Tuesday, June 05, 2007

I'll stick with the NHS thanks!

Having worked in the NHS for over 30 years I am one of the biggest critics of our NHS when it fails to deliver for patients.

I am also one the NHS's greatest advocates.

I am immensely proud that we in Britain still have universal healthcare for over 60 million people regardless of their wealth. The important thing to know is we have a NATIONAL Health Service even though I acknowledge all its warts and wrinkles.

The NHS will never be perfect but I saw this video from the United States – one of the richest countries in the world - and it really made me think.

As I watched it I thought to myself … our NHS is wonderful!!!

Although the clip is 8 minutes long it is well worth sticking with to understand just how lucky we are to have the NHS.
I would love to have some comments on this.


Mike said...

Ah yes, Senator Durbin of Illinois. A man who would never let something as inconsequential as the truth get in the way of his socialist agenda.

Sorry, Trevor, you can keep the NHS. The scariest words to an American are "I'm from the gov't and I'm here to help."

You have to be very wary of taking anything American politicians, especially liberal Democrats, say at face value.

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Mike and thanks for that

Of course I have to bow to your intimate knowledge of US politics. From what you say may I conclude republicans can ALWAYS be taken at face value?

As I said in my posting our NHS is far from perfect but I am proud to say we do not have over half our population worried about whether they can financially afford to be ill. All citizens in the UK are guaranteed free healthcare regardless of their wealth.

Interestingly enough I posted something last week – written by highly respected health experts in New York – that proved by robust research that the UK healthcare system is far and away the most cost effective of all six major healthcare systems examined – the other five were Canada, US, Australia, Germany and New Zealand

Here is the link to the research:


I would never be as stupid to suggest the NHS as a model for the US but surely one of the greatest indicators of how caring a nation is has to do with how it treats its most vulnerable and frail citizens. I will stick with the NHS.

Trevor Gay said...

PS Mike - couldn't resist.

A quick Google search finds that REPUBLICAN Dave Reichert can also obviously not be taken at face value with this recent quote:

'One in seven Americans, including more than 8 million children, does not have even basic healthcare coverage' - Dave Reichert

8 MILLION CHILDREN! - Amazing - But you will probably tell me his is wrong too :-)

mike said...

Trevor, as I have mentioned before:
1) Never take ANY politico's word at face value, from any party or any country. They mostly pander for votes, you know.

2) All people in America are entitled to basic health care whether they can pay for it or not, which is THE MAJOR REASON our health insurance costs are so high. No one is ever turned out of a hospital or otherwise refused treatment due to financial means.

3) Most states within the US have state-funded health insurance available for as little as $5 per month. (In Michigan it is called MICHILD) Plus, pre-natal and child preventive programs are universal and state-funded with large subsidies by the federal gov't under the auspices of the US Department of Agriculture.

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks for that clarification Mike - it helps my understanding.

I do take your point about politicians needing our votes but actually I don’t agree about EVERY politician – there are a few notable exceptions – I would highlight Tony Benn as one in England. I am sure you must be able to find one in the US that you can believe at face value.

Your healthcare system is so different than ours that it is not fair perhaps to compare the two but I feel our system is fairer to the entire population.

Let you and I agree to differ but remain good friends :-)

I will fight to improve the NHS but also fight to keep a universal healthcare system for all citizens in the UK and you stick with your US health system described as follows in this article yesterday in The Independent:


‘America's broken health care system - one where 50 million people are entirely without insurance coverage and tens of millions more struggle to have the treatment they need approved.’

David Wike said...

As you frequently point out Trevor, the NHS is far from perfect, but then again, what is? From time to time I do wonder whether we would have better health and education systems if ALL private arrangements were to be banned. If politicians and other national figures had to use the state providers, perhaps they might be a little more focussed on improving them.

I am sure that your hero Tony Benn is a very honest politician, as I suspect was Enoch Powell at the opposite extreme of the political spectrum. But would I have wanted either of them running the country? Give me the dishonest ones every time!

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks David – I like the concept of politicians using the NHS – I can dream :-)

I know you are speaking tongue in cheek when calling for dishonest politicians to run the country.

We will never know about Tony Benn as a Prime Minister but I heard an interesting debate on Radio the other day when he was described as ‘the best Prime Minister Britain never had’ by George Galloway – another conviction politician who I like a lot even though I don’t always agree with him.

