, or five days down the line. We didn’t complain, at least, not out loud. If things were really serious we would usually be fitted into an emergency slot.
Others though, began to take a different route. They’d had enough of waiting a week for a doctor’s appointment, with a child screaming in pain on their knee. They started visiting the Accident and Emergency department at the local hospital. Just walk in, tell them you couldn’t see a doctor with little Tommy for three or four days, we were told. Seen by A&E doctor, prescription issued, away they went. As one would expect, others began to follow, by this time many not even bothering to contact the surgery for an appointment first.
So things continued, surgeries continued to fill with new patients, A&E continued to fill with those who couldn’t get a GP’s appointment. Drunks started to arrive, brought in by the police or ambulance services. No one wanted to leave them lying on the street.
Yes, over the years new surgeries and hospitals have been built.
More doctors and nurses have arrived from overseas. Is it because there aren’t enough graduates who want to go into medicine in the UK? Who can blame them? Or is it that to import doctors and nurses; is a cheaper alternative than training our own? All these new hospitals and surgeries, doctors and nurses, are heralded as major investments in the NHS. In reality, most of it is recycled funds. Money from the last round of cuts, being reinvested, or money already allocated to the NHS. Very little is ‘new’ money. All the authorities manage to do is move the dam of human patients from the surgery to the hospital, and back again. Surgeries and A&E’s are already gridlocked, where are the continually increasing numbers of people going to go from here.
Oh yes, insurance, go private and you won’t have to queue.
No, our NHS should never be privatised, in part or in whole. Unless we all get involved, from patients, to the National Health Trusts, to the government, and all work together, that is the way it will eventually go. If you’ve ever lived in a country where health care is based on ability to pay, you’ll know why I say it must never happen in the UK. If it does, we won’t be living with a two tier health system. It will be two, three or four tier, depending on the level of insurance cover you can afford to take out.
I’m sure there are ways round this cash starvation of the NHS, but it means all of us, from the lowest paid to the highest, having to agree to contribute more. It has been mooted more than once about paying a single amount weekly, no matter what your earnings, which would be used purely for the NHS. This amount would be available as well as the normal health budget, not instead of. Not an easy task I agree, and many would be vehemently against it. Yet with all things, if there’s a will, there’s a way.
There are some 30,000,000 people currently in work in the UK.
Let’s say we agree to contribute a minimum of just 1GBP a week from our pay. Most of us receive a weekly pay packet or monthly salary. With this comes a wage statement, amount earned, tax, and social security payment.
At the beginning we are all asked to enter the amount we wish to contribute, (minimum 1GBP/wk). Most will enter 1GBP/week. Others may feel they can contribute more. Whatever the amount, it’s voluntary, and can be raised or lowered, say quarterly. From then on every wage and salary statement will include a box, NHS Contribution, and the amount. The government will be held accountable, and have to show NHS annual budget amount, and contribution amount separately. Clear and transparent.
Just 1GBP a week, would bring in 1,560,000,000GBP a year. That amount would about cover the estimated shortfall for 2015. Helping to avoid further doctor and nursing cut-backs; will build a few more surgeries or another hospital; avoid reductions in long term treatments for the chronically ill, or avoid stopping the more expensive cancer treatments that save lives.
1GPB will buy you what, less than a litre of petrol. Two or three cigarettes if you’re a smoker, or less than half a pint of beer. Many of the 18-50’s, will ask why they should pay, they’ve been lucky enough never to have required hospital treatment. Well, I can put myself in that boat. There are very few of us though, who can say they’ve had a child, or other family member, who’s never had to visit the doctors. The time might come when a hospital visit is required. Especially as we all get older, or perhaps the arrival of the latest new born, requiring complicated and expensive surgery to save their life.
1GBP per week is a small price to pay. Put all those pound coins together, and they can make a massive difference to the feeling of security and well being of us all.
A British expat who has lived on this Island of Tenerife for over twelve years.A full time freelance writer, most of my time is spent article writing. I also write on D2C, Writedge, and wherever takes my fancy. For fun I try to increase my portfolio of short stories, with a view to eventually getting them published.