A few weeks ago, I attended a local march for the NHS and gave my first public speech. I thought I would post it here
2 years ago I came down with my first symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis. It was scary – when half my face went numb I thought I was having a stroke.
Four days later, when it was worse instead of better, I made a same day appointment to see a GP.
She sent me straight to the hospital.
When I arrived I saw 2 nurses who settled me in, made me comfortable and did the unenviable task of swabbing for MRSA.
After that I saw a doctor who took some blood and did a few more unpleasant tests. I didn’t envy her either.
I also saw a consultant. He asked a few exploratory questions and ordered a MRI scan. It was booked for the following day.
2 days later I had the result and 5 days after that I saw a neurologist who explained what was happening to me.
The whole thing, from GP to specialist, took a week. Just one week.
I was formally diagnosed with MS last year. I have a wonderful neurologist who I see regularly and a brilliant nurse who I couldn’t do without. I have the support of a whole team, including a physio and an occupational therapist and I’m on drug treatment to help prevent further relapses.
By contrast, my American friends who have MS are lucky if they ever see a nurse. Some of them have never seen one – they have no support at all. No-one to ask questions, to advise on treatments or infections, nothing. A few are struggling to get treatment because their insurance companies won’t pay for it.
And it gets worse. I have a friend whose husband had suspected cancer and needed an MRI. They had to wait till they could afford to pay for it.
Another had to pay 7000 dollars just to have a baby.
One lady went into hospital for a miscarriage and came out with a bill.
This is the reality of life without universal healthcare. Every single one of my American friends looks at our NHS and wished they had something like it.
I used to feel a sense of relief that nothing like that could ever happen here. No-one would ever have to suffer because they couldn’t afford treatment.
I don’t feel that now. If the health reforms go through, those horror stories will become our reality.
The NHS isn’t perfect. But it’s a hell of a lot better than the alternative