Thursday, 30 July 2009

141 Good Things in the World

Hullo, all,

Please excuse the rambling: I just wanted to big-up the NHS.

I just got back this morning from a tonsillectomy and overnight observation - I've never felt so very, very professioanlly cared for. We all know there are horror stories - often blown out of proportion by the press - but start-to-finish this has been a superb experience.

They were very accomodating with the appointment (so I didn't have to take time off work) and the new booking system for surgery really impressed me. No lenthy waiting list, either!

The food was good, the bed comfortable and well appointed with a good view (albeit over Torbay Hospital car park), and every single member of staff was polite, capable, proficient and good humoured.

For those of you not in the UK, the NHS is the National Health Service. I know socialised healthcare is becoming more of an inflammatory issue in the US, and by no means do I wish to get all political here, but in my 29 years the 'free' healthcare from the NHS has never once failed to impress me, so I thought I'd share some positive stories, below:

My wife - from Chicago - loves the fact that her entire pregnancy ordeal is free throughout; free prescriptions for a year afterwards too. This was brought home recently by a successful friend of hers in California who jokingly suggested selling his newborn daughter in order to pay the medical fees: it hadn't even struck me that such things had to be paid for. Of course, his medical insurance will help him out, but he still needs to find the cash up-front.

My father-in-law - self-employed - can't afford to retire for the foreseeable future, because at 63 he's still footing extensive medical bills for severe back and knee injuries he received in a chopper crash way back in the 60s with the USMC [I do mean severe, too: in the last decade he's had 3(!) knee replacements, two vertebrae removed and had to have his spine rebuilt].

(Incidentally, after his first knee replacement shattered whilst visiting us over here, causing him immense pain, he was pleasantly surprised to receive free advice and a stack-load of freebie painkillers from our helpful local pharmacist. Normally, any prescription costs no more than £6.50, unless it's normally sold more cheaply. That's a blessing.

My wife's half-sister, when she first visited as a 13-year-old a few years ago, got bad earache on the plane, and refused to let us take her to the doctor, worried that her up-tight mum would be angry with her if she found out we'd spent money on a visit to the GP. If I never again hear a child worried about the incurred expense of seeing a doctor when he or she is ill or in pain, I shall die happy. That should be a given.

My late mother had a defibrillator installed (if 'installed' is the right word!) in lieu of a pacemaker. It cost £35,000 at the time - way more than my parents earned between them in a year - and with all the fantastic treatment she got for three years it didn't cost a penny beyond what we all pay in Tax and National Insurance.

In comparison to this, our beloved hound, Cadfael, had to have a couple of lumps removed back in June, and it cost over £350. I had to pay that up front before I could claim most of it back on his pet insurance, less the premium. That left a real dent, and I dread to think how I could find the money for anything more costly...or human...

I know the system isn't perfect; I know it has its detractors, and of course some other countries do it way better than us. I also know it's by no means actually free...but Man, I love the security of the NHS.

PS: This means I'm officially convalescing for two weeks whilst my throat mends, so hopefully I can get some good painting done!

Thanks for your time, as ever,

- Drax.


  1. Nice write up. Thanks for the perspective. (US reader)

  2. yeah, the horror stories, although true are so in the minority of all the lives that are saved. And we all make mistakes in any proffesion ever.

    When my left heel was broken (still hurts tonnes when I can't move it in the car ect. for ages) it would have costed a few bob (and a jim aswell) and needed complete reconstruction :S (true story)

  3. Thanks, but NO thanks... I'll avoid the absolutely massive tax raping socialized health care requires. (US Reader)

  4. Another US reader here: First, I'm glad that things have worked out for you across the pond.

    Second, yes, it's a hot button issue here--I just hope that whatever is worked out ends up being better over what we currently have. Whichever side of the argument you're on, I think everyone can agree that there's room for improvement.

  5. Here here Drax, last thing you need when you're up against it is to worry about the bill... that said, my sister in law's Danish and if you wanna see some REAL healthcare - that's the ticket (oh and lethal taxes too!)

    On the taxes front, it's a shame that reader's so selfish, funny how people's attitudes change when their in hospital for a long time... Oh and don't worry Oni - you're still payiong taxes - they just go on bombs, guns and aircraft carriers... oh and the Space Race ... which we're really happy for you to pay for.

    We've had two kids (we, yeah right fella) in three years and the NHS have been brilliant.

  6. Could'nt agree more Admiral Drax, I've touch wood had very few health problems, only a couple of eye related issues, one an infection one an injury from work and both times I've been in seen a specialist and been sorted, either immeadiately or following further minor ops.

    My maternal grandmother also suffered a stroke last year and the care she has recieved has been superb from that day onwards.

    Of course they'll be horror stories, and of course the press will blow it out of all proportion (thats their job it seems lol), but as a service I'm very glad we have it.

    Now certainly we pay for it, and certainly there are people who are at least themselves lucky enough to never need it, but I'd bet they are in the minority.

  7. As a U.S. reader who believes health care should be the given right of all people (and not a luxury dependent on one's wealth), I thank you for your even-handed post, Admiral.

    It constantly amazes me how "socialized medicine" is seen as this great horror in the U.S., but when you ask most people who live in countries with "socialized medicine" (like Canada or the U.K. or France), they wouldn't give it up at gunpoint. In fact, they seem to consider it...*gasp* *horror*...a given right of any modern, civilized state.

