Posts Tagged ‘NHS’

When you passionately argue against a system that provides access to healthcare for those who are probably most in need, you are, for me, arguing from a platform that is completely and utterly morally, ethically and inhumanely spent.

As the world scratched its collective head attempting to comprehend the fantastic spectacle that was the London 2012 opening ceremony, I took to the social network-sphere to take in the wave of pride of a nation who saw an homage to our National Health Service.

A nod, for those who are still confused, to the idea behind the NHS. To the concept that a nation would ensure free access to a healthcare system for all – based on their medical needs and not on their ability to pay.

Was this a political statement? Who can say?

Should an Olympic opening ceremony be the vehicle for such a statement if it were? No – some would say. Emphatically. Passionately.

However.

Stop for a moment.

Consider.

These games – the London bid, were based on the ideal of inspiring a generation. About igniting the imagination and desires of an entire generation. What better message could you possibly hope for the youth of today; the leaders of tomorrow; the minds that will define a nation, than one that embodies the very best of qualities humanity has to offer?

Thinking not of yourself, but of others. Taking care, not just of yourself, but also of your neighbours.

As #NHS began trending on Twitter I was surprised to see the fear, perhaps even hate, for and of the idea of social healthcare.

I was numbed by the comments of those who truly believe(d) that a healthcare system built around the idea that everyone would pay to ensure everyone had access was abhorent.

I wanted to ask those who most vehemently raged against our NHS, those who live on shores from across an ocean, why they were so against putting in place a system that extends the life expectancy of everyone, not just of the affluent.

I wanted to debate the thought that this social ideal was inherently evil, when the counter argument was one that saw no demons in a system that directly links your health to your bank balance.

If money is the route of all evil…

I don’t believe that the opening ceremony was lauding the current state of our NHS; as it is in dire need of improvement. I am not even sure it was making a political plea that we should save it.

However.

Stop for a moment.

In a time when so many countries are weighted down under the burden of an economical recession, when more and more people are struggling to keep a roof over their heads or put food on their tables – ask yourself. What exactly is it that someone could find so repugnant about a system that would ensure that you, yes you – no matter what your financial situation might be tomorrow, do not have to worry about your access to healthcare?

I ask simply because… because… money has no place determining who should continue living!

Last week I found myself sat watching Diagnosis Murder, yet another extremely cheesy and annoying daytime TV show that makes me cringe whenever Dick Van Dyke opens his mouth.  I sat with my customary cynical TV snobbery in place, raging inside at how ridiculous the programme was and the crime it represented to good TV drama.

But then, just like a bucket of cold water, the plot develops into a storyline highlighting the disgraceful practices of HMO’s; those, in my mind, hateful organisations that were spawned under the Nixon administration – with the explicit purpose of making money out of medical health; of ensuring that profits are possible if care is withheld.

The fact that HMO’s still exist to this day beggars belief.  The fact that this bastard offspring of a President that was impeached from office for ‘high-crimes and misdemeanour’s’  is still dictating the life expectancy of those in need of urgent medical care, makes me sick.  The fact anything that mandates a physician needs to withhold care, until they have checked if the patients insurance carrier will pay for said treatment, is legal, leaves me with a feeling of despair.

When money meets medicine, I wonder what happens to Primum non nocere?

And it is this same sense of foreboding despair that continues to engulf me when I think of the Tory plans to introduce privatisation to the NHS.  In fact, Tory plans to privatize anything, after the resounding success of their previous privatisation programmes in the Thatcher years, actually fills me with tangible fear.

The NHS is in a mess, of that there is no doubt; the system is definitely in desperate need of an overhaul.  However, who, other than a Tory MP, honestly believes that the National Health Service would be better off if large health organisations were allowed to tender bids to snap up the more lucrative elements?

Who seriously thinks any good can come from the old boys network chopping up the service so their friends can make millions in the coming years?

The NHS is a mess, but it was created for a very specific reason, to cater for a very specific need.  It was introduced with an explicit mandate to provide care based on need, not the ability to pay, and that need has not diminished one iota since the NHS first appeared.

I don’t know what the future is for the NHS, but I fear that Tory privatisation would be something we would all live to regret – most likely in our time of most urgent need.

Driving home from work today I heard a news bulletin that spoke of the governments plans to simplify the state pension scheme.  The idea is for there to be one single-tier state pension instead of the complex and somewhat inexplicable version that is currently in place.

As I continued to listen an expert, I can’t remember what she was an expert in, stated that her fear was that the government would back-track at some point and fail to follow through with this new proposal.  I guess she was still reeling from the news that the government had a pause for thought moment on their, again, controversial plans to revamp the NHS.

