Loving the NHS, loving our neighbours

Friday, 14th August 2009 at 0:17 UTC 1 comment

There seems to be a massive spat going on, a sort of blog-war between Britain and certain parts of America. Almost out of nowhere, the #welovetheNHS tag has appeared and rocketed its way to the top ten things people are saying, with NHS not far behind. Seems it can all be tracked to one Republican using the NHS to slag off Obama’s healthcare package. It just shows the depths people will go to in order to prevent the poorest receiving the healthcare they need.

You might be dismayed to learn that the NHS is run by Death Councils who deicide which elderly patients will die first, and that as an NHS patient you have no choice as to who your doctor is. So say the opponents of Obama’s healthcare reform package. Quite how Britain’s venerable, though sometimes clunky, health care system became a political football in America is anyone’s guess, but the facts are clearly misunderstood.

As has been pointed out, that probably applies in both directions, as the British have often been told that the Americans can get no health care without insurance; Emergency Rooms do treat patients for free if they have no insurance, but that’s about all they get.

I’m sure others can comment on the health policy side of this much better than I can, but for the politics, there’s some distinctly important messages. First and foremost, be very careful when complaining about something like the NHS, because those complaints are easily heard in other countries where the positives benefits aren’t being experienced firsthand.

Its right and proper that we assume the NHS is not an added option but a staple of our society, but by only ever mentioning it out loud to condemn it, we risk giving the wrong idea to those who don’t regularly experience it first hand, and indeed, we risk discouraging the great people who put so much working into keeping us healthy.

The good news is, just for once, we’ve seen more people declare their love for the NHS in one day than in most of its history. Perhaps we should make 13th August an annual “NHS Appreciation Day”? Whatever the outcome, we’ve seen something truly magnificent, the positive vibe around certain corners of the net has been effervescent and the whole affair has been a reminder of the potential positive impact of viral trends online.

But we should probably also stop and consider the fact that the NHS is prevented from helping those who are ill but have no legal status in this country; if we want to claim that healthcare in the UK is a universal right, we should be prepared to reflect on the experiences of undocumented workers and refugees.

As to some kind of theological reflection: I have always wondered how it might even be possible to love one’s neighbour as one loves oneself whilst still maintaining unequal access to healthcare. To my mind, it makes no sense. We can be assured that most Samaritans would not have wished to share their meagre health provision with the Jews, for instance. Therefore, why should we tolerate a situation in which someone else in our country receives a lower standard of care than us?

I do hope the net result of all this is that the staff in hospitals and health centres up and down Britain feel a bit more motivated, and that those working for a better health care system for America’s poorest are encouraged and given new ammunition. I had spent some time last week wondering how on Earth I might help in the fight for equal healthcare in American, and yet today I was surprised to find myself right at the centre of the debate, along with the rest of the NHS’s patients, current and potential. And so we must do our bit to ensure ordinary Americans, not even the poorest, but simply the less-than-rich, can soon share the right we in Britain have enjoyed for 60 years.


Entry filed under: Barack Obama, Health, News, NHS, Participation, Politics, Social Networking.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. brainduck  |  Friday, 14th August 2009 at 0:33 UTC

    Should you be interested in the ins and outs of access to NHS care for asylum seekers, http://www.wherestheconsultation.org has lead a lot of campaigning in the area. It’s run by an old friend from VIth form.


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