We had a lovely time at Victoria's today, where she was hosting Kina's 75th birthday party. Unfortunately we forgot to take our camera, but others took pictures on their mobiles which ae promised.
Kina was telling me about her campaign to inform US Democrat friends that the National Health Service, for all its faults, is infinitely better than the private health system in the US, and she gave me permission to quote her email to a US correspondent:
Everyone I know here, in all political parties and none, are appalled at the distorted descriptions of the British National Health Service that are being employed against the Obama health reforms. I would like to set out as briefly as I can, from my own personal experience, how and why I value our NHS as an institution that really does care and serve all people regardless of ability to pay.
So, I am a 75 year old retired professional woman, who has worked in the NHS and community social services and the not-for-profit sectors in housing for over 35 years. I currently have an annual income of about Ł22k and I live by myself in reasonable, but not affluent comfort. I have in the past 20 years had: major spinal surgery, a hip replacement, cataract removal in both eyes, a cardiac pacemaker inserted, and am currently waiting for a knee replacement.
I have chronic arthritis, kept under control by various medications in consultation with my excellent family doctor. Our general practice surgery has 11 general medical practitioners, each with his or her own specialism, plus 4 nurses, midwives, health care advisers and visiting ancillary services such as physiotherapy and counselling. They are open between 8.30 am and 8;30 pm, with links to out of hours walk in emergency services. They have a Patients' Forum which I am on, where we are accepted whole heartedly by the clinicians and are able to propose any changes we feel would improve an already excellent service. Choice is an important factor, and we are consulted about our own wishes for types of treatment and choice of hospital, when necessary. Waiting times for surgery are coming down all the time, and great importance is attached to routine screening where risk factors have been identified. I have benefitted from a number of cancer screening processes, and regular reviews of medication.
All of this has been free at the point of consumption , except for some dental charges and spectacles (and if I had been unable to pay for these, ie been on a lower income, these would have come free).
In summary, I feel safe, well looked after and confident that when I need it, the appropriate service will be available. This is not exceptional, it is the norm. Of course there are times when things don't go quite right, but we can express our complaints at all levels, and these are taken seriously. I have never found age discrimination to apply to me, or to my friends, many of whom are much older than I am.
I would be grateful if you could circulate this personal comment as widely as possible, so that it just might put a dent in the tissue of hysterical misinformation that seems to be doing the rounds in the USA.