Do #welovetheNHS ? Not really

What a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Thousands of tweets, hundreds of blogs, facebook groups, one of the top stories on the 'Today' program.

Do we love the NHS? Or more accurately, do #welovethenhs ?

Do the public love the NHS? Of course we don't love it. How can you love any absolutely massive, necessarily faceless bureaucracy? Does anybody 'love' the Indian Railway company? No? Well, they're one of only two organizations larger than the NHS. The other one is the Chinese Army. Do you 'love' them? Thought not.

And anyway, what's to love? Unless its just that blind, misplaced love that sometimes affects people: "I know 'e drinks, and comes home late, and sees other women, and knocks me about, but I still love 'im". Perhaps its the same with the NHS: "I know its a huge, wasteful beauracracy, and a massive sink for taxpayers money, and people still die on piss-soaked trolleys in corridors, but I still love it".

And do all those politicians love the NHS? Nah. Get real.

What politicians love is political opportunity. And this is a huge opportunity for Labour - the best they've had for months. By associating themselves closely with the NHS (after all, they invented it), and by cynically pushing the line that the evil Tories 'hate' it, Labour can create a lovely big dividing line between the two parties, and campaign endlessly on it over the coming months. No wonder they leapt on it with such alacrity.

And, even though Parliament's on holiday, no problem: it can all be done on the Internet, by their shiny new online campaigning groups. Labour have belatedly woken up to the possibilities of the web, after years of not "getting it". Now they have tens of 'resting' students and young activists, pounding Twitter, Facebook and Blogger from dawn to dusk, pausing every few minutes for a free Coca Cola and an update on today's 'message'.

For every deluded 'real' individual twittering that they loved the NHS ("because they give me medicine for FREE #welovethenhs"), there were 10 Labour sockpuppets, useful idiots like 'BevaniteEllie', tweeting soundbites "evil Tories , sack Dan Hannan #welovethenhs".

Wake up! This is barely about the NHS - its about cynical political opportunism.

And before you start with all the " nan wouldn't be with us..", "..they cured me mam's bunions.." bollocks, hang on a minute.

CF's second child was delivered in an NHS hospital, premature, ghastly complications, emergency cesarean section, blood, ambulances, the works. CF is extraordinarily, eternally grateful to the doctors, nurses, surgeons et al who literally saved his daughter's (and possibly saved his wife's) life.

But in spite of that, CF still doesn't 'love' the NHS. CF is not so dewy eyed as to think that all of this happened just because an oddly named Welsh bloke had a 'good idea' back in the 40's. The outcome could well have been very similar elsewhere. It's highly likely that private doctors, or French doctors, or even American doctors, and probably Japanese doctors, would have done exactly the same.

If CF 'loves' anything, he loves the idea that some people are prepared to dedicate their lives to saving and curing others. That's worth respecting, and being grateful for.




Anonymous said...

Perhaps they should have used the word 'appreciate' instead?

RobW said...

Great post. People can't seem to differentiate their love for skilled doctors and nurses. And the buereaucratic monster that is the NHS.

Anonymous said...

excellent!!! at last someone says what needed to be said

Anonymous said...

The way the media present it is like a choice a) Keep pumping money into the bloated NHS or b) walk down the streets stepping over the bodies a la Warsaw ghetto

Glad someone is talking some sense, blindly worshipping the NHS is sheer lunacy. Perhaps explains why Labour followers have taken to this like a duck to water. Heard today on radio 'Even the PM is following this on twitter' - how much lower can G.Brown et al sink, I guess we'll tell in the New Year when election fever really kicks in.

Anonymous said...

I have always said I would love an NHS that was free at the point of entry, but alas I work and have contributed to the system all my adult life, so in effect I pay through the fucking nose for the NHS.

Ruth said...

It's the principle of free at point of delivery health care that people love. And quite right too.

This is not "something that needed to be said" as if those who support tax-funded health care are somehow idiots who haven't thought about it.

Nul points for 'originality' and 'getting the point'.

Anonymous said...

For anyone with private health insurance, the NHS is the 21st Century version of the Church Rates. Institute vouchers and stop this fetishisation of perhaps the only vaguely sort-of good thing Labour have ever done.

tellmemore said...

