With the health care debate currently raging in the U.S., the spotlight has been thrown on Britain's National Health Service (NHS). Americans are worried that they, should President Obama manage to pass his health care bill in Congress, will be strapped with an inefficient government system that alone will determine how they are looked after.
Inefficient the NHS might indeed be, and this is because not only does it have to care for the needs of 61 million people, but those of illegal immigrants as well. There have also been horrifying examples of neglect, such as at an NHS hospital in Stafford, where up to 1,200 people died from neglect. The NHS also likes to dictate who receives what treatment and when, in the name of cost-cutting.
But the NHS, despite its struggles, does the best that it can, burdened as it is. And it is not, in the words of that renowned Rhodes scholar,, Sarah Palin, "evil."
There was a time, during my early years in England, when I scoffed at the NHS. Nothing was guaranteed to make my blood boil more fiercely than Brits who couldn't seem to understand why we Americans won't endorse any form of socialism. I had long arguments with my wife over why the NHS was a waste of money and resources, in addition to being, due to its aforementioned socialist nature, immoral.
But then, when I was in need myself, my view toward the NHS ameliorated somewhat. When you are in such pain that you cannot think straight, your views are bound to change a little.
In May 2005, I had a serious kidney stone attack and was in such bad shape that I required an ambulance to take me to the hospital. I was assessed at one hospital, had x-rays and blood taken, and then transferred across London to another hospital with a urology department so that I could be given specialist treatment. I was in this hospital, Guy's and St. Thomas' Hospital near London Bridge, for four days. At no point was I uncomfortable, at no point did I think I deserved better. The paramedics, the doctors, the nurses, the consultants: they were all wonderful.
You'll understand my feelings here, dear reader. If I bash the NHS, I bash these people who looked after me when I was in agony. I can't do that.