Melissa Todd: Our precious healthcare service

Venturing out once more?

There are some advantages to having a permanent invalid for a spouse – a cast-iron alibi for every social event you don’t fancy chief among them – but so far they seem greatly outweighed by the inconvenience.

Mr Todd has polymyalgia, a condition which causes excruciating pain and stiffness in his shoulders, back and legs. The symptoms can be off-set by massive doses of steroids, which deliver their own delightful set of side-effects – stomach upsets, rashes, bruising, acne, thinning bones, weight gain, insomnia, mood swings; a veritable panoply of varied and unending joy. They also depress his immune system, so that every germ in Thanet seeks out his poor suffering bod, settles down and makes itself comfy, often for weeks at a time.

Neither of us has any experience of ill-health. We’re rubbish at being sick, and completely ignorant as to how to get treatment. We both derive from stout peasant stock, our forebears too driven by necessity to even contemplate anything so bourgeois as an ailment. The last time I saw a doctor was in 1993, when my lung collapsed, rather thrillingly, on an aeroplane, and even that didn’t require medication, just a long length of tubing and ten days bedrest.

Illness has always struck me as a tiny bit self-indulgent, not really cricket, and in consequence, we had absolutely no idea how to cope when it struck. We didn’t know how best to make an appointment with a doctor, still less a specialist, nor even, I kid you not, how to get a repeat prescription. The process seemed shrouded in mystique. But when the steroids run out he’s howling in pain inside six hours; we soon hastened to fill these holes in our knowledge and stockpile the brutes.

This is hardly a novel sentiment, but my goodness, praise be for our glorious NHS. How kind and patient their staff, despite being stretched to their limits and beyond; how generously they take their time explaining and reassuring, even when the waiting room queue stretches far beyond the front door.

Mr Todd is way too ill to work now, so without free healthcare he’d struggle to afford the medication without which his life is impossible. During a bad attack he can’t get out of bed, support his own weight, walk, raise his arms, dress himself, at least not without hours of sweaty effort accompanied by ear-splitting screams. Yet I regularly read accounts of people in the US forcing themselves to try, because without a job they can’t afford treatment. How blessed we are, how precious is our health service, and how fiercely we must fight to defend it.

The moral argument for a free healthcare system, accessible to all, is utterly unassailable. No politician would dare publicly to deny it. Instead, increasingly, they use vague, insidious phrases like “patient choice” to disguise its slow dismantling. It’s happening, right now, and it’s an abomination. Recognise it. Then resist it.


  1. Be thankful if you don’t need it and thankful when you do. I’m sure most of us would be willing to pay more to keep our NHS. Accidents we can all understand, broken leg fixed, but chronic conditions that are not going to mend need understanding and help.

  2. There is not much understanding ill health these days. The Government taking away lifelines to the sick and needy in every direction possible, using austerity as the fake reason for it. They manage to find billions of pounds to waste on ridiculous projects and tax breaks for the rich though. What nonsense this all is.

  3. It’s sadly ironic that, just as the idea of a version of the NHS is becoming overwhelmingly popular in the United States,(variously defined as “Medicare for All” or a “Single-Payer” service,) Brexit will mean that our own, more efficient, health service will be offered up for sale to private American firms to ruin the way they are ruining the health facilities in the US. We shouldn’t forget that the majority reason for the thousands of personal bankruptcies in the United States is health care debts.

  4. We have a local campaign group Save Our NHS in Kent, SONIK. They have been campaigning tirelessly to save our stroke unit in QEQM hospital. If you would like to show your support for the NHS, and in particular our local hospital, come to QEQM on August 3rd at 11 am for HOLD HANDS FOR THE HOSPITAL, a vigil outside the hospital to show our concern over the NHS and ask our politicians to work to reverse the cuts.

  5. As someone who has the misfortune to have a lifelong, currently incurable condition I am so grateful for the NHS and all the nurses and doctors who provide fantastic care for the patients. Without the NHS I would probably be dead in all honesty.
    Sometime long delays in a waiting room can be very tiresome, but it’s the nature of the beast, we should all be very grateful for what is provided for us. The alternative system, like in the US perhaps, whereby people choose whether to pay into a private scheme or not, is probably more feasible for those who are more affluent, but for the many this is not an option, so the NHS offers a great alternative, albeit with limitations. Yes, it is underfunded, I dare say most NHS employees would agree with that off the record, but that will probably never change. The good thing is that the NHS does exist, and the majority of its staff operate to the best of their abilities to provide great care for the masses. So, from me, a very big personal thank you to each and every member of NHS staff out there. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the NHS.

  6. I was in discussion with some American friends on FB just this week on healthcare. The cost of having a hospital birth, with qNO complications, is at least $30,000. We do not need that here.

  7. Get rid of some of the pen pushers and there would be millions more to spend on vital services like stroke units and cancer care!

