In view of the recent election, I think we may all be able to agree on one thing – the threat to the NHS was paramount in everyone’s mind. When Theresa May made privatising the NHS part of her campaign, people were up in arms about it. Whilst the NHS is now seen as failing, the idea that soon we may have to pay thousands of pounds in order to visit the hospital when we are sick, shocked people to the core.
We are not America and we do not want those too poor to be able to afford healthcare, to die from problems cured by simple trips to the hospital. Yet what can we do? With a healthcare system implemented in our country, the first myth we have to dispel is that we receive free healthcare. We do not and neither have we ever received free healthcare. We all pay National insurance and this includes people who are receiving benefits; a portion of their benefits is given back to the government in National Insurance (I know, complicated, right?!)
The Governments actuary’s report on the 2011 re-rating and up-rating orders estimated that between 2011 and 2012, £20 billion of our National Insurance contribution went into the NHS. Whilst this seems like a huge amount, it is not nearly enough to support the NHS, even if money was being deducted from the working man’s National Insurance in order to fund it.
Therefore we are all paying for our health. Albeit not a lot, we all still contribute towards our healthcare, so we can now dispel the myth that we are running a free healthcare system. The fact of the matter is that our NHS is in serious trouble. We are barely treading water, let alone floating the health service. All too often, we are finding ourselves struggling to get doctors’ appointments, or waiting months (or even years) for operations as they are not classed as ‘life-threatening’. My father was left waiting for hours and hours in a trolley at the hospital, after suffering a heart attack. There is no part of that that is right.
Frankly, I think one of the biggest problems is that we have no damn idea why the NHS is failing. Sure, there’s the usual ‘blames’; lack of funding, foreigners using our health service for free, shortage of staff, cuts, inflation, the rising living age, the shoddy government…blah blah. Any or very single one of these is a contributing factor. The doctors and nurses are working longer and longer hours and are over-stretched, to the point that we need to take a good look at ourselves and make a decision.
How can we save our NHS? With cottage hospitals closing left, right and centre, the feeling of security is slipping away from the country. Without the assurance that we will be looked after, whether it be a heart attack, cancer, a broken arm or leg, a disease, we need to be told that we are safe. We need that safety net and now it has so many holes, that so many people are slipping through. With the wait for ambulances sometimes stretching into an hour or more, with the appointment waiting times so long and the hospitals wheeling people into the corridor and leaving them there and the elderly having nowhere to go and so staying on at hospitals weeks after they should have been released, we need a plan.
We need a government that will come up with a compromise; one that pleases everyone (not exactly an easy feat). Hard decisions will have to be made – we have to start to draw the line; deciding whether we can turn away foreigners who have never paid anything into the NHS. Yet by turning them away allowing them to suffer or die. How much is a life worth? Surely it should be priceless?
According to the Telegraph, Britain has paid out more than £900 million to EU countries to cover the costs of British patients who fell ill abroad and received a mere £49 million in return for foreigners using the NHS. It provides a real deficit in terms of costs and meeting targets, meaning the NHS loses millions every year just through this process.
Another little-well known fact is that, whilst there was outcry over the idea of privatising the NHS, the NHS is already being privatised. Hospitals are deputising patients over to private hospitals, unable to deal with the vast numbers and great strain. In return they are footing the cost of these bills. This showcases already how dire the situation is.
Whatever happens next must be brilliant, because I’m afraid you will have to deal with this one, Theresa May. I’m all out of ideas.
One thing for sure is that we cannot go on the way we have been.
Save our NHS.
words by Hayley Freeston