Wednesday, 16 September 2009

British doctors fight back

British doctors are not happy with the Republican shenanigans regarding healthcare reform in the US and how the British NHS was used to spread lies about socialised medicine:

More than 100 top doctors have signed an open letter to U.S. senators to counter lies about the National Health Service.

Opponents of President Obama's healthcare reform plans say he wants to bring in 'socialised medicine' as seen in the UK. They have claimed that Edward Kennedy, who died last month of a brain tumour, would have died much earlier had he had to rely on the NHS - as treatment would have been withdrawn due to his age.

Another opponent claimed renowned scientist Stephen Hawking, who has motor neurone disease, would already be dead as the NHS would have decided not to treat him.

But in the letter the doctors say: 'There is no cut-off age for healthcare in the NHS. Senator Kennedy, like anyone else of that age, or older, and with health problems such as his, would have been treated by the NHS with the same high levels of care as someone younger.

'Care for the elderly includes free flu vaccinations, free medication, free operations as needed, nursing care visits, and help and adaptions for the home. Many hospitals now offer "hospital to home" programs for palliative and end of life care to enable very ill people to remain at home.'

The letter says there is no truth in U.S. claims that NHS has 'death panels', which decide who should be saved and who should die, on the basis of cost.

'The NHS is funded by taxes and provides universal coverage while costing 8 per cent of UK GDP. The U.S. system currently costs 16 per cent of GDP but leaves 45million without insurance and a further 25million under-insured.

'The NHS is available free of charge to all regardless of ability to pay, and does not discriminate against those with pre-existing conditions. Importantly, it gives freedom from fear of the financial consequences of illness.

The letter, which has been sent to U.S. senators and representatives and has also been published on the British Medical Journal website, was written by Dr Jacky Davis, a London radiologist.

'There's so much ignorance and malice around this issue in the US,' she said. 'The debate is skewed by vested interests - the healthcare companies who make millions of dollars of profits every year - with their campaign of misinformation.

'It is upsetting for those of us who have worked in the NHS for years that these lies are being spread.'

Before 1948, healthcare provision in the UK was very patchy. People received either very basic services, no services at all, paid for it or just didn't bother to see a doctor.

Health care in Britain

The development of health care in Britain

Medical care in the nineteenth century was principally private or voluntary. However, sickness was a primary cause of pauperism, and the Poor Law authorities began to develop 'infirmaries' for sick people. The number of infirmaries grew very rapidly after the foundation of the Local Government Board, because of the influence centrally of doctors.

The demand for the infirmaries was at first resisted by a deliberate emphasis on the stigma of pauperism, of which the main legal consequence was the loss of the vote. Few people who became paupers had the vote, but after the extension of the franchise in 1867 and 1884, the numbers increased dramatically. In 1885, the law requiring people to be paupers before using the infirmaries was abolished.

Prior to 1948, health services were mainly based on three sources:

  • Charity and the voluntary sector.
  • Private health care. Hospitals were fee paying or voluntary; primary care was mainly fee-paying or insurance-based.
  • The Poor Law and local government. Poor Law hospitals were transferred to local government by the 1930 Poor Law Act.

These were unified when the NHS was formed in 1948.

In 1948 the hospitals and other facilities in the UK were very different from what they are now. A lot of what we now take for granted had to be built from scratch. That's not the case in the US. The best possible hospitals and other infrastructure are already in place, the problem is access.

Some cynical, dishonest politicians are doing their best to deny American citizens access to healthcare services. They are defending the interests of the big insurance companies that make astronomical profits instead of serving the citizens they were elected to represent.

OK, the US is a capitalist country, but couldn't these politicians opt for capitalism with a heart?



Irishgirl said...

Great article Regina.

Bell said...

That's a powerful statement coming from the British doctors.
At the MTV VMAs the other night, the host, Btitish comedian, Russel Brand, also made a great joke about our healthcare debate, he said,
"English people are a bit different from you instead of truck we say lorry, instead of elevator we say lift and instead of letting people die in the street and we have FREE HEALTH CARE!"
The joke didn't seem to get any notice because of Kanye's drunken antics but, I think the U.S. is looking more and more foolish to the Brits and the rest of the world with the memes the Republicans are using to fight against universal healthcare.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for that, Regina – and congratulations on living in the country with the best healthcare in the world!
The right-wing opposition to Obama’s healthcare proposals in the US eerily echoes the right-wing opposition to Bevan’s plans to create the NHS in Britain just after the war. Then, as now, conservatives tried to stir up emotions by likening the idea to the policies of Nazi Germany.
Sixty year later, the NHS is like a favourite auntie – however much the family may criticise her when she slips up, they absolutely adore her, and defend her to the hilt when outsiders criticise her.
I could give many, many personal examples of how the NHS has provided fantastic service to me, and to members of my family – from my infant daughter to my 97-year-old grandfather.
But the point is this: everybody in the UK has access not only to free medical care but also to preventive check-ups that can detect diseases such as cancer in their earliest stages, when they may still be relatively easy (and inexpensive) to treat. Nobody lives in fear that an illness will bankrupt them. Nobody needs to leave a disease untreated until they end up in ER.
It is shocking that one of the most powerful and wealthy nations on the planet should deny even the most basic healthcare to so many of its citizens.
It is beyond belief that so many citizens of that nation actually want to keep it that way.
Paul Hipp sums it up perfectly:

Casey said...

Regina thank you for posting this. As a Canadian I have been upset at the way our health care has been slandered as well.

I am 56, and have great health care my whole life.

I wish our docs would get mad too.

Anonymous said...

Dear Regina,
Please, please, please write another piece about "socialised" healthcare. Maybe you could talk about your experience(s) in France. This article was only up for a couple of hours and got very little attention before being swamped by your hilarious, spot-on Barbie spoof... but really, this subject has to get some more attention.
A recent Daily Mail article (critising the NHS) attracted an unusually high number of comments from US citizens (all of them fearful of "socialised" medicine). It seems to me that people in need of information are googling frantically. Please, please feed them. They need information. If you use he right words (as you can and do), they might land on your blog.

lisabeth said...

Regina than you for writing us. It shocks me that so many Americans are against health care for all. I could go on and on, but that's the bottom line. It's really more about money and greed.