THE BLOG

SOS for the NHS

11/01/2016 11:22 GMT | Updated 10/01/2017 10:12 GMT

A little tale about the 'American Health Care System' and where the Tories may land us if we aren't vigilant.

A few years ago a relative of mine - travelling through Europe - rang from Munich desperate because her husband had had what looked like a heart attack and had been rushed to hospital. Lucky for him, he'd had his crisis in one of the best cities in Europe to have a heart attack in. Munich has a world-renowned heart hospital.

I can't speak a word of German other than to say "hello" and "goodbye", but I have a few native German speakers friends, and after getting one of them on the phone to Munich to get more info for my relative, I got a cheap flight over.

I'll never forget the first sight I saw: my family member sitting alone on a huge bench outside the corridor of the operating room, her hands on her lap, just staring at the door of the room where her husband's life lay in the balance.

We sat for what seemed like an eternity, then finally the doctor emerged. He said to my relative: "Your husband must have angels watching him because only 2% of people get off the table after a burst aorta. "

Then doctor said: "But it was very strange. We had a hard time getting him under. He was very agitated. He kept reciting numbers over and over and saying: 'This is my insurance number'."

That was just the beginning. The next two weeks were spent with my relative on the phone to California for hours everyday, trying to get their insurance sorted out. Being Americans and non-EU citizens, and non-Germans, they had to pay.

The labyrinth that she had to work through hours behind German time was truly a nightmare. But she got it done. When they got back to California and to a doctor, he began prescribing drugs that turned out to be medicine that he was basically shilling for: the pharmaceutical companies paid him to sell it. Luckily, the German doctors had given my relatives the names of the drugs they recommended and they found a doctor who would use them without being in the pay of Big Pharma.

Back home, he had to go into hospital for a few days, and when he got out, the hospital had charged him for everything - including the water he drank, the pitcher it was poured from and the glass he drank it out of. There is no Health Care System in the US, only health care. You can get the best in the world - but only if you can afford it. The President's "Obama Care" only allows people access to the insurance that they weren't eligible for before.

For example, in many instances, you have to be employed in order to get health insurance. I know artists who haven't had a steady job in their entire adult lives now answering phones and working at reception desks just so they can get health insurance. I'm talking about folks in their 50s and 60s.

And if you plan to travel to the US, please make sure that your travel insurance is pristine. In most cases, no matter what's wrong with you, you'll get Emergency treatment in the first instance. But if you can't pay - you're outta there.

Let's be clear: no-one is saying that the NHS is not flawed; doesn't cost us taxpayers a fortune, and needs to be fixed.

But why in the world is it - education is another example - always a political football? Why can't there be an All-Party Commission - or something -to fix it? Some senior politicos: Tory,

Labour, Lib Dem are asking the same question. The former Health Sec. under the Coalition, Andrew Lansley, now Baron Lansley and out of the picture, messed with that which didn't need his intervention. Why did he do it?

Because the bottom line is that the Tories are on an ideological jihad. Purpose: to dismantle the welfare state. If they had something better to replace the NHS with, then okay. But if they have, I haven't seen it. You probably haven't, either.

They tell us that nothing really is happening to our NHS.

But I saw a cartoon once that perfectly illustrated where we might be heading: there's a huge, glistening private American-style hospital where you pay and pay and pay. And in its parking lot is a little shelter-type thing offering various services. Its heading: "NHS".

What the Conservatives want is that we gradually cease to depend on the State; that we're weaned right off it. By any means necessary. It's not "good" for us to look to the State. Makes us morally weak. And if the social welfare system takes a hit as they strive to make their version of the twenty-first century: hey, so be it.

Like most people, I'm not a member of the Labour Party. I support Labour, but I have no idea about their inner workings, the flotsam and jetsam of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition: technically the alternative government. But I know this: whatever is going on, they'd better get it fixed and get back to work.

Support the junior doctors' strike. Support the nurses, consultants and other people in the NHS who are stepping up to the plate tomorrow to cover for them.

It's SOS for the NHS.