The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

Don’t be selfish, take responsibility

Thomas McEvilly contemplates the problems caused by ‘selfish’ diseases inherent in our floundering NHS

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The NHS is the largest and the oldest single-payer healthcare system in the world; it provides free healthcare on an unprecedented scale, and has become the fifth largest employer in the world. It is in my opinion the best asset this country has to offer, and I myself have experienced its benefits during a life saving operation.

This is why I fear if we continue to take for granted its services, its existence will inevitably succumb to bankruptcy. The reality is that a healthcare service designed for 1940’s Britain cannot cope with the demands of a modern society. The population is growing, and so is the average life expectancy, if the NHS is going to survive, it’s time for society to stop taking advantage of the healthcare system, and accept responsibility for their own health.

The recent Channel 4 documentary “NHS: 2 Billion A Week and Counting” has shone an important light on the tough decisions made by those in charge of resource allocation, as a result of a limited budget those who need treatment aren’t always getting it. Which then raises the question, why is it that after £108.9bn was spent on healthcare last year, those suffering from unavoidable and terminal illnesses are still not getting the treatment they deserve? For me the answer lies in the pressure placed on the budget to treat easily avoidable illness such as obesity and smoke-related diseases.

Last year more than £50 million a week was spent treating diseases caused by smoking, and since 1996 there has been a £360 million increase in costs to the NHS. This figure is unacceptable considering that we now know the harmful affects smoking has on our health. Moreover, I cannot comprehend how in a modern Britain, with all the education we have on how to live and eat healthily, that in the past 25 years the number of obese people in the UK has doubled. Now 26 per cent of all adults are obese, with a similar statistic seen amongst children, costing the tax payer £46 billion a year, nearly half of the NHS budget.

It shouldn’t be the NHS’s priority to treat illnesses people know are likely to occur as a result of their reckless lifestyle choices. It’s time people take account of their own health, and no longer rely on tax payers’ money. If people knew they had to pay for healthcare I’m sure they would think twice about eating the last donut in the box or buying another packet of cigarettes.

In the last 6 years there has been a 530% increase in gastric band surgery, costing the NHS £85 million a year, the same amount it would cost for 49,000 births on a labour ward. 1/3 of those who has gastric band surgery returned to being obese once the band was removed, which only goes to demonstrate this complete waste of resource allocation.

What’s concerning is that society has developed an attitude in which their lifestyle choices become someone else’s problem, and in doing so it has enabled people to live a reckless lifestyle without thinking of the consequences. These people are in a position to do something about their own health without medical intervention, a position many people lying in hospitals beds would envy.

Dementia is an unavoidable illness and responsible for 1 in 9 deaths; it’s a disease which has doubled in the last 10 years, and will inevitably double again with the ageing population. The funding for an ‘Admiral’ nurse to help at home with those suffering from dementia for one family would cost the NHS less than £500 a year, yet is not something available for all the 850,000 people suffering from the disease.

I understand and do believe that people should lead an autonomous life, but when it comes to impacting the operations of the NHS, this should be restricted. It’s time people stop being selfish and realise that although you pay your taxes, it does not entitle you to take advantage of a heath care system which could do so good for so many people who had no contribution to their own illnesses and are undoubtedly in a worse position then being obese.

When speaking to my grandparents, two people who lived without a national healthcare service up until they were 30, it’s clear how much we take for granted. Paying for a doctor was not an option for many families, and basic care came at a cost, leading to many people having to devise ineffective ‘home remedies’ to compensate.

My Nan had three children at home and the labor was performed by the other woman in the family–the presence of a doctor was only required for emergencies and even that came at a cost. Fortunately this is no longer the case and our NHS is an object of admiration and envy around the world; it’s what allows us to call ourselves a civilized nation.

But I fear in less than 100 years of its lifespan, a national health service will be something of the past and if this is so, the responsibility lies with those who have been selfish enough to unnecessarily drain precious NHS recourses.