The National Health Service is our greatest national achievement. It could also be our greatest national asset, if it weren’t currently being starved of funds. Horror stories – patients lying in corridors, delayed operations, elderly patients taking up beds because care in the community has also been decimated, and so on – appear in the papers every day. The Left suspects that the Tories are doing this deliberately, in order to make privatization – a long-time dream of theirs and their backers – more acceptable to the general public. The more obvious villain is simple ‘austerity’: the idea that we, as a nation, simply can’t afford anything more. Other contributory factors are the escalating costs of better medical treatment and technology; and the increasing demands of an ‘ageing population’ – ageing, and not dead, of course, because of the achievements of the NHS in the past.
That’s me. My body is collapsing bit by bit, and having to be patched together continuously. My latest problem is a hernia which needs to be operated on, but can’t be for 14 weeks, because of the waiting list. I need to get it done, or my guts will drop into my scrotum. (Here. My FB Friends will have seen this pic before.)
I don’t fancy pushing my bits around in a wheelbarrow. But I feel guilty at taking up our doctors’ hard-pressed time. I’m a burden.
The NHS used to be a source of great security to me. Tories, of course, don’t like the idea of security, unless it’s purchased at someone else’s profit, on the grounds that it takes away the need to strive. Of course that’s nonsense. A secure base to one’s life allows one to strive beyond that base. I couldn’t have written half my books without the NHS to sustain me at various times; and besides that, free education, through to university and beyond. Knowing that whatever goes wrong with me, I can have it put right without financial worries, and by hospitals and doctors that have time for me, has been a great comfort throughout my life. If I’d had to strive just to keep alive, I wouldn’t have accomplished so much. That’s why people of my class origins in the past generally didn’t accomplish more. I’m one of a greatly favoured generation, from free school milk via free education and free care, to the ease of getting jobs, all facilitated by the State. Today’s youngsters have it tough, by contrast. And i-phones don’t fully compensate.
Now hospitals are over-full, doctors over-worked, and treatment has to be limited. We’re being told to avoid ‘unnecessary’ visits to A&E, and to visit our GPs instead. But there aren’t enough GPs, so we’re then told to ask our pharmacists for advice. We’re made to feel a burden. I don’t believe I’ve ever been to a doctor unnecessarily, but now I feel guilty about going for anything. I’m waiting for the pain in my neck to be a sign of cancer, which would have been treatable if I had gone sooner, and risked being told I was wasting my doctor’s time.
Care for the infirm elderly is even more of a problem. It’s expensive for local councils, and hard to find of a reasonable standard. At my age you suddenly realise that you might soon come to need this, and so become even more of a burden to everyone. I’m determined not to burden any of my loved ones with my care, if it comes to that. I’ll strap on a bomb vest – or hide a grenade in my scrotum – and try to get near one of our modern villains. A Health Service privatizer, perhaps.
Of course the answer is higher taxes – or less spent on nuclear subs and bailing out banks. That’s how Sweden does it; but there they have a more enlightened view of taxation, and of the individual citizen’s obligations to society. I’m almost hoping that my hernia bursts before the fourteen weeks are up, and I have to be treated here, in Stockholm, as an emergency. That is, if we haven’t Brexited yet.