"the principle of free at point of delivery that people love"

if 'people' love that, then they are even more stupid than you, ruth.

don't you realise, you've already paid for it, through income tax, stealth tax and green tax: all of which end up funding the vast and wasteful nhs.

the only people it is really *free* for are those who have never paid any tax - labours client state.

is that *you*, ruth?

JuliaM said...

"It's the principle of free at point of delivery health care that people love. And quite right too."

Oh, it's 'free', is it, Ruth?

Funny, I thought I paid for it with my taxes.

And am then likely to find (as with all Ponzi schemes, eventually) that when I finally need it, it'll be rationed.

Because the money has been spent on other things, or other people...

Constantly Furious said...

Spot on, JuliaM.

The NHS is no more 'free' than the stuff you get from Argos is free.

Remember? You paid for it earlier?

Dear god...


Plenty said...

My NHS post here

Barking Spider said...

Great post, CF. It's the dedication of the Doctors and nurses that we love while the NHS/Government has managed to turn MRSA and Clostridium Difficile into national institutions!

Ruth said...

'Appreciate' would have been a lot better.

BTW, the 'Ruth' who commented previously wasn't me.

MattWPBS said...

Now I'm sure that the first Ruth is able to point this out, but did the three of you really stop reading at 'free'? 'Free at the point of delivery' is the key phrase, there's no question about what you can afford to have done, the question is what you need to have done.

Yes, it's paid for via taxes, but it is one of the cheaper health services in the world. Look at the World Health Organisation figures (World Health Statistics 2009 - If you look at the total spend on health (state and private), we spend 8.33% of our income. The Americans spend 14.65% (interestingly, 6.71% if you only look at state, compared to 7.27% in the UK). Look at the health outcomes in the report, and the UK comes out ahead of the US in most categories as well.

The NHS is brilliant, and one of the main reasons why it's brilliant is that doctors, hospitals and the like don't have to deal with extracting money from insurance companies. True, the bureaucracy in some areas needs addressing, but compare it to other systems and we have a low cost, high quality service.

If you want to have a look at how the differing US, UK and Canadian systems actually come down to on an individual and country burden level, I did some quick number crunching yesterday.

JuliaM said...

"'Free at the point of delivery' is the key phrase.."

Indeed. Another key phrase is '...until the money runs out or gets spent on tattoo removal instead of healthcare'.

MattWPBS said...

That's an interesting question actually - where do you draw the line on something being elective treatment? Hypothetically, let's say that you get drunk on holiday and end up with a giant tattoo of Mickey Mouse on your forearm. If that causes depression, should the NHS pay for the removal of the tattoo or not? I know it's a case-by-case basis in terms of detriment to the person's health decided by the doctor, but it's interesting on a broader front.

I'd also be curious as to how much is spent on tattoo removal in the NHS. Had a look to see if there was any info quickly available, but it doesn't seem so. Someone put in a request under FOI to the NHS on WhatDoTheyKnow, but didn't follow up when told that it's held by the individual PCTs. There's 147 of them if you want to find out the total spent on that as a procedure and how it compares to total clinical spending, be curious to find out how you get on.

Anonymous said...

#welovethenhs is just a propoganda smokescreen to hide the fact that Labour have fucked up the economy big style !!!

JuliaM said...

"...If that causes depression, should the NHS pay for the removal of the tattoo or not? "

Not. Your choice, your problem.

MattWPBS said...

Ok, so we're using original choice as the basis of the decision to treat, rather than medical need, and state of mind at the time doesn't matter. How many steps do you trace it back?

We've covered one step - drunken choice to get tattoo leads to depression, not treated.

Two steps - choice to play football leads to broken ankle.

Three steps - choice to smoke leads to lung cancer.

Hurf Durf said...

Slightly OT: Milibland says terrorism is sometimes justified.

Appalling behaviour from a Minister of the Crown and a man with Labour leadership ambitions. Perhaps we can astroturf a twitter meme out of it? #wehateterrorism perhaps?

fifthfiend said...

"private doctors... would have done exactly the same."

And given you a bill afterwards that would have bankrupted your family, natch.

Sammy Wrae said...

As someone who posted under #welovetheNHS a number of times, I have to say I do love it. It saved my life, it has looked after me my whole life and has given me the life I have today.

But more importantly, I love the concept of the NHS. Not necessarily the current incarnation, but the idea that if you need treatment for a cut finger, or for a congenital heart disease, you can get it without having to bankrupt yourself to do it.

