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Monday, August 17, 2009

NHS lies beat Obama

©Peter Brooks

There are better places than Santiago to wake at 4am in extreme pain with a testicle the size of a tennis ball (stop giggling at the back).

The UK embassy in Chile found the specialist I needed - he worked in a public hospital in the morning and a private hospital in the afternoon. My travel insurance covered all costs but my bollock wasn't going to wait for an afternoon appointment. The difference between the two was astonishing - not because the staff in the public hospital weren't friendly, competent and eager to help - but their hands were completely tied in the most insane bureaucracy.

The result was me being intimately examined as an example case, quite literally in a side alley at the rear of the derelict warehouse/hospital, by the good doctor and a dozen mostly female medical students as part of their training.

This wasn't altogether unpleasant,
"Hi I'm Carmelita."
"Pleased to meet you."
"May I ?"
At the end of the impromptu tutorial, the good Doctor decided further investigation was needed - a scan, urine and blood tests. This meant at the very least a two week wait in the public hospital plus another week for results, or in about an hour at the private one, with results a half hour later.

My lasting memory of the whole affair (aside from Carmelita and my testicle threatening to turn itself into a grenade) is standing in front of the admissions officer in the most excruciating pain imaginable with the good Doctor translating the complexities, requirements and form-filling intricacies of a public-run bureaucracy whilst a dedicated workforce looked on in embarrassment.

Sounds familiar ? Surely it's not fair to compare the NHS with a Chilean public service ?

Ask an NHS doctor, any NHS doctor, what comes first - the pen-pushers and government targets or their Hippocratic oath ?

The US anti-Obama healthcare lobby have put the willies up their citizens by telling them the "socialist" NHS decides between life and death by committee, on a cost basis... Cut to much gnashing of teeth and Gordon Brown, Cameron etc. twittering how much they love our health service... promptly followed by MEP Dan Hannan joining the fray (criticising the NHS) and Tory health policies coming under scrutiny amid the general tagline of "split in party ranks".

What a load of cojones. Once again, the real issue is completely side-stepped and it's all about headlines.

Gordon Brown and Co can tell us as much as they want that they love the NHS - it's not the point. Actually, what they're defending is the fact that in the UK there's always some form of healthcare to look after you. That's unquestionably something to be proud of as a country and we love the NHS for it. The media has turned the debate into something completely different - grabbing headlines that sell the issue way short. The US media are promoting the lie that Obama wants to introduce a "socialised" public health service like ours. He doesn't. He wants everyone in the US to have medical insurance, centrally administered (like our NI). That'll mean they're insured and give them the choice of where to go for treatment (and if you can't pay the NI, the state steps in).

Currently in the US if you don't have medical insurance you're fucked. In the UK if you've private insurance you get a fantastic service, if you don't - you get the NHS. This writer's had experience of both - in downtown Santiago and in the UK. I don't mean to sound ungrateful - no doubt if the NHS has saved your life you'll champion it - but it's service, speed and treatment limitations can't compare with a privately run hospital. If BUPA were smart they'd give us all a free taste of private healthcare - once you've experienced both, if you can afford it, only the most half-assed dogmatic morons would take the NHS route for their child. Gordon Brown wouldn't even take it for his teeth (Errrr... not entirely sure you can get teeth-capping on the NHS - Ed).

Obama and Hannan are actually positing the same argument - we should all pay the equivalent of the UK's N.I. but then have a choice about which hospital/service we use - public or private.

Naturally, we shouldn't have to choose between the two. In an ideal world the public sector would deliver a service at the same level as the private. Sadly, it simply doesn't. This government has effectively admitted they can't run a bath let alone the NHS in all kinds of sectors (where it suits them - for example prisons) and handed them over to private firms.

The reason they're scared shitless of giving us even a choice with our health is a complex web of emotional and message-based, focus-grouped, vote-driven nonsense and the media is just as guilty. Those who can afford to choose vote with their pockets and head for private healthcare - but the media, lobby groups and resultant headlines have almost certainly put paid to any choice for the majority of the UK. Obama's plans of healthcare insurance for all are now in retreat and having been hauled into the debate, this side of the Atlantic there's no politician with his eye on the prize who's going to criticise the NHS let alone come clean and admit it's a bureaucracy gone mad - you'll only hear that from the doctors.

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