This morning was basically Adventures in Doctor-land: visit to my GP first thing, to discuss the progress of my stomach problems (mostly cleared themselves up, FINALLY) and how I’m doing with my second attempt at hormonal contraception (fine so far, cross fingers ). Then to the Endoscopy unit down at the Infirmary, for a test to determine whether said stomach problems are caused by non-specific acid buildup or a colony of helicobacter pylori. (I now have a stomachful of carbon-13, which I was slightly disappointed to find isn’t radioactive.) Then collected my BC scrip on the way back to campus.
Total cost for the morning’s medical shenanigans: 0.
Contraception is the exception to normal prescription rules – it’s free, full stop. Other prescriptions they charge you a flat £7 per scrip (about US$10.50, according to Google) unless you have an official form saying you’re too poor, which at the moment I don’t quite qualify for thanks to the student loan. (Next year, having just heard there will be no funding for the wicked next year, things may well change.) Same applies to my contact lenses – free if you’re very broke, otherwise pay. It’s a manageable level of expense at the moment, but again, may well change.
Needless to say, I’d be in a lot of trouble right about now if I didn’t have reliable contraception, or if I couldn’t have gotten the gastritis treated. If I hadn’t been able to switch BC prescriptions when it became clear that the first one was giving me depressive episodes (or something like them; I have no other experience with clinical depression. But it was one of the worst fortnights of my life) I have no goddamn idea how bad things would be (single and failing, for starters).
Equally needless to say, therefore, is that I love our National Health Service.
This post wasn’t intended as a gloat, honestly; there is a small point at the bottom of all this.
The thing is this. We’ve had the NHS for years and years now, and successive centre-right-trending – by our standards, anyway – governments haven’t dared touch it. There have been chips away at parts of it, underminings of outlying bits, but the NHS as a whole is basically inviolable. Partly, I think, because even our right-wingers use it and recognise its benefits, and partly because even if the majority of politicians may go private (they certainly do with respect to schools) their voters can’t and don’t. The ubiquity of NHS services creates a feedback loop reinforcing the idea of its indispensability: most people trust and use the NHS, because everyone knows someone who had life-saving or life-changing surgery done in an NHS hospital, because nearly everyone uses the NHS. And round it goes.
The horror stories get more press, and rightly if it helps prevent re-occurrences, but the NHS standards are generally damn good. And so the National Health Service has become part of our national consciousness, something it’s hard to imagine doing without.
Which leads me to the point of this post: the American healthcare reform bill is a bit shit. Really it is. And Bart Stupak’s stupid, reactionary, smug and ill-thought-through amendment is a notable black spot. But for the moment I’m with the people who reckoned it was more important to get something through – because if the NHS is any guide, once wider healthcare provision is in place and saving lives, the very prospect of taking it away will become a massive vote-loser. It can – and needs to, undoubtedly – be improved as it goes along, but once it’s entrenched I suspect it’ll be very hard to get rid of. Political rhetoric can be hard to understand and is easy to wilfully misunderstand, but real people you know not dying is kind of easy to grasp.