Yes - it can be made better. Of course it can. Nothing is perfect.

But the basis of the NHS - the idea of people looking after each other, and not just after themselves, the idea of a country looking after every equally, and not just those who were lucky enough to be born in to a family that can afford to pay - that is something that is worth defending, worth protecting, worth fighting for and most definitely worth loving.

Anonymous said...

I do love the NHS. I've lived in both the US and the UK, and you don't know that a 'faceless bureaucracy' is until you've had to deal with an American insurance company.

And yes, it is free at the point of delivery. Stop displaying your ignorance by saying 'we pay for it in our taxes!'

It's true that it's not 'free', but it is 'free at the point of delivery'. Do you see the difference? Do you see all those extra words after the word 'free'? Those words are there for a reason. They mean something. If you understood what they mean, then you and JuliaM would quibble over such an asinine point.

Free at the point of delivery is great. Not because it's cheaper (although it is, substantially) but because it's so convenient. If something's wrong with me I just go and get it fixed.

Now the system isn't perfect. We have long waiting lists, poor cancer survival rates, and problems with MRSA, but these wouldn't be improved by going back to paying for everything out of pocket, or worse, employer-provided private insurance like the US system.

You seem ignorant of how this whole twitter thing started: American Republicans were telling disgraceful lies about the NHS - truly disgraceful ones, eugenics shit comparing us to the nazis. And the British, who usually whine about the faults of the NHS - and quite rightly so - rallied around and stood by the basic principle of healthcare for all, free at the point of delivery; stood by our doctors and nurses; stood by the way we've chosen to do things in our country regardless of what the yanks think.

But I see some people here are as shamefully misinformed as the Americans. "Keep pumping money in to the bloated NHS?" It doesn't cost any more to run than the US Medic/are/aid system, which only covers a fraction of the population.

And if you don't like the NHS, go private! The fact is that if you take your average tax contribution for the NHS and add it to the amount you'd pay for BUPA you're STILL saving about a thousand dollars a year on what the average US healthcare plan would cost.

And yes, the doctors and nurses deserve praise - I thanked the nurse at my local practice after my last appointment there and told her we were lucky to have people like her. But the system is praiseworthy too.

Because the American system attracts a different class of doctor. Many of their doctors are wonderful, I'm sure, but many prescribe unecessary treatments so they can charge more fees, the kind of doctors who formed the AMA and gave us Operation Coffee Cup in the sixties because they feared medicare would eat into their profits.

K McD said...

"A lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing". Has there ever been a phrase that's been quoted more often by people trying to sound important and above it all? Clearly this sound and fury must be signifying something, or it wouldn't be in the news in the first place.

As the anonymous poster above me says, you show no clear understanding of why #welovetheNHS was started in the first place. It was simply to combat the brazen lies that American right-wing blowhards like Glenn Beck were spouting to scare the American public into submission. The worst of these lies is doubtlessly that "Stephen Hawking would not survive under the NHS", considering he's lived in the UK most of his life and by his own admission would not be here were it not for the NHS. Just goes to show that you're not the only one who hasn't done much research on the matter before blowing up about it.

Unfortunately Labour have caught wind of it and started to try and profit on it for themselves. These parasites are just as bad as Fox News' cavalcade of liars and loudmouthed thugs, taking the work of others and trying to use it for their own selfish ends. You are 100% correct that the people doing this are wrong to do so, but you've used your misunderstanding to tar #welovetheNHS itself with the same brush.

We all KNOW that the NHS isn't perfect. We know that not everyone has a happy story to tell about the service they've received. However we also know that given the choice, we would choose to stick with the current system over changing to one similar to what the Americans have in a heartbeat. At the end of the day, this isn't about trying to convince Americans that universal health care is all sunshine and rainbows, or to give Labour ammunition to fire in the faces of the Tories; it's about dispelling misconceptions, falsehoods and outright insults towards it that simply aren't true, concocted by idiots who think they can say whatever lies they want and not have anyone call them up about it.

As Graham Linehan, creator of #welovetheNHS (and several popular comedy programmes) has said, with the internet and places like Twitter where thousands of people can make their voices heard almost immediately, the rules of the journalism game have changed. The minute you fumble the ball, a legion of people are going to be there to call foul. I also notice that NO-ONE has brought up Linehan's name here even once, which just goes to show how much research has actually went towards this matter.

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