Monday, 19 March 2012
I don't know how much some of you know about the UK health system, but basically the National Health Service means that everybody gets free healthcare, no exceptions. It has its downfalls, don't get me wrong. Some parts of the country are better than others, some areas have more funding and access to more drugs. The waiting lists can also be mind-boggling at times. However, the fact is I've had brilliant care by the NHS my whole life and have no reason to complain. I never have to worry that if I lose my job in the future I won't be able to afford treatment. In Scotland, we don't even have to pay a nominal charge for prescriptions. However, the coalition government that is in power just now (it's essentially a Conservative government) is trying to introduce a new Health and Social Care bill, which is proving to be very controversial. At the heart of it are two principles, giving GPs control of funding for services in their area and introducing more private competition within the NHS services. At the moment, NHS hospitals do outsource some services to the private sector but there is a cap which is very low. Under the new proposals, this cap would be raised to something like 49%. The government seem to think that greater competition for services will increase the overall quality of services for everyone. I'm no expert, but it kind of scares me that a hospital (which is currently low on space and has long waiting lists) would be able to offer almost half of its beds to private patients (probably Mr and Mrs Abbot-Smith paying for their cosmetic surgery or something). Critics of the bill say it's a stepping stone to privitasation of the NHS. The Tories do love to privatise everything, so it wouldn't surprise me if that is their long term goal. This is worrying to people such as myself who are chronically ill. As it stands, no private healthcare plan covers pre-existing health conditions. So who knows what would happen if people had to sign up for them. I also do not want the UK to have a two-tier system, with people who can afford to go private getting the best treatment and the NHS struggling to care for the poor, chronically ill and unemployed. As I said, I am no expert and all the criticisms could just be because people are afraid of change. We've had the NHS since the second world war and it's something we're very proud of. Hopefully it'll work out for the best, I guess only time will tell.