The British love their NHS despite a Vast and Growing Number of Patients receiving Horrible Care

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 30th, 2012

Week in Review

At the 2012 Summer Olympics in London the opening ceremonies included a tribute to Britain’s National Health Service (NHS).  To show to the world how wonderful it is.  And how much the British love it.  As long as they were not a seriously ill patient in the NHS.  Or had a loved one that was.  Because for these people it’s not the beautiful thing they showed in the opening ceremonies (see The cult of the NHS, flinging flans and the plight of poor old Richard Dawkins by Damian Thompson posted 12/28/2012 on The Telegraph).

Just as light entertainers prance across our screens shrieking about “charidee”, so politicians and churchmen intone their devotion to the NHS, like politburo members singing the praises of the Motherland.

Our health service doesn’t deserve this sycophancy. Or, rather, it deserves better than self-serving rhetoric whose subliminal message is: “Look at me! I lurve the NHS more than you do! I am a good person..!”

Nigel Lawson famously said that the NHS was the closest thing the British had to a national religion. He was right – but we need to ask ourselves why a system of providing health care has become so sanctified. After all, the newspapers have been running stories about dirty wards and patients left to die on trolleys for many years.

We know these stories are true; yet we still applaud when Danny Boyle uses the Olympic ceremony to present a rose-tinted vision of dancing nurses and twirling beds – “Busby Berkeley on the cancer ward,” as my colleague Tim Stanley put it.

The problem is that our health service has passed the point where it can work the magic we demand. As we reported last week, Alexandra Hospital in Redditch has apologised to 38 families for neglect that left dying people screaming in pain and one old lady unwashed for 11 weeks. The staff who taunted patients there aren’t typical of their profession – but neither are the invariably “dedicated” nurses of our imagination.

The average nurse is neither more nor less dedicated than the average accountant. But he or she does face much tougher challenges – specifically, of dealing with more and more very old people whose care is difficult and expensive to manage.

Perhaps at the next Olympics the United States hosts they will have a twirling-bed tribute to Obamacare.  For Obamacare will be similar to the NHS.  And no doubt will soon have patients left dying and screaming in pain and unwashed for 11 weeks.  For if the British have these problems the U.S. will most certainly have them when they follow the British down the path of national health care.  Because both the British and the Americans have aging populations.  Only the Americans will have 5 times those very old people who are difficult and expensive to manage.  As we have 5 times the population Britain has.

Just something to look forward to as Obamacare starts going into effect in January.  In addition to going over the fiscal cliff.  And the resulting recession from those massive tax hikes.  So Happy New Year.  It’ll definitely be a year to remember.  And one we may soon want to forget.


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