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#welovethenhs - and some of us dislike misinformation 
12th-Aug-2009 08:11 pm
full of shit
There is, apparently, a meme going around among various USian pundits of certain political affiliations  - and financial interest in the Insurance industry, in some cases - that the National Health Service is evil and murderous and everyone in the UK is dying of death. In my self-inturned little world I've only really come to be aware of this meme by way of the countermeme - the rising trend on Twitter, for example, of the tag #welovethenhs.

If this is the first place on which you are reading the following, then that is a shame, because Andrew is a  good writer and a much more reliable blogger than I am. However, I'm reproducing it in whole, because he wants it propagated and because it deserves to be said.

An open letter to my American friends:
I did want today to write something about comics, and I’ve also got a playlist I want to post, but I felt compelled to write this after various news reports over the last couple of days. Unlike most of my writing (to which I retain the rights for various reasons, I’ve decided to license this piece as Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License because I want people to share this by whatever means. I’ve emailed the following to as many of my USian friends as I can think of and have valid email addresses for:

I am writing to you because you are a friend of mine, because of various statements that have been made by American politicians and journalists about Britain’s National Health Service.

I do not like to try to interfere in American politics, because how you run your country is your own business, but your politicians have been lying, and they have been lying about me and my wife and many of our friends and relatives, so I feel an obligation to set the record straight.

Many of your politicians and journalists have been saying things like “Ted Kennedy wouldn’t get treatment for his brain tumour in the UK because of his age” (a Republican senator called Chuck Grassley said that). Sarah Palin said that in the UK babies with Down’s Syndrome would have to go before a ‘death panel’. And so on. I’m sure you’ve all heard many claims like this yourself.

These claims are lies, pure and simple. They’re not ‘opinions’ that people can disagree about, they’re not things that can be debated, they’re not honest mistakes, they’re out-and-out lies.

Many of you will know that I worked for the NHS for about three years. Some of you will also know that Holly, my wife, still does. Do we strike you as people who would work for an organisation that killed people? Your politicians and journalists are accusing us of being knowing accomplices to murder.

According to the CIA World Factbook, British people live on average seven months longer than Americans. Now, that doesn’t say much about either country’s health-care system, especially when you take lifestyle differences into account, but what you *can* tell from that is that we’re not killing our old people – you don’t get a high life expectancy by killing people!

The tiny grain of truth in all of these lies is that in the NHS, an organisation called the National Institute for Clinical Excellence decides what treatments the NHS will and will not pay for. It does this by measuring how much extra healthy life a given treatment will give a patient, and how much it costs – just like your insurance company does. All healthcare systems have a budget – no system can spend an infinite amount of money, after all – so choices have to be made. The difference is, in your system, the choice is made based on whether you can afford to pay for it. Here, the choice is made based on how much you need it. If you’re 77 years old, like Ted Kennedy, and you have a brain tumour, you’ll get treatment so long as there’s a good chance of it working and giving you a few more years of good life. If there isn’t much chance of that, the government won’t pay it, that’s all. Just like your insurance company won’t pay for expensive treatments that won’t help you, neither will the British government.

And no-one is stopped from paying for treatment if it’s not funded by the NHS. People in Britain can still get private health insurance if they want to and can afford it, and can ask for treatments that the NHS don’t provide. Mostly they don’t, because it works for most people.

I know at least one homeless person who has been given treatment for cancer – and he was homeless before the treatments, not because of them – in Britain, if you’re sick you will get treated, no matter how much money you have. And no matter how old you are, or how disabled.

One American news source recently said that Professor Stephen Hawking would be allowed to die over here, because of his illness. In fact Prof. Hawking has lived in the UK all his life and has nothing but praise for his treatment by the NHS. Sarah Palin says people with Down’s Syndrome would be refused treatment – that would be news to the people with Down’s Syndrome I used to work with, many of whom had had heart operations on the NHS.

On average, people in the USA spend twice as much on healthcare as people in Britain – and more than any country in the world. Despite that, according to the World Health Organisation, the USA’s health system is 37th in the world, while the British one is 18th.

There are plenty of faults with the British health care system – and I hope that your legislators learn from them and get you a better system than we have – but it works. We do not kill old people. We do not kill disabled people. If we did, then Holly and I , instead of working for the NHS, would be fighting against it with every ounce of strength we have.

There are arguments that can be made against our system, just as there are arguments for it, and if you agree with those arguments then that’s fine – I have no intention to change your mind here. I am just trying to let you know that I am not an accessory to murder, and that anyone who says I am is a liar.
(Deleted comment)
12th-Aug-2009 07:19 pm (UTC)
Agreed. OY, people. *sigh*
12th-Aug-2009 07:31 pm (UTC)
Thanks for this, I was just going to ask my flist to link me to some stuff I can email my parents so they will stop thinking the NHS is EVIL. UGH. So fucking annoying.
12th-Aug-2009 07:36 pm (UTC)
Every time I hear the nonsense that's being spewed about health care in the UK, I want to cry. When I was doing my postgraduate work in London, I never worried about what would happen to me if I developed medical problems and needed to see someone about them. Now, in the States, one of the main reasons why I'm staying a job that I increasingly dislike is because I'm afraid to lose my insurance coverage. If any system is sick, it's this one.
12th-Aug-2009 07:44 pm (UTC)
Thank you for posting this.
12th-Aug-2009 08:22 pm (UTC)
What amazes me is that the politicians and pundits in the USA who come out with this sort of self-serving shit are so obviously lying, but everyone over there doesn't just point at them and laugh.

