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What a Brit Thinks of the NHS

My interest in social and cultural politics extends from my interest in genealogy and history and how they project into today's societies.

Air Ambulance in Essex, England

Air Ambulance in Essex, England

What Is the NHS?

The NHS is the National Health Service in the UK:

  • It’s free to all at the point of use (for all UK citizens).
  • It provides a full and comprehensive healthcare system.
  • It’s paid for by the Government from taxes.
  • The Doctors and Nurses are Government Employees.

The NHS Explained in Simple Terms

Culture Clash Between USA and UK

In spite of the politics and the bad press, the British people love their NHS because:

  • “It is free for all at the point of use”

So as a Brit I find it incomprehensible why Americans don’t want free health care, and instead prefer to pay for their expensive medical insurance.

I’ve discussed this at length with several American friends on social media. Each time they’ve vehemently supported the principle of paying expensive medical insurance; and rubbished the NHS.

When I ask the simple question:

  • “What happens to those who can’t afford medical insurance”

I never get an answer?

I confess I don’t understand American’s passion for their medical system, but then again it seems most American’s don’t understand the NHS. Albeit (as evident on YouTube) some American’s who have visited Britain and used the NHS do speak positively of it.

British People Appalled By USA Health Care

Free Health Care vs Medical Insurance

Bad Press and Propaganda

You only need to Google Search the NHS to find the web littered with bad press, which if you don’t understand the system gives the distinct impression that it’s a failed system. Whereas in fact it’s the reverse; because of its popularity it’s a victim of its own success.

As a Brit, I am passionate for and biased in favour of the NHS. That being said, I aim in this article to cut through some of the myths and propaganda objectively (rather than subjectively) and show the NHS for what it really is.

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The Origin and Politics of the NHS

The NHS was born in 1948, in the aftermath of the 2nd World War. Set up from scratch and fully operational in just six months; in spite of fierce opposition from the medical profession and the Conservative party. The Conservatives being politically akin to the Republican's.

In 1945, having won the war for Britain, it had been expected Churchill (leader of the right-wing capitalist Conservative party) would also win the General Election. However, to everyone’s surprise, the left-wing socialist Labour party were elected into power on a landslide victory; and during the course of the next five years pushed through major social reforms, including the birth of the NHS.

Since its formation, as the NHS is a Socialist ideology, there’s always been friction between consecutive Conservative Governments and the NHS.

During the 1980s Maggie Thatcher (as leader of the Conservative Government) over a number of years tried hard to dismantle the NHS and introduce an American-style private health service. In the face of opposition from the medical profession and the public, she failed miserably.

In spite of the fact that ‘Free Public Health for All’ flies in the face of Capitalism, it’s a vote winner. So ever since Maggie Thatcher’s failed attempt to dismantle it, the Conservative slogan in General Elections has always been:

  • “The NHS is Safe in Our Hands”.

To pacify the public in General Elections, protecting the NHS is now part of the Conservative’s election manifesto, and government policy; and as such its funding is ‘ring fenced’ to guarantee its protection when a Government is looking to cut Public Expenditure.

However, whenever in power, a Conservative Government will always tinker around the peripherals of the system, trying to make it more in the image of ‘Capitalism’ rather than ‘Socialism’; which invariably causes friction and bad press.

Nevertheless, the NHS, now 70 years old and thriving, is as popular with the voting public as ever.

Below is a full-length documentary on the birth of the NHS, which from the start is engaging, albeit it’s not a short video so you may want to grab a coffee and make yourself comfortable before watching. Alternatively, just watching the first few minutes is enlightening.

The rest of this article highlights just some of the aspects of what is an all-encompassing, and therefore sophisticated health care system.

The NHS: A Difficult Beginning

Healthcare Options

Free healthcare is wide-ranging in the UK, with numerous options when needed; one of the most popular being the controversial A&E (Accident and Emergency).

If you feel you need medical help or advice, some of the main options (all free) include:

  • Making an appointment to see your local GP (Doctor).
  • Going to A&E (Accident and Emergency).
  • Use the NHS website (Your Choice).
  • Phone 111 if it’s not an emergency,
  • Phone 999 if it is an emergency.
  • Walk-in centres, and
  • Minor injury units.

How Public Healthcare Works in England

Seeing Your Doctor

Everyone should be registered with one of their local surgeries. A surgery being a team of local General Practitioners (GPs) aka doctors. Where I live there are at least three local surgeries to choose from when registering. If you don’t like the doctors in one surgery you can change your registration to another practice.

When you want to see your Doctor you can make an appointment either online or by phone; if it’s non-urgent you may have to wait a few days. On making an appointment you can insist on seeing a specific doctor (which might mean waiting longer for an appointment) or see any available doctor in the surgery.

A Day in the Life of a GP

Accident and Emergency

This is the most controversial part of the NHS. Most main hospitals have an A&E Department, which is partly a walk-in service and also where Ambulances bring patients.

The Ambulance service is quite straightforward; if you get taken to hospital in an Ambulance then you receive immediate attention.

The controversial aspect of A&E is that no one who walks in, regardless of how minor their complaint might be, will be turned away. Lots of people walk in with minor complaints when they could have gone to their doctor instead; which can clog up the system, especially at busy times.

Complexities and Controversial Use of A&E Explained

Using the NHS Website

The NHS administers a comprehensive self-help website, called NHS Choices (Your Choice). Alphabetically listed on their website is just about every known medical condition, complete with details of symptoms, remedies, and advice, including when you should consult your doctor.

On the website is also a large section on healthy living and what care and support the NHS offers, with a full list of all local services near where you live.

NHS Choices Website

Phoning for Help or Advice

If you just wish to speak to someone then phoning 111 will take you through to the 24-hour non-emergency call centre, staffed with fully trained nurses and doctors for specialist advice. The call centre will give you good sound advice and recommend whether you should see your doctor.

If during the conversation the nurse concludes you need emergency care they will automatically call an ambulance on your behalf; and invariably within minutes, an ambulance will be pulling up outside your house to rush you to the hospital.

Alternatively, if you think it’s an emergency you can just dial 999 and wait for the ambulance to arrive.

NHS 111 None-Emergency Phone Service

Full Insight

Unlike the USA, the NHS does not put profit before people, and neither is it funded by private insurance companies that cream off fat profits for shareholders and CEOs.

Consequently, as complex as it may appear, the NHS is far more cost-effective than America’s private health; while providing a fully comprehensive service that’s free for all at the point of use.

Detailed Overview of the Complexities of the System

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2017 Arthur Russ

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