In 2012, a video was leaked staring UKIP leader Nigel Farage telling UKIP supports his views on the NHS and UK healthcare. He is quoted to say “I think we are going to have to move to an insurance-based system of healthcare. Frankly, I would feel more comfortable that my money would return value if I was able to do that through the marketplace of an insurance company, than just us trustingly giving £100bn a year to central government and expecting them to organise the healthcare service from cradle to grave for us.” (The Independent).
The belief that the UK would benefit from a privatized healthcare system is extremely problematic. A minority of UK citizens may have had the fortune of never having needed to use the NHS for any long-term illness, suffered by themselves or close friends or family. I on the other hand, have had experience with the NHS and all their valuable services for the majority of my life. When I was 10, my mother died of breast cancer at 47 years old, having battled with the disease on and off for several years. At one point, we were even told that she was clear of cancer, before it sadly returned and tragically took her life. Throughout her years suffering with cancer, I distinctly remember numerous trips to Nottingham City Hospital, where she often had to spend a few nights or get chemotherapy treatment. As well as the upsetting memories I possess of her in hospital, I also have memories of caring, wonderful staff, who my mother was always fond of. My family have always struggled to meet ends financially, but through the NHS we were rewarded with a few extra years to spend with my mum, even enjoying fantastic holidays to Spain and Cyprus when her cancer was in its better stages. Without the NHS, it’s likely that we would have lost her a lot sooner due to the cost of health insurance and treatment.
Ten years later, and I’ve now been revisiting the same hospital, where my dad has been recovering from a stroke he had on Christmas Eve. Yet again, the staff have been incredible. Despite having to work on Christmas Day, the staff at the hospital were friendly and cheerful, supplying the patients with a Christmas-style dinner and crackers (much to our delight) to keep everyone’s spirits up. The hospital even featured a ‘League of Friends’ who delivered presents to the patients; my dad received aftershave, a tie and a Christmas card! This gesture may sound like a small one, but for my family, who had all our Christmas plans sadly disrupted, it really meant a lot knowing that the staff were going out of their way to look after my dad. During the time my dad has spent at the hospital, he has made countless friends with the staff, including a favourite nurse who puts up with his repeated jokes, and his physio. His physio even took the time to find myself and my dad’s partner to show us how we could perform a massage on my dad’s hand (which he had lost all movement and feeling in) to help regain some movement. My dad also told me how the physio took a moment to enjoy a coffee and chocolate with him – his favourite part of the day! It’s little acts like this that make me truly realise how valuable the NHS is for many families and individuals. It is a unique part of British culture that makes me proud to be part of a nation that can help people from any background to prolong and save lives.
As well as benefiting my family greatly for the illnesses suffered by my parents, the NHS has also provided myself and my sister with mental health care. Back when we were in school, my sister and I were both diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and we both had difficulty coming to terms with our mother’s death. For this, we were offered counselling services and treatment, which has helped us both tremendously. We are both now happy and confident, and have rediscovered our love of studying, resulting in us both studying at university. Without the counselling, who knows if either of us would even have continued to stay at school, let alone enroll at university. At my university now, I am still able to see a doctor regularly for check ups on my mental well-being; something I truly value when university and family life gets stressful.
Overall, the NHS benefits the lives of countless people and families across the UK. Without it, who knows where our lives would be, or who wouldn’t even be in them. If it wasn’t for the chemotherapy my mother received, we may not have had our memorable holiday in Cyprus just before she died. If the ambulance hadn’t arrived in time for my dad, and if he wasn’t able to stay in the hospital for as long as he has, who knows what state of health he would be in now. I know that it is not just my family that is extremely grateful for the invaluable care provided for the NHS, and I only hope that this fantastic service continues, free of charge.