We are seen here in the UK as being very fortunate to have a national health service. After all, it means that anyone, rich or poor can receive the best medical treatment for free.

There’s no doubt that the intentions to set up the NHS in 1948 were well meaning. It wanted to give all of society the access to a free and effective healthcare system and not discriminate against the poor.

But is it effective and is it free? Well, there are a few things we need to look at here.

Is It Really Free?

Firstly, is it really free? Clearly it isn’t free if you are a UK tax payer. Money paid into national insurance and general taxation funds the largest budget of the UK government.

If you are unemployed or come from overseas for treatment or have an accident whilst here, then it is truly free. But ultimately, the British tax payer pays for treatment that they may or may not receive.

I think few would deny that if someone gets hit by a car or goes into labour that they should have the use of an ambulance, paramedics and emergency care in a hospital regardless of the health of their bank account. I also think few would doubt the advantage of free emergency care over the American system where people may be left bleeding in the street because of a lack of funds in their bank account. 

There are political arguments for and against a tax-payer funded or an insurance payment funded system. However, it is not my intention to discuss the political status of the system, but the effectiveness of the system.

My Experience of the NHS

Without the NHS, I wouldn’t be alive today. I was born with pyloric stenosis and without the operation I had at 6 weeks old, I would have died. So I am very grateful to the NHS. 

I also had gastro-enteritis aged one and had a short visit to hospital. My next experience (apart from general childhood illnesses of the 1970’s) was when I had tonsillitis aged seven and I was poisoned by the Penicillin the Doctor prescribed for me.

I had a number of visits to my dentist in my teenage years (on the NHS) which nearly always ended up in the Doctors filling my teeth with highly toxic mercury amalgam fillings.

Aged 13 or 14, I saw my GP about acne. Although he prescribed creams, lotions and anti-biotics, my acne just got worse. In fact it wasn’t until I was in my thirties and learned about food intolerances and fungal infections that the acne started to subside.

At 16 years old, I visited A&E following an injury sustained playing cricket. They X-rayed it, strapped it up and sent me on my way.

At 33 years old, I visited A&E again when I fell down some stairs at work (no, I wasn’t drunk) and thought I may have sprained some ligaments. They X-rayed it, strapped it up and sent me on my way again.

Since the turn of the century, I have had one half-day off work due to ill-health. That wasn’t really ill-health as such, it was following removal of two wisdom teeth and one had to be sawed through to be extracted.

Apart from A&E situations, I haven’t had to use the NHS for almost thirty years.

My own experience has been varied. On one hand, they saved my life, on the other they haven’t ever helped to improve my health and their advice or treatment has sometimes reduced my health.

The Name – NHS

At this stage, to discuss the effectiveness of the service, I wish to breakdown the name of the system and discuss each word and its appropriateness. After all, according to the Trade Description Act (1995), you are not allowed to name a product or service in the UK that may be misleading. Is the name NHS misleading?

Check out Part II to find out…