While I was ‘afk’ last week, it seems I missed out on a huge debate on the NHS. From what I can gather now that the discussion is fading from public view, President Obama’s proposed healthcare reforms were branded socialist and likened to the UK system which, according to many across the pond, is apparently rather rubbish. Many people quickly rushed to defend the NHS online and, although I’m rather late to the party, I’d quite like to take some time to have my say too.
I am not an especially heavy user of the NHS, but have had a few key experiences of the system over the years that have proved its worth in my eyes. First of all, I was born (obviously) in an apparently lovely little maternity hospital called The Shrubbery. Clearly I have no memories of this particular experience, but my mother tells me that we were very well looked after. My next experience was a trip to the local ‘cottage hospital’, aged around eight, to have a nasty cut on my chin patched up after tumbling from the swing in our garden. Aged 13, I had four teeth removed and was fitted with a retainer to straighten up my top teeth. Once I hit 18 I started getting the contraceptive pill and then, aged 25, I was called in for regular cervical smear tests. A few years ago some mild pre-cancerous changes were spotted and the offending cells removed with LLETZ treatment, but now regular checks have showed that everything is back to normal. I also had a small mole checked up on after a referral from my GP, which lead me to discover Salford Hope Hospital and their medical imaging department. Fascinating stuff.
However, my most urgent call on the NHS’s services was in 2006 when I was standing up on a busy bus and the driver braked unexpectedly, sending me crashing to the floor with little memory of how I ended up with a dislocated hand and fractured wrist. An ambulance was called and I was taken to Trafford General Hospital and looked after by a wonderful paramedic along the way. The junior doctor I encountered in A&E needed to brush up on his bedside manner a tad, but the nurse who looked after me while a surgeon manipulated my hand and wrist bones back into place more than made up for it. That surgeon did an amazing job too, as everyone who has looked at the x-rays since has commented on how well everything’s been realigned. I stayed overnight as they wanted to keep an eye on me, and the nurses were very kind when I couldn’t sleep due to the amount of old-lady-snoring going on in my ward. Then, after a few weekly visits to the fracture clinic, it was decided that I needed to have k-wires inserted to stop the bones moving while they healed. After a bit of rearranging of my appointment (still, much less hassle than getting our fridge freezer repaired!), the day came and the operation was over quickly. Six more weekly visits to the fracture clinic later, and another lovely nurse was cutting my plaster off ready for physiotherapy. The physiotherapist I was assigned an appointment with was appropriately named Patience and, over a number of weeks, she helped me regain full movement in my wrist. All I have to show for that now is two tiny scars where the wires went in (and a few thousand in compensation from the bus company who is, hopefully, re-training its drivers now).
The best bit about this is that it was all free. Well, mostly. When I had the LLETZ treatment, I had private healthcare paid for by my employers and so opted to go to the BUPA hospital as I thought it’d be quicker. Turns out it wasn’t and, for the treatment itself, I was seen at the same hospital by the same doctor that I would have got if I’d gone via the NHS. Worst thing about that was that, not only did I have to pay a £100 excess on the insurance, but they also charged me for use of the room I’d had a lie down in for 10 minutes after the treatment because I felt faint! If they’d told me there would be a charge, I could have just gone into the waiting room. So, my one and only brush with private healthcare has been disappointing, but every single thing the NHS has done for me has been great. Pretty much every doctor, nurse and specialist I have encountered has been friendly and all have been 100% professional. And at no point has anyone asked me if I was able to pay before treating me. I really do love the NHS.