And it was here, in this world of unease and uncertainty about whether or not this government, or any government for that matter, would stand fast and draw a line in the sand about pensions that made me think, not for the first time, that I, and many others of my generation, face the entirely realistic prospect of having to work until we die.

I’ll say that again – work until we die…

The age of retirement has moved more times in my lifetime than I am comfortable with; each time creeping that little bit closer to the magic life expectancy for a UK male or female.  Whilst I have to admit that I am concerned about the prospect of brain cells dying off if they aren’t to be engaged by the day-to-day grind of going to work, I think I am more disheartened, no – not disheartened, aghast at the thought the age of retirement may well make it to the other side of 80 by the time I am due to retire – if fate should be so kind, or cruel – depending on your outlook on life, to let me live that long.

I mean, what an utterly depressing thought – that you could work your entire life, being the dutiful citizen that we all know you are, whilst continually seeing that dream of retiring to the sun or the coast, country, <insert dream here> become more and more of a pipe-dream because there are not enough funds in the public coffers.

Not enough money in the pension fund…  How many times have we heard that in the past decade or so?  Black-hole in the pension fund being another; whether we are talking about a private fund or the chancellor balancing the books.  So you could be forgiven for asking why you should continue to make contributions if you are merely tipping your hard-earned cash into what might potentially be a monumental money-pit.

In fact, someone did ask me that very thing; someone who had previously asked me why I paid payment protection or bought extended warranty’s, long before all the consumer affairs programmes started to shine the spotlight on those companies that were basically defrauding the public of, again, their hard-earned cash.

This same person asked why they should pay into a pension fund when the government would provide them with one anyway; that the government would look after them when they reached old age – that they may as well put the money they earn into a bank account, as they’ll be means tested at the age of retirement anyway.

It kind of made me wonder then and it continues to make me wonder now – what if they are right?  What if the security of a modern-day pension is in actual fact a fallacy; what if we all face the prospect of having to work until we die?  And if we do, should we not spend our money now – rather than leave it in that fund, only to be swallowed up by that black-hole?

 

My eldest God-daughter has just reached that epochal moment in her life when she needed to make that life-defining choice of choosing her options: what she wants to be; what she wants to study; what career she wants to lead.

Sixteen is such a difficult age for anyone; such a turbulent and emotional place to be: your thoughts are so transient, your rebellious nature straining against what others want you to do and how they believe you should feel.  So at a time when Rhi, that’s as much of her name as I’ll publicly reveal, was looking for help from others – she managed to, yet again, be the one teaching me.

How many of you have been in that position; where you are advising a son, a daughter, nephew or niece of the life-path they may want to choose to follow?  How many of us have offered advice on colleges, courses, career prospects and the art of making decisions – whilst struggling to ensure the advice is “all about you” and not “all about me?”

So I am sure you can all imagine the scene as Rhi flicks through her prospectus and ‘umms’ and ‘ahhs’ followed by the fully anticipated ‘but I don’t know what I want to do!’  I am also confident that you can already predict my responses of ‘what are your interests?  What lessons did you like?  In five-years time, what do you see?’

All of those questions we all shrugged at and fumed at – as we all know, sixteen is the age where you don’t even know who you are, let alone who you would dearly like to be.

So what do we do?  We attempt to steer the young and impressionable mind down the path of least resistance or, more likely, down the path that we can foresee.  We think about things such as status, job-satisfaction, fulfilment, opportunities for progression and ultimately how much of an opportunity for ‘success’ (money) there will be.

And it is here where children always teach us a lesson.  It is here that they always make us hold up a mirror to face truths we might not like to see.  They often misquote that famous saying “out of the mouths of babes…” but it always has a profound, unnerving and frightening ring of accuracy.

Because – as I thought of all of the ultimately superficial, materialistic and practical life choices (career options) I could see – Rhi looked up with absolute conviction and humility and said ‘I’d like to help people – I think I want to be a social-worker or counsellor – someone who helps others, yes – that’s what I want to be!’  

As I challenged her decision-making, not to make her change her mind; more to ensure it was well thought out and considered – she came back time and time again with the answers that proved a Counsellor or Social-Worker is what she absolutely should be.

She spoke of her favourite subjects, the grades she had banked already, the lessons she would have to revisit, the colleges that provided her with the best options and she displayed a new-found sense of serenity.

As we spoke of the hazards, the potential for disappointment the burdens she could look forward to – she focused on the small, precious, little victories.

So at a time when the papers are full of criticism for the social services, when they ‘get it wrong’ when ‘the systems fails’, I would like to ask you all:-

Who would be a social worker? Who could devote their life, forgo earning a fortune, to tend to others needs?

I am not sure I would have that courage, that level of conviction.  And for that reason – I am so proud of

Rhi.