I was recently contacted by the National Health Action Party (NHAP), of which I am a member, to see if I would be interested in commenting on the dire situation at my local hospital, the world renowned Addenbrookes in Cambridge. I have been both an in and out patient of this fine local institution most of my life since doctors found I had nephritis when I was three years old. I am now 62 and have had to retire from work because of my various medical conditions and one of my first actions on leaving employment was to join the NHAP in an attempt to try and stem the iniquitous flow of NHS privatisation. I was asked to make a statement and this is what I said -:
""I virtually live at Addenbrooke's receiving treatment for cancer, heart and kidney problems and owe my life to the hospital.
"As a kidney patient I underwent a transplant in 1988. I was told it would last about 15 years but it is still going strong after 27 years, thanks to Addenbrookes. Ten years later I had cancer (Non Hodgkin lymphoma) and in 2011 was found to have an anueryism on my aorta adjacent to my transplant. Three life-threatening conditions in total. Without the excellent skills and care of the staff at Addenbrooke's I would not be alive today.
"The only reason Addenbrookes and the like have major problems is because the Tories are strangling the life out of the NHS. They did not want the NHS in 1947 and they are doing all in their power to destroy it now in 2015.
"The tens of thousands of pounds spent on these hospital checks would have been better spent on patient care, nurses and doctors."
I would like to expand on that a little if I may. Private medicine is all very well if you are employed and can access a private health company like BUPA and the like or if you have a decent enough income to afford the monthly fees. As an employee of a large Cambridge University College it was suggested I join their BUPA Scheme. All fine and good until I filled in the relevant forms and in return was given an enormous list of exclusions due to my various ailments. At the time I chose to join anyway as the cover included my wife and daughter. Over the following months I came to have a distinct feeling that I had made the wrong decision as it clashed with my personal views regarding private medicine in general and my great appreciation of all the wonderful treatment I had received from the NHS. The final nail in the coffin as far as I personally was concerned was when I was informed that this membership of BUPA was regarded as a tax perk and far from being free was going to cost me about £18 a month in extra tax. Money I could ill afford to lose at the time. Between them my employers and the tax office managed to get a few minor details wrong and I was hit for back tax for a year. It's all in the fine detail as they say. That finished me with private medical care and eased my conscience.
In short, as far as I am concerned, private medical care is for those that are wealthy enough to afford it or belong to a company that will offer membership. It is NOT free and is not much good if you need treatment for pre-existing conditions. Not unless you wish to pay a lot more in fees. It is of no use for pensioners who are not wealthy, families with children who live on benefits through no fault of their own, or people working on zero hour contracts and low incomes. We are getting very close to the day this country adopts a private medical insurance scheme to the detriment of the majority of the UK's population. In the USA they regularly hold charity hospital days in which those who cannot afford private health insurance receive very basic free health check-ups. Do we really want to go down this route? The NHS worked very well until this government got it into its head it wanted rid of it!
The messianic drive of this right wing government to destroy an institution that was running well and was highly rated around the world must be brought to a halt. There is a great deal of truth in that old adage "you don't miss it until it is gone". Cameron and his cronies would love you to be in that situation.
Paul Saunders is a Transplant patient at Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge