Our fantastic experience with the NHS
My son Gabriel is currently studying law at Queen Mary University of London. Fourteen days ago he developed a severe sore throat, and after a few days of cold medication and lozenges, he was getting no better. With advice from Cheryl and me, Gabe went to the student health clinic where he was seen by a family physician. She diagnosed tonsillitis, started him on Penicillin, and requested that he return to the clinic in two days to follow up on his condition. When he was seen two days later, the physician, who was incredibly caring and attentive, felt that he had not improved and sent Gabe for an emergency ENT consultation at the hospital.
He was admitted that day to The Royal London Hospital, a leading, internationally renowned teaching hospital based in east London, part of Barts Health NHS Trust.
Gabe received amazing care at the NHS funded hospital. He was quite sick; his peritonsillar area was so inflamed and swollen that he could barely talk or swallow. In a very short time he was seen by an emergency room physician and was admitted with a diagnosis of severe tonsillitis. He was started on an IV, received broad-spectrum antibiotics, had a CT scan, and had consultation with the otolaryngology service.
The nurses, the physicians and the technologists treated Gabe, who at the time was alone in England, with compassion and great care. He was well looked after for five days, and then he was discharged. Three days after discharge, and already greatly improved, he had a follow up visit with the ENT consultant, had an “on the spot” ultrasound and an aspiration cytology, and was prescribed ongoing treatment.
I am thankful for the amazing treatment Gabe received from the NHS!
The NHS is the overarching name for the National Health Service, which provides health care to citizens of the United Kingdom through its four divisions: NHS England, NHS Wales, NHS Scotland, and Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland. Conceived in 1942, the NHS came into being, with bipartisan support, in 1948.
It has been said, “the NHS may be the proudest achievement of our (British) society. It was founded in 1948 in place of fear – the fear that many people had of being unable to afford medical treatment for themselves and their families. And it was founded in a spirit of optimism – at a time of great uncertainty, coming shortly after the sacrifices of war.”2 For over 50 years, it has provided UK citizens with universal health care.
The NHS hasn’t always had a superb reputation, but no one can argue that the gains made in the last 15 years have been absolutely remarkable. In 2014, the Commonwealth Fund, an independent (US-based) organization which is well respected for it analysis of health care systems, ranked the UK as the top performer of 11 countries it reviewed.3 Of note, in that same report, Canada ranked 10 of 11, and the U.S ranked last. Importantly, the UK’s top ranking has been achieved while spending 9.3% of its GDP on health care, compared to Canada’s 10.9% and the United States’ 16.9%.4
And the NHS is aggressively pursuing further change. In 2014, it elaborated its new strategic plan, a “five year forward view.2 The system intends to push hard on issues of prevention, focus on patients having increased control of their own care, it plans to break down the barriers in how care is provided between family doctors and hospitals, between physical and mental health, between health and social care, and it plans to provide more support for frail older people.
In my view, the quality of a nation’s health care system is a barometer of its society. And the principle of a universal health care system, such as the case with the NHS, is a barometer of a civilized society.
If you have any views about the NHS, respond to the blog, or better yet, please drop by the Macklem House, my door is always open.