The NHS is 70 years old on 5th July this year. According to a study by the King’s Fund, 90% of people in the UK support the founding principles of the NHS – to provide a healthcare system that is free at the point of use. Furthermore, two-thirds of adults questioned would be willing to pay more of their taxes to support it.
But it wasn’t always this way…
Back in 1948, there was significant opposition to the idea of a national healthcare system paid through taxes – much of it from doctors. The idea of paying doctors an annual salary was seen as demeaning and it was feared that it could undermine the close relationship that doctors built up with their patients over the years.
There is a bizarre example of an anti-NHS radio advert from the time, in which a patient admits to her doctor that she drinks over 20 cups of tea a day and he goes on to deduce that her husband is being unfaithful and promises to have a word to sort things out.
Nowadays, the idea of the NHS seems so familiar that we may have viewed the widespread US objection to “Obamacare” with puzzlement.
Most of us love the NHS, warts and all, but do we fully appreciate what we have?
A look at the prices paid for relatively mainstream surgical procedures around the world can be extremely sobering – especially for those hoping to travel without insurance!
Contract appendicitis on your US hols and you could get a bill of around $15,900 (£12,125). If you were unlucky enough to need a coronary bypass, a US hospital could charge up to $75,400 ($57,500). And don’t forget the daily cost of over $5,000 (£3,800), just for being in hospital.
But the US isn’t the only expensive place to get sick. A hip replacement in Hong Kong could set you back nearly $33,000, with a knee replacement coming in somewhat cheaper at $28,150.
The NHS employs around 1.2 million people – that’s a little over 2% of the population. To put this into perspective, over 12% of Americans work in healthcare. This week the NHS announced that its undergoing its biggest recruitment drive ever; aiming to increase job applications by 22,000; it’s clear the NHS needs more staff to keep up with increasing demand.
Whilst 77% of people believe the NHS should continue in its current form, according to a YouGov poll, a staggering 41% fear it’s unlikely to last until 2020.
With more and more of us waking up to the realities of a UK without the NHS, let’s keep our fingers firmly crossed that it’s here to celebrate another 70 years!