It always surprises me when my friends who have grown up with private healthcare are so quick to phone up a doctor over any little thing. In my northern working-class family, phoning up the GP was always the last option.
A few months ago, I started to experience vertigo whenever I stood up. It lasted a few days. My friend insisted I at least phone 111. When I called the man on the phone did an assessment and said they’d get back to me in an hour. Around 12 hours later, at 4am, I was woken up by a phone call from someone who asked the same questions, who then forwarded me on to a nurse who also asked the same questions again.
“I feel dizzy whenever I get up, but I feel better than before,” I said, half because I wasn’t sure if I was wasting their time, and half because I really didn’t want to have to get a taxi to the hospital where I’d wait for hours to probably be told that I was fine.
The nurse said quite dismissively that if the symptoms are getting better than there’s nothing she can do and hung up the phone.
Although the phone call after phone call after phone call led to nothing, my experience was better than most who are reliant on the National Health Service. According to The Telegraph, patients calling NHS 111 are being left on hold 20 times longer than the expected times, with some reporting being left on hold for up to an hour.
The NHS lets down the ordinary man in most senses. The total number of patients who are waiting for treatment is now at 6.7 million. In cases of an emergency, ambulances simply aren’t coming quickly enough (at 59 minutes as opposed to the target of 18 minutes) and patients are waiting far too long for treatment in A&E (with almost 3/10ths having to wait over 4 hours). It’s clear that this national treasure is failing the nation.
When Rishi Sunak proposed fining anyone who did not show up to their GP appointment, the British public snapped back – they can’t even get a GP appointment in the first place. Whenever I’ve tried to phone the GP, the call has often gone straight to answer phone. What is the point of having healthcare that is free at the point of use when no one can even use it?
As usual, it’s those on low incomes that suffer the most when it comes to receiving treatment. While those on higher salaries have the option to go private, the average person has little choice over what limited healthcare they receive. The money that low-income earners could spend on healthcare is instead sucked into the NHS funding blackhole, leaving them with very little choice and making them dependent on the NHS.
We are constantly being reminded how the NHS is relentlessly stretched and for many it’s hard to even access. This not only puts one off attempting to see a doctor (as you’ll probably end up waiting forever), but it also seems to relay a sense of guilt when trying to use these services. One thinks twice about taking up a doctor’s limited time to check something out that might not be that serious – other people need their time more than I do, right?
The class solidarity that the socialists desire may be there, but it manifests as guilt that you should not be taking up resources from your fellow comrades. This is further embodied in guidelines propagated by the NHS Confederation, the latest example being advice for people across Essex not to go to A&E unless they have “serious or life-threatening conditions”. What even constitutes a serious condition? Should a sprained wrist wait?
It almost seems that the NHS has become somewhat a religion for the nation, making us feel we like we can’t even question the idea that perhaps the NHS should work for us, not the other way round. However, a system where the vulnerable are made to feel guilty or discouraged into not accessing the healthcare they need cannot be described as a successful one.
In a market-based healthcare system, there would be incentives to provide services and treatment, rather than the heavy rationing that a state monopoly healthcare provides. Single payer healthcare limits choice and results in inefficiencies. Affordable healthcare, on the other hand, provides lower income earners with choice. Through competition, prices will be driven down, and consumers will be able to receive a better-quality service. This has to be a better option than the current system where the working class are the ones who suffer the most.