As the debate in the U.S. rages regarding socialized medicine, it seems the National Health Service (NHS), the BBC, and their supporters have been intensely defending “their NHS” against “attacks.” The primary target of their counter was Tory MEP Dan Hannan, who had the temerity to recommend that the U.S. not copy the NHS in its plan to “reform” health care. Several Labour MPs even suggested that Dan be sacked from the Conservative Party for his comments.
As I have said in previous articles regarding my experience with the NHS system, the quality of treatment you receive is a postcode lottery. Wait lists are long and the NHS always seeks a means of cutting costs.
Unfortunately for its defenders, reports are now pouring out of the UK highlighting the dire state of its care. Echoing my own experience with the NHS comes a detailed report from the Patients Association relating “cruel and neglectful” treatment by nurses. From the Patients Association head, Claire Rayner:
These bad, cruel nurses may be — probably are — a tiny proportion of the nursing work force, but even if they are only one or two percent of the whole they should be identified and struck off the Register.
While the Obama administration has been denying that so-called death panels are planned as part of the public option, it is undeniable that these panels exist in the UK and have resulted in premature deaths for non-terminal patients:
“Forecasting death is an inexact science,” they say. Patients are being diagnosed as being close to death “without regard to the fact that the diagnosis could be wrong. As a result a national wave of discontent is building up, as family and friends witness the denial of fluids and food to patients.”
Horrific individual cases came to light in recent weeks, including a man who was hospitalized for a ruptured appendix that supposedly was removed three weeks prior:
In a second operation it was finally removed, leaving Mr. Wattson fearing another organ might have been taken out during the first procedure. The blunder has left Mr. Wattson jobless, as bosses at the shop where he worked did not believe his story and sacked him. Mr. Wattson told of the moment he realized there had been a serious mistake. “I was lying on a stretcher in terrible pain and a doctor came up to me and said that my appendix had burst,” he said. “I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I told these people I had my appendix out just four weeks earlier but there it was on the scanner screen for all to see.”
Such is the unshakable faith of some in the NHS that they sacked the man rather than consider his tale of woe.
Another horror: a woman was forced to give birth on the sidewalk because an ambulance was refused:
A young mother gave birth on a pavement outside a hospital after she was told to make her own way there. Mother-of-three Carmen Blake called her midwife to ask for an ambulance when she went into labor unexpectedly with her fourth child. But the 27-year-old claims she was refused an ambulance and told to walk the 100m from her house in Leicester to the city’s nearby Royal Infirmary.
And Reuters is reporting that the UK has rejected a breakthrough drug for cancer from Bayer — citing cost concerns. It has been rejected by National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) for the the treatment of kidney cancer:
This proposal by NICE conflicts dramatically with the government’s strategy to bring UK cancer outcomes in-line with the rest of Europe, where Nexavar is already widely available in countries such as France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Romania, and Greece.
And an NHS failure even allowed a murderer to be released. He then went on to kill and eat a friend. His release into the community was said to be a result of a “systematic” failure in his care:
Convicted killer Peter Bryan was given permission to live in a hostel in north London where he could come and go as he pleased. He had been admitted to a secure hospital after beating shop assistant Nisha Sheth to death with a hammer in 1993.
In reaction to the breakdowns in the NHS, there has been a call for debate on the future of the system. Yet it has been and remains too difficult to have such a debate openly in light of the visceral attacks unleashed on critics of the institution.
There is no simple solution to this problem. Like many dilemmas arising from a sudden explosion in the number of very ill, old patients in the NHS, it requires painstaking medical and ethical debate. But are we, as a nation, prepared to hold such a debate — that is, to face up to the difficulty of funding comprehensive health care through taxation alone?
The experience of the past few weeks suggests not. President Obama’s health care proposals prompted a wave of American criticism of British-style socialized medicine. Britons reacted angrily, with a “We love the NHS” campaign that sought to close down the debate about alternative revenue streams for the health service. Both Labour and the Conservatives implied that it was unpatriotic to question the status quo.
Is this what America wants for its future? A mediocre health service paid for by taxation (which no matter what they say, must increase) that you will never be able to criticize for fear of being called unpatriotic?