For many in the UK the National Health Service (NHS) plays a large part in defining who we are as a country. It would be political suicide for a politician to declare that it was irremediably broken and that it needed not to be upgraded (as is presently proposed although with enormous opposition) but dismantled.
I have some recent experience of the NHS. In August 2009 after a visit to my excellent General Practitioner (GP) I was sent to our local hospital and almost immediately informally diagnosed with colon cancer. From there the story becomes less favourable. It took an age for the CT scan to take place because one of the two available machines was out of service. I was then eventually told I also had secondary liver cancer but not that it was terminal. This I discovered on the Internet.
I started chemotherapy but after the first two weeks developed a severe reaction. The local Cancer Department told me it was not connected to the treatment and it was only when I was severely dehydrated and in some distress that my lovely GP told them to find me a bed. They fixed me up and sent me home after five days. My oncologist was on holiday and no one else took much interest in the cancer itself, a theme that was to become familiar.
I went private after that and my new Harley Street oncologist put me on a drug not available on the NHS. My insurance company AXA (the only name on offer in this article) have been excellent throughout by the way.
Things did not go well. I developed a blood clot between liver and small bowel and ended up in Accident and Emergency (A&E) where they carried out the tests that established the clot and told me I had days to live. I was admitted and further tests were carried out but although I was told nothing, my wife was given the option of taking me home to die or leaving me in the hospital. The following day they told her they were going to operate but that she should not expect a good outcome. We were never told the reason for the change of mind but cannot help but suspect it was budget-driven.