Good old NHS

For overseas readers, the NHS is the British National Health Service. It guarantees free health-care to all British citizens. And it’s marvellous!

True, some have to pay a token amount towards their medication, but the elderly, the needy and other vulnerable groups pay nothing. If you need an operation, it’s free. Consultations with top-notch medical specialists cost you not a penny.

nhs logoI’ve travelled in many parts of the world where medical care is simply unavailable, or of desperately poor quality, or comes at such a high price that only the richest can afford it. Compared with all these options the NHS is an unmitigated blessing.

Over a decade ago I developed an irregular heartbeat. ‘An electrical glitch,’ the cardiac specialist concluded after I’d undergone various tests at the local NHS hospital. They put me on medication to control it, and I’ll be on it for the rest of my life. So every three months I pick up a prescription from my doctor’s surgery, take it to the local pharmacy and pick up my pills. And because I’m over 60, it’s all for free.

More recently I realised my hearing was deteriorating and needed to do something about it. Within weeks I had a consultation with an expert audiologist and two weeks later became the wearer of a high-quality digital hearing aid behind each ear. These cost me nothing and they have made the world of difference. When I’m running out of batteries I drop in with my record-book at the local audiology centre and pick up a new supply, all for free.

So I often exclaim, ‘Thank you, Lord, for the NHS!’ Can you blame me?

I’m immensely grateful that I don’t live in one of the world’s poorer countries where such service would be unimaginable. Some years ago, in Zambia, I overheard a British visitor talking to a Zambian national about hospitals. ‘I can’t stand hospital food!’ she complained. To which the Zambian replied, ‘You mean they feed you in hospital in your country?’ Yes, if you find yourself in the local hospital in her town in Zambia your relatives have to come in with food for you, otherwise you get nothing.

But it’s the Americans who puzzle me the most. President Obama has been working hard to push through a programme of medical care that would guarantee provision to the poorest and most vulnerable in society. Good for him, I say! Yet strident voices condemn him outright for it. Most puzzling of all, so-called Christian voices denounce him as an instrument of Satan, or as the Antichrist himself, for even daring to think up such an idea! Surely to make provision for the needy is Christian in every sense? I just don’t get it.

Maybe someday I’ll grasp what the Evangelical Right in the US is all about. In the meantime I’ll continue to be grateful that I don’t live there and to draw upon the good old NHS—and thank God for it.

3 Responses to Good old NHS

  1. Andrew Burgess-Tupling says:

    Amen David! My family has benefitted immensely from this great British institution. In 1993, within three months, my brother had major open heart surgery and my dad received a kidney transplant. Both of them, I am pleased to say are still going strong.
    Dad has spoken at many conferences in which he highlights that without this lifesaving operation he wouldn’t have been around to see either of us get married or to enjoy any of his four grandchildren.
    Now as the father and husband to a couple of asthmatics, I continue to see the provision we tend to take for granted.

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  2. sue wingfield says:

    Thanks for that reminder David. It’s important we don’t forget the benefits of our NHS in spite of it’s weaknesses. We have so much to be grateful for in this country and I am personally shocked and saddened by the American response to Obama’s attempts to create a fairer society in the USA.

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  3. Anna says:

    I totally agree. It is so easy to criticise and so much harder to actually do the invaluable and continually unappreciated work the NHS does.

    I also fail totally to understand the American thought process about healthcare. Would it be terribly bad of me to suggest that maybe a lot American Christians are actually rather wealthy (blessed!) and thus their opinion is more based on their lack of need (and lack of desire to pay for others who do need) rather than any real doctrinal or theological position?

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