Is the American media so saturated with howling right-wing lunatics like Bill O'Reilly that they just accept their poisonous propeganda as though it's an accurate view of the world?

For the record, I'm a 39 year old Scotsman, and my life and the lives of many of my friends and relatives have been improved or saved by the NHS more times than I can easily count. Anyone who says we'd be better off without it either has an agenda, or doesn't know what the fuck they're talking about.
12th-Aug-2009 08:38 pm (UTC)
A lot of people are pointing and laughing. These pundits are the USian equivalent of the Daily Mail - a lot of people know they're spewing shit, but a worryingly large percentage just lick it up. It's all to do with the media one surrounds oneself in - why should Joe American who doesn't spend a lot of time on the internet know what goes on in the UK?
(Deleted comment)
12th-Aug-2009 09:09 pm (UTC)
These politians are trying to push their own agendas or the agendas of whoever is paying them the most (my opinion not verified fact). As for Sarah Palin I have yet to hear an intellegent statement from her. Granted I also tend to avoid listening to her speak.

Personally at this point any change in the healthcare system in this country would be an improvement. If you don't have money or if you aren't poor-and I mean on government aide sort of poor then healthcare is almost out of the question.

I would like to appologize for the lies that some of our politians have been spreading about the NHS.

-An American Friend

PS. Thank you for posting this

Edited at 2009-08-12 21:19 (UTC)
13th-Aug-2009 08:05 am (UTC)
I'm pleased that you're commenting on my journal again. Thank you.
13th-Aug-2009 10:18 am (UTC)
I really can't believe the lies that US Politicians are spreading about the NHS. Do they think people aren't going to notice?

My Grandad was very ill for the last 10 years of his life, with problem after problem, all of which he was treated for on the NHS, so I find the claim that the NHS "kills old people" to be very insulting, both to me and my family, and the people who worked so hard to look after him.
In the last 10 years of his life he had cancer of the oesophagus, two knee replacements, at least one blood clot that had to be surgically removed and a brain tumour, before being diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer, and even then he still got an operation that would relieve his pain.

There is *no way* that our family could have afforded to pay for all that treatment if we had had to, and neither of my two younger sisters (who are 5 and 8) would have known their Grandad.

I have no words to express just what I think of the people who are spreading these lies. No words at all.
13th-Aug-2009 04:16 pm (UTC)
Yes and sadly I point out that the I believe now former or soon to be former Govenor Palin thought that she had international affairs experience because Russia is geographically close to Alaska. Sadly some people will buy into this but everyone I know wont.
(Deleted comment)
13th-Aug-2009 12:56 pm (UTC)
Do you mind linking to Andrew's original post? He won't mind.
13th-Aug-2009 02:48 pm (UTC) - Thank you
Thank you so much for your attempt to explain Andrew's thoughts. I appreciate his comments, but do not see why we can 'agree to disagree'. I was doing my best to understand his viewpoints, and it's a shame he would not extend me the same courtesy. (Fuck off and die may have been a bit extreme?) Maybe this should not have been an 'open letter' after all.
I don't presume to know about his personal life, and I found it rude that he would alude to mine. (Quote: You might also want to think about how far you’d have got in life without others helping you (clue – you’d have died very, very quickly).)
Again, I do wish to thank you for your time and information in this hot-button issue. I hope a sound answer may be found quickly!!!

KendallJaye Collard
@KJCollard via Twitter

13th-Aug-2009 02:56 pm (UTC) - Re: Thank you
Please don't misinterpret my intentions; I too find it worrying that someone would rather pay more their health insurance than they would to subsidise a public healthcare system, simply to spite people who 'don't deserve' to have medical attention. The only reason I'm willing to 'agree to disagree' with you on this issue is I have no idea how to engage with someone who doesn't feel it their moral obligation to do something to help the sick and impoverished.

I'm not very sure that Andrew was very far off in his presumption that you were still alive right now?
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13th-Aug-2009 03:19 pm (UTC)
Thank you for posting this!
13th-Aug-2009 04:29 pm (UTC)
I apologise that the troll has come over from my blog since s/he was blocked...
13th-Aug-2009 05:05 pm (UTC)
Please don't apologise. You chose to block her, I chose to continue to comment to her. I consider it good for my loving kindness practice.
13th-Aug-2009 07:09 pm (UTC)
You may be interested in this article that I was reading. It shows that other politicians are trying to inform the public that the claims made by Sarah Palin are false.

Palin stands by 'death panel' claim

and she is not looked on favorably by this media outlet.
14th-Aug-2009 04:40 am (UTC)
I think you're very brave to post this and run the risk of stirring up a huge hornet's nest. After all, I think most Americans are still pretty pissed at you English folk for killing Stephen Hawking.
14th-Aug-2009 08:01 am (UTC)
Yeah, we're sorry about that. We were too busy killing babies looking for a cure for spinal injuries.
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