Happy 70th Birthday NHS
What the NHS means to me
Today the National Health Service turns 70 years old. That’s a whole 70 years of accessible healthcare that is free at the point of entry.
Like many others I hadn’t really given much thought to what the NHS means to me until I got diagnosed with bowel cancer nearly four years ago. I suddenly became enveloped by a phenomenal amount of doctors, nurses, clinical specialists and had round after round of expensive treatments – all for free!
I became even more reliant on the NHS after I found out that my cancer had spread a year ago and I was forced onto dialysis to support my failed kidneys. Hospitals and the NHS became my life three to four days a week for nine months and then allowed me to train to have my dialysis treatment at home. The NHS even gave me a dialysis machine in my home and the equipment to look after myself so not only does it save lives but it gave me my life and independence back.
I few weeks ago I was chatting with my dialysis nurse and she was telling me about how healthcare works in her home country. Everything has to be paid for upfront even down to something as small as the plaster around your cannula or the tubes used for a simple blood test. This leads to delays in treatment whilst people work out how to pay for these expensive treatments and equipment. Those with a chronic illness such as kidney disease needing dialysis generally die as they can’t afford treatment. They may have to choose between dialysis or vital medications week-by-week to see them through. If you need blood then you have to find someone to give blood to put back into the system. It was a vicious circle, these people were unwell so unable to work therefore unable to afford treatment so therefore became even more unwell. It shocked me that those who were the most vulnerable couldn’t receive the help needed. Here, in the UK, I have a machine in my spare bedroom at home that I can use as and when I need to, have all my supplies delivered to me for free, have all my medications supplied to me for free and I’m able to speak to my designated nurses at any time of the day… for FREE!
In the USA, healthcare insurance can be expensive and limited so people have to regularly sell their homes and assets to pay for lifesaving treatment.
The NHS is far from perfect and is severely underfunded to cope with the demand and sometimes it can get very frustrating having to navigate through the levels of bureaucracy to get the treatment you need, however, everyone in this country, whatever their background can receive exceptional levels of healthcare without parting with any money (and I’m not talking about taxes here) and that is amazing.
So happy 70th birthday NHS and thank you as without you there would definitely not be a me.