This winter we’ve seen the NHS on its knees.


This winter, for the first time in 45 years, I had to go to hospital. Health is one of those things you completely take for granted until you lose it. Then you realise how hard it is to get it back.

I used to think I was a healthy person. I’ve run 27 marathons (including one last year) and numerous half-marathons. I used to be able to get round London inside 4 hours (or six and a half in a Rhino suit!). I normally work 60 hours a week, with Labour Party and other voluntary work on top of that. It used to be 80 when I was a councillor.

So Christmas time was a time to relax, or so I thought. Between Boxing Day and New Years Eve I noticed a swelling on my right leg. The leg was swollen between the knee and the ankle, and the calf felt tight, painful even, like it might burst. It could be a muscle strain, it might be a deep vein thrombosis, so I resolved to see a doctor to check it out.

I rang the surgery on Monday morning. It’s a bit of a rigmarole, you have to try from 8am onwards. Being a so-called healthy bloke I don’t like to bother people, I’d be the one at the back of the A&E queue saying “I hope I’m not being too much trouble but I’ve got these crushing chest pains” while others were raising cane about their cough or stomach ache. But for some reason I persisted and when speaking to the receptionist said “I think I’d better see the doctor today, I think I might have a DVT”.

So I saw the doctor that morning, and initially he was like “nah it doesn’t look like a DVT, it would be bigger, redder, hotter, would have flared up more quickly, it might be a sports injury discharging fluid” and when I couldn’t remember sustaining an injury he offered to take a blood test “to rule it out”. Initially I was to come back on the Wednesday but at the last minute he said “actually I think we’ll do it now”.

At 5pm I got a call “the blood tests suggest a clot, can you get down the hospital tonight?”.

Which I did. In a taxi. Cos, like, an ambulance is overkill isn’t it and the NHS is so stretched with more urgent cases.
Except when I arrived and finding the ward closed I was directed to A&E, as if left untreated it could cause a pulmonary embolism, which is life-threatening.

So I was given anti-coagulant injections, and warfarin, and had a duplex doppler ultrasound scan to confirm the DVT, a chest X-ray, a CT scan, numerous blood tests, and advice on what not to eat or drink, and to carry this yellow card so they’d know what drugs not to pump into me. And I was by no means the only case, there were other people with DVTs being treated as well, and an amazing number of friends of friends who’d had one, I subsequently learned of after the event.

And all this treatment was first class, and free at the point of delivery. And I shudder to think how much it might have cost: many thousands, with 4 days off work in out-patient appointments, and all those consultants, doctors, nurses and pharmacists hours, just on my case. And if Health in this country was private, who would have paid for it, and what inflated premiums could I look forward to in future? What restrictions on future policies? “Was healthy, didn’t look after himself, got a DVT vegging on a couch over Xmas, exlusion this, exclude that, increase that premium”.

But this could be the future if the Tories get back in. They have already re-organised the NHS, despite promising not to. Remember those Cameron airbrushed election ads “We’d cut the deficit, not the NHS”. Except waiting times are up, and doctors and nurses are leaving the NHS, and many surgeries are now things like “Virgin Healthcare”.

Make no mistake, the Tories are privatising the NHS, and it is on its knees, with all these hospitals nationwide declaring major incidents, and ambulance queues, and tents set up in car parks to treat people. It’s a service, first and foremost. It is a body of people, 1.4m of them, dedicated to treating people. It’s an army. We used to have similar services, all since rubbished and/or privatised, such as Royal Mail, British Rail, gas and electricity. And buses. And what happens when they are privatised? Some privateer profits, and making money is the be all and end all. Bus company chairmen making £2m a year while cutting “uneconomical” services, leaving grannies stranded in villages. It is “the goal”, just like in the book by Eliyahu Goldratt. Service delivery should be “the goal”. That’s why we need to keep our NHS public.

And UKIP want to replace the NHS with a private health insurance. Sure they’ll deny it. Nigel Farage was caught on YouTube saying something very different in private to what UKIP might say in public. So if you’re ill and can’t afford insurance – you’re screwed.

One of the most disturbing aspects of the Coalition Government’s re-organisation / back-door privatisation of the NHS is the proposal to hand over people’s medical data to a private consortium, care.data, who in turn will allow our data to be sold to other private companies. Doctor-patient confidentiality has been absolutely sacrosanct. You can tell your doctor anything you don’t want your family to find out about.

Medical data is an order of magnitude more sensitive than the data other organisations hold and which routinely leads to public complaints of abuse of the Data Protection Act.

So why should the Tories (and their lickspittle Lib Dem accomplices) assume that we the people have implicitly consented to the selling on of our most sensitive data of all: our medical records?

Indeed, why did the Tories (and their lickspittle Lib Dem accomplices) want to reorganise and backdoor privatise the NHS in the first place? It’s all about money. Money no doubt they will take along with their seats on boards of pharmaceutical firms and private providers.

And who will pick up the tab? People like us. I used to think “I don’t get sick”. Not any more. I used to think hospitals were for old people and sick people. But if it can happen to me it can happen to anyone. And I’ve probably paid hundreds of thousands of pounds in taxes for the benefit of people I’ve never met, but I don’t begrudge them for it because that’s what we do in a civilised society. I’d much rather do this than pay a premium for an “I’m all right Jack” policy that makes some fat cat money but fails to deliver. In 5 years’ time, if the Tories get back in, who knows what it will be like: the queues, the charges.

I read Harry Smith’s “Harry’s last Stand” before Xmas, and I had the privilege to see him speak at the Labour Party Conference. He is spot on. The Tories are taking us back to the 1930’s. And what a truly dreadful prospect that is. Don’t let his past become our future, and help keep David Cameron’s mits off our NHS!

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