The Palace Park

The Palace Park

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

A defense of socialized medicine and the NHS

Now, for all of my griping and complaining and snarking at the medical professionals I've encountered during my pregnancy, I'm going to take a step back and be objective.

I know. I think Hell just froze over.  We could go sledding down there.

Throughout the course of my pregnancy, the only thing I've had to pay for are the pregnancy tests (and I took about 27. I'm kooky like that).  With the exception of the urinary tract infection fiasco and the maternity ward thing (hard to overlook the latter, I know, but I do believe that was down to individual midwives and not indicative), I have had quite comprehensive care.  I have been referred through for tests and prodding with a speed that has left me breathless.  If I have one major complaint about that it is that I don't always feel we've had an accurate explanation -- in layman's terms -- of what the procedure or test is for nor have we been given time to make a measured decision. The latter complaint  may have more to do with the fact that many of the decisions have required we choose then and there.  I've made the decisions (with consultation and participation from my partner, mind) with firmness, in an attempt to clamp down on trepidation and fear.  Bizarrely, I've taken on the hard edge I would normally associate with the people in the Service I watched growing up. By the same token, my intolerance levels have also gone up.  I don't want apologies or excuses for things that have gone wrong; I don't care if you're understaffed and struggling: they've got a job to do and by all that is good and right and just in the world, do the job, fulfill the misson. I want assurances and proof that they aren't going to go wrong because of carelessness again.

I do not think that treating patients with blinkers on is an NHS-trait. I think it is a medical professional trait. Not all, mind you, just enough egos in a room together to cause confusion. I've heard horror stories about health care in the US, Canada, Sweden, Czech, and it almost always comes down to human fault or incompetence and a breakdown in the process.  A few years ago, I wrote a series of essays for a Mental Health Trust in Enfield. The essays are here.  5 Years later, I stand by everything I wrote then. 

I pay my taxes, I work hard, and I do sometimes feel a bit livid when I see people abusing the system.  But by the same token, there are people who need assistance, who need help, and who need medical care and would die without the NHS.  If there is one fear I have for the NHS, it is that all of this PFI nonsense is going to send it into a tailspin and that private healthcare -- healthcare for the few -- will be brought in as the way forward.  Private health care is an option I am fortunate enough to have (not for everything but for enough) and I won't lie: I've used it.  And it wasn't bad.  And my treatment was expedited.  I just don't want people to read about my experience with a very specific hospital environment and think that all socialized medicine is mistake.  Nothing is perfect. But I am very conscious that in the US, we wouldn't have been able to afford any of this care.

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