  8. Cheers for your comments, everyone; a pleasure to read the range of responses, as always.

  9. glad to hear everything's going well for you Drax!

    rest up, get well soon.

    I for one hope someday the good 'ol US of A will get healthcare figured out.

    I fear we've slid too far into a every-man for himself, "The rich get richer, while the poor die sick"
    type of situation.

    I'm fortunate enough to work for a University system with superb health benefits... But I still believe the greatness of a nation is measured by how it treats the LEAST of it's members.

  10. I've got to say, I'm with Drax on this one.

    Yes, the system isn't perfect but I owe it everything important in my life.

    My wife was quite ill when she had out first, my little man Corben. Turned out that she had a cyst the size of a small football under her liver, along with a six month fetus. She spent the next month in intensive care before giving birth to little man two months premature weighing 3 pounds. Neither of them had much chance but the staff of the NHS were amazing. They even gave me a staff room for the three months I was there. I owe them everything.

    I can't imagine what it would be like if I had to pay for that care.

    So, in short, big up to the NHS.


    PS - get well soon mate, eat lots of ice cream.

  11. US reader - Things need to be improved upon, but quite frankly, much of what needs improved upon is the fault of the government in not legislating tort reform and in failing to clean up the abuse and waste in the current system.

    I'm glad it has worked out for others, but healthcare is not a right, just as housing and having a job is not a right. It's a privilege that you work (hard) for. Given our current healthcare system, I've not once seen someone dying on the street because they were refused a bed in a hospital.

    The two largest public trust funds established by the US Government (Social Security and Medicare/Meidicaid) are both approaching insolvency. What makes anyone believe that we can do better by throwing more money at a new problem rather than fixing what is already broken?

  12. I'll say this, Jonathan, I've never met so generally hard-working and well-deserving a people as Americans (with the notable exception of my lazy-ass brothers-in-law), and like Farmpunk, I hope something good is worked out by your government whatever system they opt for.

    And Corbane: What a heartwarming story, and reassuring too, given Kate's expectations. Thank you.

    Sadly, the post-op 'jelly and icecream' diet is no longer de rigeur. These days, the advice is to get back to a normal (albeit simple) diet as soon as possible.

    Still, I did persuade Kate to stockpile a small amount of Devonshire icecream...!

  13. Ben and Jerry's all the way mate! Definetley worth £4 a pot

  14. You really have never seen bad public healthcare. Trust me. None of you live in a post-communist state and you have no idea what public healthcare here is like.

    A very recent example. You know the whole ordeal with A/H1N1? Reporter from a news station went to a few health centres pretending to be sick and wanting help. None of them wanted to take the patient in just told them to go elsewhere. They also advised them to get there via public transportation. No doctor at all went to even see him. But hey, they get to protest they earn so little!

    Funny how the doctor will put you in a months-long queue when you go as a "free" patient, but will take you in tomorrow if you pay him as aprt of his private business. Right.

    And funny thing, you can't really opt not to pay for it. And the president's party made a lot of noise about privatising hospitals being such a horrible thing and how they will kill people, making everyone in the goverment too scared of public opinion to actually pull it off. Yay.

  15. Glad to hear you returned safely from the medicae, Admiral. A little downtime is well deserved - and one should take advantage of sympathy ice cream whenever one can!

  16. (US reader)
    Completly agree with jonathan.
    mmmmm.... i would really like someone to explain exactly how this healthcare thing is gonna work. I myself have idaes about it but when i search around the web i cant really find anything but roundabout tales of a magical system that will lower costs. Kind of scares me.... but maybe cuz google is so bogged down with Obama healthcare articles i cant find it. Maybe someone has a link?
    I hear a lot of people comparing UK and canadian healthcare systems. Im sorry but we have different taxes, government and a vastly larger population. You cant compare apples to oranges.

    GL on your recovery btw

  17. Thank, chaps,

    And yes, Death 0f Angels, I believe apples and oranges is a generally apt comparison. Well phrased.

    And Hal'jin, thanks so much - I forgot you were out there. Kinda puts everything else ito a bit of perspective, doesn't it?

    Oh, I shall try to get some stormtroopers finished today if I can focus enough.

    Now, where's my ice cream...

  18. I'm glad the op went well. I reckon the NHS is a godsend (UK reader).

  19. I couldnt agree more with everything you've said! Glad it went well mate :)

  20. Glad your getting well again drax :)

    And yes, the NHS, whilst not perfect is a great example of exactly what society should be doing. I for one am actually *happy to pay my taxes for the NHS*

    Now politicians duck ponds on the other hand....


  21. Hrm. I know I'm rather random, but, I roam a bit. (And eventually, I'll get off my butt and be serious about the blog..)

    I figure it's none of my business, but, your post mentioned your father-in-law's health situation with his USMC-caused injuries.

    In all honesty, he shouldn't be paying for getting taken care of; the VA should be, because it is service-related injury. He could walk in there today and, while it would take time, the government will pay for his injuries...and he could always try for getting back-pay for disability. No guarantees there, and I'm not 100% on the system (just got my VA brief the other day, actually), but, there IS a support structure for a Vet such as he.

  22. ZeeWulf,

    I have something like an answer for the superb point you raised, but I'm a little wary at making it so public, and I couldn't find an email contact for you.

    If you'd like a little more explanation, feel free to email me!

    - Drax.


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