My point about Tony Benn is that he always tells it as he sees it and does not care who he upsets.

If you get the chance you must listen to his CD – an audience with Tony Benn – I will lend it you next time I see you!

Interesting too that Tony Benn is referred to as ‘Britain’s best loved politician’ – now he has reached the age of 82.

You and I can remember when the right wing press considered him to be ‘dangerous’!!!!!

David Wike said...

George Galloway?!!! To quote a much loved American tennis player of the past, "You cannot be serious!"

Perhaps you have had the bottle out. There is a report today that drinking at home is risky for those in middle-age!

Trevor Gay said...

Hi David

George is an interesting man. I had an image of him from the media – possibly similar to the image many have. Then I really started to listen to what he says. I mean REALLY listen and not simply accept what the Tory press says about him. I found that although I still disagree with some of his views he is nevertheless a passionate believer in socialist principles which are still my principles.

Have you listened to George on Talksport 10 pm – 1 am on Friday and Saturday night? – it is well worth listening to. I’m sure you will not change your mind about him but I think you will hear a side to George that may surprise you.

Whatever we think of politicians (me included about joke politicians such as Tory Boris Johnson) … the reality is they are elected by us. George has been an elected MP now for 30 years – we get what we vote for.

And actually I didn't have a glass of wine last night funnily enough … we are up early today (Wednesday) to travel up to County Durham on the 7.47 from Widney Manor - Haway the lads!!!

David Wike said...

I hope your day in the ‘far north’ went well Trevor – you will be stepping onto your train at about the same time that I’m writing this, with the first cup of tea of the day at my side!

I know that we are getting away from the original subject, but I’m interested in your statement that you are a socialist. I presume from that, and other comments that you have made in the past, you always vote Labour. I find this a very strange concept. What is the point of a democracy if people ALWAYS vote Labour, Conservative, Democrat, Republican or whatever it might be? If we all did that there would never be any change of government and in effect, democracy would cease to have any point.

I dread to think what politicians would get up to if they thought that they would never be removed from office. People like me are referred to by the media as ‘floating voters’, which somehow seems to imply that we are ‘airheads’, whereas we are the ones who make democracy work.

At each election I weigh up the pros and cons of the candidates and the policies of their party, and cast my vote accordingly. At one local election, where one can vote for up to three candidates, I voted for one from each of the three main parties, based on what I knew of them. Surely this is the intelligent approach to democracy? Please discuss!

mike said...

Good thoughts on voting, David. I often vote Libertarian here in the US. This is a very small "fringe" party that truly believes in the old phrase that the gov't that governs best is that which governs least. They hardly ever win any elections, but I have to vote my convictions. They also don't always run candidates for many offices, so I pick and choose from the major parties for those--about 70% of the time Republican and 30% Democratic. I suspect many voters are similar.

Trevor, I cringe every time I read you saying you are a socialist. In my country one might as well claim to be a communist as a socialist, because there is very little distinction between the two in Americans' minds. Personally, I've never understood the idea of a socialist democracy. Give me total free-market capitalism and keep the government out of my life!

Of course, in the US we are in the process of creating what we are calling the "nanny state." This is the welfare state gone beserk and if we don't take action soon it will happen. Orwell was right on most counts. (1984, The Road to Wiggan Pier, and Down & Out read together give a pretty fair idea of his ideas, much more than just reading 1984.)

David Wike said...

Hey Mike, I always thought that all the worst ideas were invented in the US and then exported here! But for once it sounds like we beat you to it as we have had the nanny state for quite some time! Actually, we can still blame you to some extent as much of it is a reaction to litigation which I think you guys invented!

I agree totally about over-government – it is something that we have suffered from over the last ten years of Labour rule. Those who work in education or the health service (my wife has done both) all complain about government initiatives and targets coming so thick and fast that they spend far too much of their lives processing paperwork rather than doing what they were trained for.

Having said that, some of our continental European neighbours have considerably more bureaucracy – France is a nightmare; so much so that many French business people have moved to the UK because of our strong economy and a government that generally has been pro-business, especially in supporting what we call SMEs (small and medium enterprises – generally defined as having 1 to 150 employees).

