As cuts to the NHS continue to dominate the media, there is an increasing fear of its privatisation. According to The Guardian the NHS could be short of 70,000 nurses in the next five years. This has led politicians such as Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage to extoll the benefits of privatisation. Speaking on The Andrew Marr show, Farage stated that private healthcare would “relieve the burden on the NHS”. However, I believe that the preservation of the NHS as state owned and funded is imperative for Britain’s survival.
Having just returned from a semester abroad in the US, I have experienced first-hand what it is like to live in a country where the healthcare system thrives on capitalism. This cultivated within me a deep sense of pride for the NHS which I believe that every British citizen should possess. My health insurance for the semester cost me over $1,000 and only covered a percentage of the cost of medical bills.
When I dislocated my elbow whilst skiing, the paramedic informed me on the way to the hospital that my blood pressure was unusually high. “Are you stressed about something?” he asked. I was extremely stressed, in fact, I was petrified. Petrified that high risk recreational activity would not be covered under my health insurance and I would be engulfed by thousands of pounds worth of debt.
No one should have to feel this fear, and thankfully in the UK, we do not have to. Anyone, from any walk of life, can walk into an NHS clinic, knowing that no matter how serious their illness, they will be treated.
During my time abroad I met students who were not covered under health insurance. Sam, 19, was having trouble with extremely irregular periods but was unable to get help from a doctor because her parents could not afford the university’s health insurance. “I don’t know what to do,” she said, “it could be something serious, but I can’t afford to get it checked”.
Thankfully, after months of fear, confusion and scary final demand letters from the hospital, my insurance got processed properly and almost everything was covered. I still had to pay over $500, but since my bill without insurance would have been over $20,000, it seemed like I was getting a real bargain.
However, $500 is still a hefty price to pay for something as necessary as regaining the use of my right arm (try dressing yourself with one hand, it’s insanely difficult). Health is a human right and everyone should be entitled to it regardless of their income.
The fact that the NHS has been able to provide free healthcare to the nation for over 70 years is something that we Brits should be extremely grateful for. We must do everything in our power to protect our healthcare system from privatisation, so that future generations may live without the fear of being able to afford good health.