The NHS, from a patient's point of view
The spotlight is well and truly on the NHS this week. I've been offered a 'ribbon' supporting the NHS for my Twitter profile, and lost count of the number of times i've seen the hashtag #welovethenhs. The Times yesterday was full of comparisons between the NHS and the American healthcare (or insurance) system, and their findings really surprised me.
I've always felt a bit superior about the NHS. I watched Michael Moore's 'Sicko' and was horrified by the way patients were treated in the States. What I failed to fully grasp is that Americans who do have health insurance enjoy healthcare far superior to what is available to us. Their prognosis is better, they're seen quicker and they have less 'unavoidable' deaths. The problem with Obama's reforms is that the new system could remove this higher tier of healthcare leaving a 'one system for all' approach as is available through the NHS.
Would the millions of people in the US who do have insurance at the moment suffer unduly under a change such as this? There would be waiting lists, I'm sure, and the scheme wouldn't be without problems, but after my experience of the NHS today I can't believe they would complain too much about healthcare free at the point of delivery.
This morning I woke up with angio-oedema to my face and neck. I could breathe, my airway wasn't compromised, but I felt I needed to see a GP fairly soon. I had to wait an hour for the surgery to open, but then my call was answered immediately, and I was given an appointment at 10am, all without having to describe my symptoms to a non-medical receptionist. At 10am I arrive, am seen very quickly and meet the practice's new GP Registrar. Probably to the chagrin of the patients after me he takes his time, and I leave half an hour later, with a promise of 'fancy' immunology tests next week, which would be guaranteed to make a huge dent in my health insurance if I lived in the States.
I have private healthcare insurance as well, but I can't imagine that the service could be any better in primary care than my experience today. Yes, for secondary care appointments there are huge waiting lists, and I appreciate having the choice to 'go private' if I need or want to, but the NHS should be held up for what it is, recognise the level of care that is so widely available and respected as such.