By the way, you might be interested in this link to Wigan Pier!

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Mike and David

Sorry a bit late getting back to you – We had a wonderful day ‘up north’

Some quick responses as I relax with a nice glass (or two) of Red!!

1 David - Actually, I don’t always vote Labour although I am very proud to be a socialist. I vote for the candidate I like most among the candidates standing in my constituency and the one I believe relates best to my fundamental beliefs about fairness to those people in the community who need the most support. I have never voted Conservative because I have always preferred the manifesto of candidates from other parties.

2 Mike – I’m sorry you cringe about socialism. The ‘total free-market capitalism’ you love in the US has resulted in infant mortality 36% higher in the US than in the UK where we have a national health service – created by socialism. Communism and socialism are miles apart my friend. Interesting that Wal-Mart Chief Executive Lee Scott is calling for a government run universal health care system in the US by the year 2012 – and his company is a leader of your free-market system. If you want I can provide the reference for the article.

3 – Britain will never be a nanny state. The NHS has been given more new money in the last ten years under Tony Blair than any government since the NHS was created in 1948 (by a Labour government) That is FACT whether Tories and the right wing media want to believe it or not. The way in which that additional money has been spent is a matter for NHS management to answer and to blame the problems of the NHS on ‘government targets’ is just a convenient ‘cop out’ for managers in the NHS.

Great discussion guys and thank you!!!

The wine was brilliant by the way!

David Wike said...

Glad you enjoyed the wine – well deserved I guess after a long day. Feeling self-righteous at the moment as I haven’t touched a drop since last weekend AND I’ve taken exercise every day!

I don’t think anyone would deny the huge investment made in the health service. However, if I were the CEO of a business where the board (in this case government) kept moving the targets, I’m not sure that I could run it successfully.

To deliver any project it is essential to have realistic targets developed with and bought into by those charged with delivery. Then you mustn’t interfere but you should constantly monitor to ensure that everything stays on track, taking corrective action if necessary.

What I don’t understand is why we appear to have a sudden financial crisis this year. Yes, undeniably it is the hospital CEOs who are responsible for delivery within budget, but hasn’t anyone in government been monitoring the finances? It appears that, after nine years, they finally spotted that there was an over-spend problem and, to coin a Churchill phrase, suddenly said, “Up with this we will not put”!

Mike said...

Yes, Wal-Mart's chief and those of some other companies have recently called on the government to implement a national health insurance scheme. But, this was in no way the result of their concern for anyone's health. It was simply a ridiculous and transparently cynical attempt to deflect the financial burden from their companies to the taxpayers.

Trevor Gay said...

Hi David and Mike – great comments thanks.

David - I’m impressed with your approach to the wine abstinence and the exercise – congratulations!

The NHS employs Directors of Finance in every NHS Trust and every PCT – that’s about 600 NHS organisations. Each one of those Directors of Finance is paid a minimum of £100k per year. So my question would be to them rather than Tony Blair about why the hell was the NHS overspent until this year.

In fact the NHS is going to UNDERSPEND this year by about £500 million simply because the government has at last put the pressure on overspending! Up to this year Directors of Finance and the Chief Execs were left alone and frankly it is pretty obvious they did not manage the money well enough.

Mike – you in fact support MY argument with your latest reply.

It was you who suggested we are all so much better off with a free-market approach. You can’t get much more free market than Wal-Mart and yet you say ‘It was simply a ridiculous and transparently cynical attempt to deflect the financial burden from their companies to the taxpayers.’


And I notice you have not answered my point about why 36% more US children die in your ‘free market health service’ when compared with infant mortality in our UK government funded National Health Service.

I would love to hear your justification of that one horrifying statistic and what is the ‘free-market health economy’ doing to address this?

The reality is - as always - when you open up healthcare to the ‘free market’ it is always the most vulnerable in society who fall through the net and the more wealthy you are the more you benefit - and in terms of healthcare of the whole population, that is morally wrong.

That brings me full circle to confirm that I am delighted to be a socialist – even though I know it ‘makes you cringe.’

I am very concerned and sad that infants die in my country but I am less worried than US citizens should be about such a scandalous statistic in the year 2007 when the US is considered to be the worlds most advanced society.

Good stuff guys and thanks again!!