Aidas Zvirblis is 17 and studying for his A Levels. "I enjoy reading and watching films, I study English Literature, Maths, Politics and Sociology but my interests cover essentially anything that catches my eye. Don't know what I want to be in the future, as long as it interests me, much like all teenagers, despite what they'll tell you".
My brother looks at the TV, the news is on, turns to me and with a smug grin declares, ‘The NHS is really crap'. I tell him the usual. A pregnant woman in the US having to pay for the bed in which her baby is born. Being shot and asked your insurance details before treatment because it’s your fault you were standing in the way of that bullet. The horror stories. ‘Yeah, but I can’t get an appointment for, like, two weeks’.
Evidently there are two sides to the argument. My brother’s and mine, one replicated across the country but an argument which inherently favours free healthcare, because, well, it’s free.
It’s rich of my brother to be so cavalier in his judgement against the NHS when a couple of months ago he was treated for his torn knee ligament. I don’t doubt he’d be singing a different tune had that x-ray and crutch gone into his overdraft. I know it’s a British right to moan but it’s this hypocrisy which really annoys me. I’ve had asthma since I was two and I remember the day before my ninth birthday, being taken to hospital to treat an asthma attack, barely able to breathe. I remember the night in A&E when I got chicken pox and my parents thought it was the plague. Serious incidents and medical ignorance, things we all go through. Ultrasounds, injections, referrals, all the things we take for granted, natural occurrences we can’t control but all share.
Imagine a paywall over all that. Suddenly life becomes a spreadsheet of whether we can afford this and where we need to skimp on. Not to say that life isn’t already that. We have to pay for everything; the price of a Starbucks coffee will blow your mind if you stop and really think about it. The fact that in this country we can enjoy freedom on the healthcare front is a cause for celebration, a collective sigh of relief, one less thing to worry about when your mocha latte costs your mortgage.
And it’s not like going private is much better. A frankly disgusting incident involving a toenail arose because we went to a private foot doctor instead of waiting for an appointment. My toenail has since recovered but the idea that private healthcare is better is a farce. The only real advantage is that it’s quicker. The NHS is struggling with a growing population. Hospitals are understaffed and patients annoyed (there’s only so much Jeremy Kyle you can watch at an A&E before losing your mind). It’s begging for improvement. It’s not perfect. But that negative attitude isn’t helping anything.
I guess what I’m saying is that you can’t get a free chocolate cake, then say you don’t like chocolate. There are real horror shows in the world. Terrorism and the refugee crisis. Disease and war. After that report on the NHS, the news went to a report on a refugee family running across a border, being tripped up by a journalist. You might remember it. ‘Awful. Just awful’ my brother says. Well, learn to appreciate the fact that we all feel in safer, comfier hands because of the work of the NHS.