As you are probably aware I am from the UK and grew up under the National Health Service (NHS). I left the UK at 18 years of age and had not had any real experience with the NHS prior to that time, other than terrible experiences with an NHS dentist before my parents decided to pay for a private dentist. But maybe I will save those details for another day.
However in the past few years I have heard anecdotally from family and friends lot’s of experiences of the NHS in the UK and also in Canada.
For the most part if a person has an emergent situation or a life threatening condition the service is adequate. For example, when my Mom was diagnosed with cancer she received fairly prompt attention. They lived in rural Scotland and for some of the tests she went to three different locations all within a 50 mile radius, between Dumfries, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Dumfries as that was her local hospital 20 miles away and then Glasgow and Edinburgh for different specialist tests and equipment.
In the US we have far greater accessibility to technology where that amount of travel would be unusual. Look at little ‘ol Sequim where we now have a pretty amazing new cancer center with state of the art technology. Amazing.
A few years ago it was reported that Washington State with a population of around 5 million at that time had more MRI machines than did the whole of Canada with a population five times larger.
So, once your condition is diagnosed the treatment is somewhat comparable to the US, with frequently different results. By that I truly believe that if a person is proactive about their health, conditions will be diagnosed sooner in the US than in the UK and that will lead to a better outcome. For example, my father is 78 and to my knowledge he has never had his prostrate checked.
That is just but one example. The following comments are from the NHS web-site on Prostate screening and I find them utterly amazing
“It is in some ways a lifestyle choice,” says Dr Parker. “If you want to do everything to maximise your chances of living to a great age, and are willing to risk the side effects of treatment, then PSA testing makes sense.
“If, on the other hand, you are more accepting of your ‘allotted span’, and are keen to preserve normal sexual and urinary function, then you may decide not to have the test.”
Can you believe on the government run web-site they make it sound bad that you want to maximise your chances of a long life, and they then continue to talk about your “allotted span”.
According to the NHS web-site over 1.6 million women a year have a mammogram. This is for a country of something over 60 million people. It is available only to those women between ages 50 and 70, and even then only every three years. Here is a link from the NHS web-site. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Cancer-of-the-breast-female/Pages/Screeningbreastcancer(female).aspx
I believe the same can be said for Canada. We have a cousin whose daughter needed a heart transplant as an infant 10 years ago. That surgery had to be performed in Toronto as that was the only place in the whole country capable of performing such a complex operation at that time. The cousin became a bit of a crusader and activist and now 10 years later then are very close to having the capabilities for similar surgeries here in Vancouver as opposed to the other side of the country.
The area that I believe both Canada and the UK are lacking is in the treatment of non emergency conditions such as back surgery or hip replacement. The anecdotal reports of extreme waiting periods do have a basis in fact. The NHS has a handbook that outlines what are to be considered acceptable wait times. The major one is 18 weeks to see a specialist, or 62 days if it is suspected you have cancer.
I don’t know about you but I don’t want to wait 2 months if the doctor’s think I may have cancer, do you???
I sincerely think that the UK system does a certain amount of rationing of services and testing based upon age etc, and this does possibly lead to what has been called “the death panels” in ObamaCare. From a cynic’s point of view if the government can delay and postpone services it will lead to higher mortality, and if the same government saves money via either social security benefits or in the UK pensions, they have a financial interest and what I believe is a direct conflict of interest in your wellbeing.
My next email will be my opinions on The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or what the press call ObamaCare.