Putting NHS “horror stories” to bed

A Doctor talking to a patient

Following the politicisation and misrepresentation of the NHS in the wake of Barack Obama’s proposals for a public healthcare system in the US, more than 2,200 of us have rallied to mark our support for the British healthcare system.

Last week we discovered that a group of right-wing detractors had put out a request calling for NHS “horror stories”. Since then more than 1,300 of us have obliged – sharing our personal experiences of the National Health Service. But we’ve got a feeling they won’t be getting what they hoped for. Instead, we offer them hundreds of stories that hold a mirror to the reality as we see it: a healthcare system that, while not perfect, offers comprehensive and compassionate treatment, accessible to all members of society, and free at the point of delivery. It’s also clear that many of us are disquieted by the idea of a health system administered by private companies, and one that would inevitably exclude the poorest in society and overshadow all but the richest.

As well as showing solidarity with the NHS, we’d hate for the American public to be misled – especially when it comes to deciding the future of their own healthcare system. So we’re telling them how it is. We’ve teamed up with Mother Jones, a leading US website with over 2 million readers, to share our personal stories. When we sent them over, here’s what Mother Jones publisher Jay Harris had to say:

“I can’t tell you how grateful we are to everyone from 38 Degrees for providing Americans what our health care “debate” has singularly been lacking: the illumination of truth about the successes of NHS. Your stories are incredibly moving and overwhelmingly show how much you value a modern, equitable and universal national system. It is extremely valuable to know that, while NHS isn’t a nirvana, neither is it the communist meat mill some would have us believe! Here in the US we need to hear about real experiences, without the hysterical exaggeration served up by the right and private interests. Thank you, 38 Degrees, for all you do.”

And here are just few of the stories we shared:

“My grandson, aged 5, would have died were it not for the immediate and personal analysis and intervention by an NHS doctor at 4am on a dreary winter’s morning. Our NHS has faults – just like any major organisation – but the least of those faults is that it is always there for us and free at point of delivery. Make your own mind up America, based on what YOU want out of your lives! I am simply most grateful that my family and I can enjoy the rest of our grandson’s life. Thank you NHS.” – Peter, Shrewsbury

“As a baby, I needed medicine that cost 3 pounds a week. My father earned 2 pounds a week in 1947. The then new NHS provided the medicine without charge. I am now a grandfather. Any questions?” – Michael, Swansea

“Right up until [my father’s] death and for some time afterwards we received first class care. The thought of having to go through the same experience whilst also having to worry about how you will pay for the care is too frightening to think about.” – Andrew, Altrincham

“My friends had a horrific accident in June. They are both still in hospital and have received donor bone grafts, massive blood donations, many operations and will receive any and all the help they need to recover over the coming months and years – FREE of charge, under the National Health Service. Without it, they would both have died the day it happened.” – Helen, Isle of Man

“The NHS saved my life in 1986 when I had a burst appendix. I have private cover through work, but 9 times out of 10 I’d use the NHS instead.” – Andy, Cheltenham

“There is no such thing as an old person left to die in the UK! My mother is 84 and receives the highest standard of treatment, free at the point of contact. The US healthcare lobby are telling lies to cover their inefficient, overpriced butts.” – Keith, Letchworth

“It’s not socialism, it’s called justice.” – Hannah, Ipswich

“There are many things in this country I’m not proud of, but our attitude towards care is something I tend to boast about to my foreign friends. Societies are judged by how they treat their most vulnerable citizens, not by how rich or powerful they are!” – Paul, Brighton