Protect the NHS: We Simply Do Not Know How Lucky We Are*

Save our NHS

“In 2014 I campaigned for an independent Scotland. In this campaign for independence, I am driven by the threat to the NHS, the memory of my unborn child and my own experience.”

I would like to tell you my story. A reality of life without an NHS. This story is not easy to tell but I feel compelled to tell it.

Shortly after the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014 I left Scotland and I was unsure whether or not I would return. The decision to leave was fueled by my desire to fulfill a bucket list that included backpacking around Asia and Australia. However, I was in poor health, so I went for luxury backing as an option. I chose Sattahip in Thailand as a great location to base myself because it was near an airport and it meant easy travel. I travelled all over Thailand, did some charity work in Cambodia, visited Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore and Perth in Australia. The things I saw and experienced during my travels truly showed me that a service such as the NHS cannot be taken for granted, must be protected, and certainly should not be used as a bargaining tool in any trade deal.

We are lucky that in Scotland, we have access to a service that is free at the point of use. We can complain freely about it in discussions with friends, family, colleagues or even strangers. It is a service that many of us have taken for granted. It is with us when we come in to this land, it holds our hand through out and it is likely there when we depart this earth. So maybe it’s no shock we take it for granted. Anyone who is from the Baby Boom generation and beyond in the UK, might find that they cannot imagine life without it. Having free access is a right exercised by many of you reading this article today. We might forget that free healthcare is not a right in many parts of the globe. In fact, the NHS in the UK is one of the few free healthcare systems left in this world.

Looking back on my experience and observations of health systems whilst backpacking, I found in some parts of Asia that if you are in a traffic accident and the private ambulances arrive, they will start to look for health insurance. If they cannot find proof of insurance, you are at a very high risk of losing access to treatment. You are left waiting to be treated at a government hospital and this is just a transit van with no equipment. In addition, the lack of government health services significantly reduces the chances of a government funded ambulance coming to your aid. Can you imagine being left to die? Therefore, ensure you don’t skimp on health insurance and have a credit card on you at all times because this is the contemporary state of affairs in some parts of the continent according to my experience.

I directly experienced healthcare services in Cambodia and Thailand. Cambodia is a “developing” country with inadequate healthcare forcing well off Cambodians to travel abroad for treatment. However, I will concentrate on my experiences in Thailand.

Thailand’s healthcare system despite being government funded, requires individuals to pay towards the use of some aspects of the service. This is required of the poor as well. In addition, you’ll find that some hospitals have poorly trained staff who work long hours, and hospitals that do not have the capacity to attend to many of their patients. Healthcare can be perceived as basic and prescriptions are paid for. A rather worrying point, there is evidence of some healthcare providers overprescribing. Further, the bulk of healthcare is privatised. My direct contact with doctors and prescriptions showed me the level at which doctors overprescribed. I began to see that doctors were doing so for profit. By this time, I had started to see a local lass and after some time the news came that we were expecting a child. However, I decided to go back to Scotland to return to work but wanted to get pre and post-natal care sorted in Thailand first. At a government hospital this would have been the equivalent of £500 but we were advised that a cesarean section was the likely course of action. The inefficiencies at government hospitals that were brought to our attention encouraged us to go private, a privilege not many have. This was at a cost of £1500.

I returned to work in Scotland with plans to return for the birth. Sadly, we lost the baby when my now ex-partner was nearly eight months pregnant following a hit and run accident that left someone with a badly broken leg. We were worried by the costs of care following this incident which, should not be a worry anyone should have to face. I hated having to agonise over the costs of treating someone I loved. You cannot even put a price on a child! However, the cold hard facts must be communicated for us to understand the value of a national health service. The hospital stays and treatment reached an estimated £10,000. I flew out to cover this. After a few months I woke in the morning to find my partner on the floor doubled up in pain and also bleeding. It was a jump on a motorbike and a rush in to hospital. It turned out that the first hospital had not carried out the right procedure. The abortion was not done correctly, and her womb was basically turning to carbon.

When it came to address this, we were one of the lucky ones. We had a credit card; we were at the front of the queue for the appointment and for a bed. We got an experienced doctor and specialist because it was what money could buy. Without that credit card the level of efficiency we received would have been drastically reduced. Someone relying on government support in the same hospital would have to wait until after the fee-paying patients. There were also people sitting on the floor. Yet again, I hate having to put a price on this, but this was another £5000. By this time money worries had started to catch up so I had to go back and work as soon as possible. The medical bills ended up pushing me in to a trust deed and near bankruptcy.

I am now home and hear all the moans and groans about our NHS and to say it irks me is an understatement. Our NHS is special, and we need to wake up before we lose it. Let’s never put our NHS in the hands of Trump, Boris or the money men. Free quality health care in our country is under threat from forces out of our control and who do not represent the majority in this country. We must grab the threat out of Trump’s and his sidekick’s hands and keep them out. In 2014 I campaigned for an independent Scotland. In this campaign for independence, I am driven by the threat to the NHS, the memory of my unborn child and my own experience.

*The author of this article wishes to remain anonymous