The NHS - Do you love it or do you hate it?
Personally I love it. I can't believe that we are so fortunate to have so much free healthcare at our disposal.
Recently I've had a number of reasons to have had to experience our NHS system more often than ever before, though not for myself.
One thing that struck me straight away from all of this is that we are so lucky to have the NHS in this country.
Yes, I know that it has it flaws and that there are a great many things that could be done to improve it. However, the healthcare checks and testing that is available to us is truly astonishing considering we pay no more than our taxes for it. If you were to visit many other countries in the world they most likely have a healthcare system in place where only those who can afford it can obtain the very best health care and testing.
The Birth of the NHS
From the NHS website:
The NHS was created out of the ideal that good healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth. When it was launched by the then minister of health, Aneurin Bevan, on July 5 1948, it was based on three core principles:
- that it meet the needs of everyone
- that it be free at the point of delivery
- that it be based on clinical need, not ability to pay
These three principles have guided the development of the NHS over more than 60 years and remain at its core.
The National Health Service for England and Wales started out as the National Health Service Act 1946, but didn't come into action until 5th July 1948.
Prior to this all patients were expected to pay for any healthcare with the UK. The birth of the NHS meant the following:
Services would henceforth be provided by the same doctors and the same hospitals, but
- services were provided free at the point of use
- services were financed from central taxation
- everyone was eligible for care (even people temporarily resident or visiting the country)
In 1952 the Government had to introduce a 1 shilling charge for prescriptions as they were spending far more on the NHS then first expected. They also brought in a flat charge for dental treatment.
Prescription charges were abolished in 1965 and reintroduced in 1968. New drugs came to the market improving healthcare, including polio vaccine, dialysis for chronic renal failure and chemotherapy for certain cancers were developed, all adding to costs.
NHS verses private
At present we are offered a range of health screening, tests and immunisations as part of our NHS programme. This includes:
- Mammograms (for women over 50)
- Smear tests (for women over 21)
- Bowel cancer checks
- Immunisations (from birth)
- Blood tests
If these were to be done privately you would be looking to pay in the region of the following:
- Mammograms - £ 100-150
- Breast lump removal - £ 2200 to £ 4500
- Cataract removal (1 eye) - £ 2000 -£ 3000
- Wisdom teeth extraction - £ 1250 - £ 1400
- Hip replacement - £ 9000 - £ 13000
- Colonoscopy (bowel health check) - £ 1300 - £ 1900
- Smear tests - £ 150 - £ 200
- Physiotherapy - £ 50 to £ 100 per hour
For many this doesn't include the cost of the consultations and some tests may have to be done numerous times.
(these costs were taken as an average for several private healthcare companies in England in 2012)
Imagine someone who has recently been for their routine mammogram screening for breast cancer and this has highlighted an issue. There follows a consultation with a specialist, an ultrasound and biopsy. Following this further consultation and lump removal. Now think about the cost of this without the NHS doing it, it could be around £ 10000 or possibly more!
Another example is a woman who is pregnant. She has to attend a number of pre-natal checks with doctors and midwives plus have her ultrasound tests. She may need additional testing such as a nuchal or glucose intolerance test. Leading up to labour, will she need a caesarean section, epidural, other intervention? These 9 months could leave her £ 15000 poorer, and that's before the baby has arrived.
Now I know that some of you will be shouting at the screen saying, but that's what private healthcare is for. How much do people pay every month for the privilege of private healthcare with someone like BUPA or Pru Health? It's on average £ 70 a month. For someone who doesn't claim on this for 5 years this could be a pay-out of premiums totalling around £ 4200, and that isn't including any of the testing or screenings. Also, every single private healthcare system has in place terms and conditions for what they will and won't pay for, and on occasion this could leave some people having paid out almost £ 5000 in premiums over the years but unable to claim on the insurance.
If you need more proof about how lucky we are with our healthcare system in England then take a look at the movie "Sicko" by Michael Moore. It's a documentary movie where Michael Moore goes to uncover the problems with the US private healthcare system and the issues around those who can't afford healthcare. He goes to other countries, including England, where he cannot quite believe that no-one in this country pays more than their taxes and that we all pay a set amount for our prescriptions no matter what the drug is (that is if you don't qualify for free prescriptions).
What I would say to you all in England, is don't take your National Healthcare System for granted - Use it.
Take the screenings that you are offered as part of the screening programmes, it's free and could save your life. If you do make an appointment and are unable to attend then call and cancel it, don't be a no show - that costs the NHS valuable money.
Celebrate your health and let's hope you never need to use the NHS more than a few GP appointments, but aren't you glad to know that the NHS is there - just in case?