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Is The NHS Still Working For Us

Jul 10, 2008
One of the biggest social aspects that Britain has been able to pride itself on over the last sixty years is the National Health Service. Free medical treatment available for everyone is something that has even attracted foreigners to take up residence within this country. For a while, even prescriptions were free although this didn't last very long. However, for everyone to have access to doctors, hospitals, consultants, medical professionals and operations, free of charge is one of the best things the government could have done for this country.

So what's going wrong? Why is it that more and more people are finding it necessary to invest in private medical insurance? Is trust in the NHS waning?

In short, yes it is. Waiting lists for consultations and operations have become notoriously long to the point where people have died while waiting to see the right person. Sometimes, general practitioners are so pressured that they miss obvious symptoms and patients are losing faith in them. On top of this, the NHS has become just as much of a business as anything else and many treatments depend on the cost, which will also hinge on where you live in the country - the so-called postcode lottery.

It also has to be said that people in Britain have become more affluent in recent years and private medical insurance is seen by many as an essential cost as opposed to an added luxury. Even if you opt for the treatment that private medical insurance brings, you do not get a reduction in the tax you pay - a proportion of which goes to the NHS.

Putting some of your finances into this private medical insurance ensures that if and when things go wrong with your health, you are guaranteed to receive the treatment you need, by the right people at the right time. It means no lengthy waiting lists or refusal of costly treatment.

So, how do other countries manage their health system and are there lessons we could learn from them?
Let's take a look at France. They do not have waiting lists. People get seen when they need to be despite only having marginally more doctors and facilities than the UK. Is it extra resources from the government? No, it's simply a different system that, while not to everyone's agreement, seems to work in their favour.

In France, their system requires that you pay for doctor's appointments up front, then claim the costs back from a compulsory social insurance scheme. This doesn't suit everyone of course, but then not every system does. It is simply a system that requires more budgeting on the behalf of the country's residents. British people have become lulled into this false sense of security after so many affluent years of having what they want, when they want it.

With the credit crunch now biting things aren't as easy as they were. Every aspect of British society is feeling the pinch and the NHS, being a business like any other, is not left untouched. Belts have been pulled in, budgets have been cut and unfortunately, not everyone is receiving the treatment they need. So, now we have a situation whereby more and more people are feeling the need to take out private medical insurance at a time when they can ill afford it.
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