Aneurin Bevan, The National Health Service, and a Trip To The Doctor

Statue of Aneurin Bevan in Cardiff Queen Street

Image via Wikipedia

The collective principle asserts that… no society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means.

That's a quote from one of my heroes – Aneurin Bevan, voted in an online poll as the number one Welsh hero, beating out competition even from luminaries such as Tom Jones and Richard Burton. Bevan had worked as a coal miner since the age of 13, and as a union official found himself leading the local miners in the 1926 General Strike. Three years later, he became the Member of Parliament for Ebbw Vale, a post he held right until his death in 1960. He was known for his supreme oratory, regularly exchanging verbal blows with his long-time political enemy, Winston Churchill. 

But Bevan's enduring legacy is the formation of the United Kingdom's National Health Service, achieved when he became the Minister for Health and Housing in Clement Attlee's Labour government after the conclusion of the Second World War. He saw "the sale and purchase of medical practice as an evil in itself" and sought instead a program that was "free on the point of delivery". Ninety-seven percent of the British public were signed up within a month of 5 July 1948, the date when his National Health Service Act came into force. While the NHS has often been under attack, most particularly in the past thirty years and especially since healthcare reform has become a topic for discussion in the US, it has endured. In general, most British people are content with their system; during 2009, Professor Stephen Hawking went on record saying that, without the NHS, he wouldn't be alive today. In recent comparisons with six other wealthy nations, the United Kingdom's healthcare system ranked second overall, and number one when it came to efficiency. (The US, the country with the most expensive healthcare system in the world ranked last overall, and at best next to last in any of the dimensions of the study).

OK, I've made my point. I'm a product of that healthcare system. It was there for me when I came into the world; it saw me through my first 25 years as, overall, an exceptionally healthy individual. It's the reason both my parents are cancer survivors. And yet, it seems nobody can even mention healthcare without it becoming political. Why is that? You wouldn't expect your doctor to talk about politics, would you? Today, though, that's precisely what happened. I did something today I have never been able to do since moving to the United States. I went to see a doctor, without actually being ill – well, except for some little minor annoyance. (Cooties, I'm sure. Girl cooties, no doubt. Or her dog. Or her cat.) Why have I never been able to have preventive medical care up until now? Because, quite simply, I couldn't afford it. The last thing I wanted to hear this morning was a treatise about how "socialized" healthcare basically can't get to you until you're about to kick the bucket, and about the superiority of a system for which your insurance would "probably" pick up the tab, and if not, there were plenty of other programs.

He's absolutely right, of course. This is indeed a free market economy, and, as such, standard rules apply. As a paying customer, I am this doctor's employer. I was dissatisfied with his work, and I didn't think he was right for the job. So I did what any free market employer should do with that kind of employee. I fired him. I'll be seeing another doctor for my next visit.

He didn't even address my cooties either, but did suggest I could invest $110 for a slip cover for my bed sheets.

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About darlingman1970

Born in the UK and a graduate in mathematics from Cambridge University, Chris Nash has followed a career in software engineering which he continued after moving the United States in 1996 and now brings him to California in 2010. However, Chris does not want to be considered as merely a code monkey, and has always been interested in writing; in areas as diverse as factual technical manuals all the way through to fiction. An avid reader, Chris is a fan particularly of mystery novels and enjoys above all the works of Agatha Christie and David Hewson. Chris has recently gone through some significant life changes which, at the moment, he is considering as the basis for a forthcoming novel and as food for thought on his blog. He manages to couple his loves of writing and technology and is particularly interested in how internet innovations have an impact on the writing and promotional process. Chris is a firm supporter of Creative Commons and other 'open' initiatives and believes strongly that such distribution mechanisms are the "right" way to handle intellectual property in an evolving digital world. Chris is a keen Nintendo DS and Wii player in his spare time, and is currently happily attached, living in the Central Coast area of California. Find him on Twitter as @darlingman1970. Don't ask him how old he is.
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