What does the NHS mean to me?

What have the LibDems accomplished, says this bright infographic. It doesn’t reference the coming privatisation and breakup of the NHS in England.

(Not in Scotland or Wales, thanks to devolution – neither country has a Tory government.)

My father is alive and well (fairly so) at 85 because of the NHS. (In the past ten years, he’s broken his wrist and his hip – he has osteoparosis – and had eye operations for a cataract and for glaucoma. He has a pacemaker to keep his heart beating.

My mother’s diabetes was diagnosed promptly (at the age of 77) because of the NHS.

Myself, my brother and sister, my nephew, we were all born on the NHS.


My great-aunt had osteoparosis. She got her re-calcifying medication, and her painkillers, and her home visits from her GP and the practice nurse when she could no longer leave the house easily, on the NHS.

My best friend had a tumour developing on one of her ovaries, that she found out about only when the tumour was big enough that one day she got out of bed and her gut twisted and she fell on the floor screaming and her partner called an ambulance and that same day the tumour was removed (it turned out to be benign). Because of the NHS.

I’m extremely shortsighted. I wore glasses from age 7 and must have broken the frames four or five times in the first year: but I had NHS frames and lenses and never had to do without. Without NHS support my entire childhood would have been different – I would have stumbled through an endlessly blurred world. Because of the particular imperfection of my vision I get free eye tests and a small amount of help buying lenses.

I need my glasses – I am so shortsighted that without them I can’t work. I regret that the optician services were left outside the NHS when it was founded, though I appreciate very much that the NHS helps keep costs down and that I got free prescription lenses all through my childhood thanks to the NHS.

I have a dust/dust mites allergy. You can’t ever get rid of dust, so I’m always at risk of allergy attacks, especially when stressed. I got my nose operated on to remove an obstruction that was making my breathing more difficult, and I have a regular set of prescription medications – antihistamines, nasal spray, eyedrops – to make living with the allergy easier. All thanks to the NHS.

I broke my foot in the bad snow winter before last. The NHS provided a plaster cast, then a removable cast so I could bathe, crutches so I could walk, physiotherapy so I could re-learn how to walk without a cast and crutches. I walk normally again, thanks to the NHS.

The only cost I was ever asked to consider was to change my prescription eyedrops from one brand to another – I confirmed with my optician that the two brands did exactly the same, and agreed. It was made clear to me that if the first brand turned out to be better for my eyes, I could keep to that one.

We know why the Tories instigated the NHS Reform bill – they’re getting big donations from the companies that will profit from the “reforms”. The LibDems seem just to be sleepwalking into it, voting for a bill that destroys their reputation as a party of the liberal/left.

Of course in some instances they evidently prefer to think of themselves as quasi-Tories:

Forty-eight-year old self-employed businessman, Andrew Schofield, was told he was talking ‘complete drivel’ and engaging in ‘an unsolicited bar-room rant’ when he expressed concerns about how, as someone living with HIV, he would pay for his medication if the pro-privatisation bill becomes law.

Andrew Stunell, MP for Hazel Grove, emailed Mr Schofield: “Consider just how counterproductive it is likely to be to send an unsolicited bar-room rant to a load of very busy people at the end of a long day.”

Stephen Williams, MP for Bristol West, told Mr Schofield, who lives in Salford: “You win the prize for my most nonsensical email of the day” and that he was writing “complete drivel”.

I owe the life of my parents, the health of my family and friends, my ability to see and work, to breathe easily, to walk without pain, to the NHS. The NHS is an investment in the collective health of our country. What the Tories are doing to it with LibDem assistance is pure vandalism for profit.

172,269 people have already signed the Drop the Health Bill e-petition. It will be debated in the House of Commons on Tuesday 13th March, despite complete lack of Tory support.

Will the Liberal Democrats vote to drop the bill at their conference on Sunday?

[Update, 2:30pm Saturday - no, by a narrow majority the conference voted to ignore the concerns of voters & instead debate Shirley Williams motion to trust the Tories.]

Polly Toynbee, once a LibDem supporter, wrote:

Two NHS motions compete at the Lib Dem conference in Gateshead this weekend. Shirley’s name is on the one calling for support of the bill that she has so eloquently opposed until now. The other motion, from Dr Evan Harris and GP Charles West, seeks to stop it altogether. Shirley’s will argue that concessions have effectively removed commercialisation – see her letter. Harris’s view, backed by the medical profession, is that the legal duty on commissioners to promote competition remains red in tooth and claw (detailed in his Political Science blog). Will the party rebel as it did before or will her assurances convince? Only half an hour on Sunday has been set aside for this debate, yet that half hour may set the fate of this party, if it abandons this last chance to stop the bill.

This post was inspired by the Guardian’s NHS Reforms – your stories CiF article.

Simon Hoggart, 15th August 2009:

There are few tribes more loathsome than the American right, and their vicious use of the shortcomings in the NHS to attack Barack Obama’s attempts at health reform are a useful reminder.

I was thinking of this during a visit to my 91-year-old dad who is still in an NHS hospital after three weeks, recovering from a broken hip. He has had fantastic care, including a new metal hip, blood transfusions, different antibiotics to match every aspect of his condition; all administered by nurses who remain cheerful even when asked to perform tasks on men – the lethal combination of pain and old age makes some in the ward exceedingly grumpy – that I would not want to do for £1,000 a time. If he was in an American hospital he’d be using up half his life savings to get that standard of care, and few ordinary Americans could afford the insurance that would provide it. (This is because health insurers spend a large part of their income on PR against the “socialised medicine” and on sending pro forma letters explaining why your policy doesn’t cover actual illness.) All over the US there are people whose lives are being destroyed for lack of proper health care provision, and there is no sight more odious than the rich, powerful and arrogant trying to keep it that way.

The first question Lori will ask you in an NHS hospital is “Do you have any allergies?”

I told Lori that over the last 10 minutes or so, Emily’s pain had grown tenfold, that it seemed like an appendix situation or maybe a tiny elf she swallowed was now trying to shoot his way out. So you know, we could really use someone down here right away to at least try to get that pain under control. Lori looked at me in a way that made me think she was going to reply in Russian, and said instead, “I’m just here to get some registration information.”

“We’ll be with you as soon as you scream your information to Lori.”

I focused all of my frustration into a very violent sigh and said, “Sure, I understand. However, she should have been on the road to the hospital an hour before we finally did. It’s a 35 minute drive. Then once we got here, she’s been laying in this bed, unseen by anyone at all for over an hour. If you can’t get someone in here yourself, at least point me in the right direction so I can.”

She then promptly ignored everything I just said and started asking Emily about her address and insurance information. Read more: 5 Unhelpful People You Meet in Every US Hospital

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Filed under Elections, Epetitions, Healthcare, Poverty

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