  8. I am appalled to read that you previously regarded ill health as a tiny bit self indulgent. You certainly have been lucky not to have been saddled with health problems.
    So, my six year old granddaughter has type 1 diabetes, diagnosed when she was three. Is that being self indulgent?
    I am pleased you recognise the help you get from the NHS. How is patient choice an attempt to dismantle the health service? People seem determined to spread this fear and lies about the NHS even though more conditions than ever are being treated.
    I am also disappointed at the Thanet News publishing such an article, even if it is a personal view.

  9. Since 2014 when the then Conservative, and LibDem coalition government introduced payment by patients for Care Homes, the NHS has NOT been free! Recently the BBC Panorama programme exposed that Care for patients who are seriously ill after say a Stroke, or with Parkinson,s Disease, or other life threatening conditions that require 24 Care in a Care home, must be paid for from the patients estate ie: their savings, and/or from the sale of their property! They are allowed to keep £23,250. If they have a spouse living in their jointly owned property, then the costs of the Care home are “Deferred” and will be recovered from the sale of the property once the spouse dies!

    However, if a patient has no savings, or property to pay for their Care, then the State pays the Care Home from our Taxes! This means that someone with a need for 24 hour care, will have to pay for it from their savings, and sale of their property, but someone in the next room who does not have any savings, or property goes free! Worse, the patient paying will be charged more per week, usually between £700.00 to £1,000.00 and the patient having their costs met by the Tax Payer, will be charged less, probably by at least several hundreds of pounds! This means the patient paying for their care, is subsidising the state funded patient. You only have your local Conservative, or LibDem MP,s to blame for this national scandal!

  10. The system is biased against those that have through hard work and much self denial managed to buy their own property. The system is wrong for many, ordinary working people.

  11. There are many businesses at home and overseas poised to reap profits from the opening up of the NHS to privatisation. Well said Melissa.

    • What exactly do you mean by privatisation?
      If the NHS contracts out certain services or functions it does not mean the patient has to pay. Nor does it necessarily mean the service would be worse, although of course there should be rigorous monitoring.
      Some years ago I was on the waiting list for a minor operation and in order to meet the eighteen week deadline, I was offered an appointment at the Spencer Wing. In fact, I had already been booked in at Canterbury, the booking system got mixed up. I would have been treated for free at the Spencer Wing.
      We need flexibility to make the NHS work.
      I think there is a lot of fear-mongering going on about NHS privatisation.

      • The problem, Sandra, is this: If and when Brexit goes through, the UK government will have to do whatever the Americans tell them to do in order to get the trade deal for which they will be utterly desperate.
        One of the things it is known the the Americans have been greedily eyeing for many years is an NHS where virtually all services must go to open tender.
        They will then be able to win the contracts for these services on a ‘loss leader’ basis, and once the NHS has lost the expertise necessary to run the services involved, and there is no viable competition, prices will rise.
        So for every £1bn we now spend on medical services, we would have £900m spent on services and £100m sent straight across the Atlantic to line the coffers of American medical companies.

        • This is not true. No evidence that the NHS is for sale. It political suicide for any party to stand on this platform.
          As I said before, it is scaremongering.

          • Obviously they are not intending to sell it. As I (thought I had) explained above, the NHS will still exist as a government controlled entity. It will just have to continue along the path that it is already following, i.e. outsourcing provision for various services, but on a massively enhanced scale.
            And obviously no one is going to ‘stand on that platform’. It’s just a necessary of the opening up to free trade that the US will demand as a quid pro quo for a trade deal.
            Bury you head in the sand and talk of ‘scaremongering’ if you wish, but it is naive in the extreme to discount this well understood problem.

          • Sandra,
            I agree. It is scaremongering yet again. No UK government would dare go down the road of letting the Yanks just “take over”.
            Another point that Phillip puts forward is that our government will have to do as the Americans tell us in order to get the trade deals. A load of balderdash, or crap in other words. It’s called negotiation and the yanks will want to do business with us as much as we need to with them. He talks as if we will just roll over on this issue. I think otherwise.

  12. In reply to Philip.
    You are entitled to your views, as I am without being accused of burying my head in the sand.
    The problem is that the bandying about the term privatisation tends to imply that the service will not be free at the point of use.
    This is what I object to. The term is manipulated and used wrongly by many people, particularly in reference to the NHS.

    • I think there may be a misunderstanding caused by your incorrect definition of ‘privatisation’. It does not have anything whatever to do with the cost at the point of use. I think the poster above explained very well where the problem lies. It’s about private companies being given the opportunity to cream off taxpayers money, not about who pays at the point of use.

      • Hi, not sure which poster you are referring to, however there is an issue with this being confused with private healthcare, particularly when people start to mention the American system.
        All I ask is that people make it clear exactly what they mean.

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