I may have been critical of our current Labour Government again on Wednesday, but I am generally supportive of them when it comes to the NHS. Some of the recent attacks from the States (and even here) look dumb in the extreme. Can we just remind the Investor’s Business Daily that Stephen Hawking is both British and alive, for example? (Even the corrected version of the article, to which I have just linked, doesn’t fully correct all the facts and still leaves room for doubt about the role of the NHS with respect to the brilliant scientist’s health.) And as for the views of Conservative MEPs Daniel Hannan and Roger Helmer that we should abolish it because 80% of Americans get better health care, well hang on: for all the faults of the NHS (and I’ll come to some of them), a Christian has to remember not just the 80% but the 20% – that is, the poor. Oh, and twice as much GDP is spent on health care in the US than here. Who is going to campaign to double our spending, even on top of the rises under the current administration?
So it’s not surprising that Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister who ‘got down wiv da kids’ by making policy announcements on YouTube, has now sent a message of support to the Twitter campaign #welovethenhs. Of course it’s political that he does so, but – hey – I actually agree with him here. (Just as I do on his concern for the welfare of the poorest nations in the world.)
Why? For theological reasons. We are our brother’s and sister’s keepers. That has to be seen corporately. I have had it argued to me in the past by conservative American Christians that it is the sole preserve of the church to offer healthcare and healing to society. Yeah, right. Because that is going to cover everyone, isn’t it?
Less cynically, although I come from the Arminian theological tradition and am therefore meant to view almost everything John Calvin said with suspicion, I find value in his concept of ‘common grace’ – that the sun shines on the righteous and unrighteous, as Jesus said. Surely health and healing would be among such common blessings.
Personally, I have benefitted from the NHS. Most recently in major terms, it was the nasal surgery I had in May (a septoplasty and submucus resection, for those who like the medical swearwords). That surgery corrected a lifetime’s breathing problem. Nobody questioned me about the level of my medical cover, or whether my premiums were paid. I was simply treated. Then, a week ago, on the night before going away on holiday, I began to suffer pain in the right rib area. A phone call to NHS Direct led to advice that I should attend our nearest Accident and Emergency unit at a nearby hospital. They soon reassured me I didn’t have the feared spontaneous pneumothorax (OK, I’m showing off, that’s a collapsed lung) but had something close to a torn abdominal muscle. Triage, chest x-ray, time with a doctor, all without question, through until 2 am from dedicated professionals. Then away on holiday the next morning. First class.
No, it isn’t perfect, and I have some issues with it. The ‘postcode lottery’ is a common concern. For the uninitiated, this refers to differing policies in different areas, resulting in some people being eligible for treatment in their location but others in another area not being, perhaps due to age or general priorities.
Then there are issues of the budget being used up for causes that give me moral problems. The widespread use of abortion is the obvious one. Some uses of cosmetic surgery might be another. I could easily add othercontentious treatments to this list, and I apologise for just brief comments – however, the purpose of this paragraph is not to go into fine detail, but simply to mark up the fact that I have concerns about several significant areas.
But let’s get it straight. Supporting the NHS does not make you a Marxist, so let’s ditch that bit of ignorant propaganda that seeks to label people rather than engage with the issues. That kind of nonsense makes it sound like McCarthyism is back from the dead. Most Christians in the UK of various political and theological persuasions would concur that being in general favour of the NHS (whatever particular quibbles we have) is thoroughly consistent with Christian principles.
I didn’t think I’d keep up my record of daily sabbatical blogs today. By tea-time, I was in bed, exhausted and with a dreadful headache. Several bad nights’ sleep had taken their toll, and adrenaline had kept me going until finally I kept dropping off on the sofa to the embarrassment of the family.
Tomorrow is Rebekah’s sixth birthday, and today was her party. She had chosen a pottery party with ten friends at local studion The Glazed Look. That was going to make for a quiet celebration, rather than exuberant running around and noisy games. When Debbie booked his for her at her request, we didn’t know how significant that was going to be.
Because, just after 6 am, Debbie woke me to say Rebekah had been awake three times in the night with ear pain. (I may be having trouble getting to sleep at present, but once I do, there’s little that would wake me.) She also had a discharge from her right ear. By 6:30, I was on the phone to the out of hours doctors’ service, getting an appointment at their clinic for 8:10 am. Just as I had taken Mark there a couple of weeks ag on a Saturday night, now I was taxi for my daughter.
With nobody in the queue, she was seen on time by a lovely, gentle Indian doctor, and out came the usual prescription for amoxicillin – just what we expected. The nearest pharmacy open at that time on a Saturday was at Tesco, so we drove there. Knowing Rebekah doesn’t like the usual banana flavour of amoxicillin, he prepared an orange version. However, that didn’t make any difference to her dislike. But with alternating doses of calpol and calprofen, at least she got through her party and crashed out a little bit this afternoon. How devastated she and we would have been, had she not been able to. So it’s a big thank you today to the NHS staff who coped so kindly and efficiently with a little girl’s distress.