I live in the US, and everything Arwa Mahdawi says about his unpredictable and cruelly expensive healthcare industry sounds familiar to me (My wife almost died because I delayed an ER visit, but there’s a reason I avoid US hospitals, Oct 25). An unexpected event during a recent holiday gave me a closer look at healthcare in Britain. I had a heart attack and was admitted to Royal United Hospitals in Bath. From admission to discharge, I witnessed the impressive skill and unwavering friendliness of the NHS staff.
In what seemed like no time at all, a blocked artery was identified and stented and I was placed in a coronary care unit where I was closely monitored and given a cup of tea.
How wonderful that the patients around me didn’t think about whether they would be discharged as soon as they stabilized because they couldn’t afford the full course of treatment, or whether they would be able to afford the medications they would need after discharge. or if the hospital would turn them over to a collection agency for non-payment. Ask Americans about medical bankruptcy and they’ll know exactly what you mean.
As the new UK government sets priorities and allocates resources, it should take this opportunity to look after the National Health Service just as he cares about everyone.
carol new house
Ballston Spa, New York, USA
Arwa Mahdawi’s account underscores a maddening truth about America: Our health care system is dangerously ill, and the prognosis is worsening. A history of two appendectomies highlights the decline. On vacation in 1996, I left my appendix in San Francisco. Aside from having to wait until 5 am so we could get the insurance green light to go to the ER, my appendectomy experience was straightforward. We paid a small copay and made jokes about Tony Bennett, and moved on.
Seventeen years later, my wife had her appendix removed by mistake at a North Carolina hospital because the surgeon did not read the results of her scan. Five surgeries, many hospital stays, tens of thousands of dollars, and seven months later, my wife was (for the most part) physically restored. At no time did anyone acknowledge the mistakes made. At every step we pay a lot of money for suboptimal care.
We have learned to advocate for ourselves and defend our own results. And we pay an inordinate amount of money in monthly premiums and shared care costs for this privilege. It is inaccurate to state that the US health care the system is broken. It works exactly as designed and maintained.
Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA
I lived in the United States for 50 years and now in England for five. In the US, about 10% of people lack health insurance, leaving them with poor access to care – an outrage. The promise of universal care in the NHS is part of a civilized society. But is the promise kept? Arwa Mahdawi tells of a friend in the US who was denied payment by her insurance and had to argue over the phone for hours to get it resolved. In the UK, making an appointment to see a GP can take many hours, sometimes days.
My wife and I recently had a medical emergency in Philly, when her humerus was broken. An ambulance arrived within 15 minutes. At the hospital, an ER doctor saw her within 45 minutes and then had x-rays and a consultation with a specialist. It all took about four hours. Is this an NHS experience?
This had nothing to do with being paying customers. The ambulance service did not know our status and the hospital provided the service in advance without immediate demand for payment. The cost of health insurance in the US is high, but health care is not free in the UK. We pay a much higher tax rate here. I’m happy to pay for everyone to have access, but the NHS is barely delivering on its promise of universal care. How many people give up trying to access their GP and live with a treatable condition? How many fail to wait for an ambulance for an inhuman time? Both societies must provide universal access to good quality health care. He’s not making it either.
Lytham Saint Annes, Lancashire