When calling a garage to ask advice about your car’s poor performance, it’s unlikely that the mechanic will ask you to e-mail him with a picture of the engine.
He’ll suggest you bring the vehicle in for an inspection. Similarly, when our failing boilers or noisy washing machines are playing up, we don’t expect plumbers and repair men to suggest we send them photos of our Potterton Combi or Hotpoint automatic. But that’s how our health service operates now.
A charming lady complained to me in Ilfracombe’s Lantern café that her GP had requested her to “take a photograph” of some bruising that had appeared on her leg, and to forward it to him from her mobile phone. From an adjoining table, a woman who ‘couldn’t help overhearing’ dived in to describe the crippling pain she suffers whilst waiting for her twice postponed ‘Covid delayed’ hip operation. She’s joined a giant backlog unlikely to be cleared for years. Our NHS is certainly under pressure, and it has led to face-to-face appointments granted almost as a privilege.
We do understand that priorities have changed given the pandemic’s impact on public health, but why has it resulted in such difficulty to obtain everyday routine treatment? Ear wax removal is no longer available at clinics, and so patients end up at Specsavers, of all people, who do it competently for £55. Compare the NHS to the motor industry. Over 30m cars present annually for a compulsory 40-minute MOT. Most need time consuming repairs, yet there isn’t a six-month waiting list for shock absorber replacements.
Fewer people than ever can register with an NHS dentist, and Ilfracombe lacks emergency facilities for visitors. Our understaffed Tyrrell Hospital is being deliberately run down, and its Minor Injuries Unit’s opening times restricted. How have we got into this position? Clearly, the NHS has been chronically underfunded. Government assurances of its commitment to preserve what was once the world’s finest national healthcare scheme are hollow. Britain’s NHS is now ranked as 16th in a list of countries offering better patient care than is available in the UK. Top of the league is South Korea, followed by Japan. Our welfare state credentials fail to match those of Scandinavian countries, or France, or even the Czech Republic.
Government is contemplating a US-style private insurance model funded by compulsory contributions, and that is certainly the direction of travel. How long before we’re asked to pay £30 for a GP consultation? And that’s cheap! France operates a refund scheme of up to 70pct of treatment costs, whilst South Koreans receive free care in a private hospital of their choice, paid for by monthly premiums. Ilfracombe councillor Nettie Pearson’s ‘Farewell to the NHS’ (…….