My Tuppenceworth ~ Health Debate.

Ronni Bennett from Time Goes By has asked bloggers from both within and without the Unites States of America to take part in a discussion on how healthy we find our Health Service, and link to her Health Debate on 20th August 2009.

I am Irish. Born in the Republic of Ireland where it was necessary to pay up front for all things medical. In fact at the moment, from all the rumbles I hear, the Irish Health Service is in rather a mess.

I moved to Northern Ireland (UK) when I married 32 years ago. I came under the umbrella of the National Health Service (NHS) at that time. In the years up until retirement age I had reason to avail of the NHS.

There was the anti and post natal care surrounding and including the birth of my daughter Elly, 31 years ago. The Gynaecologist saw me himself, each month and asked to be called to deliver the baby. He returned later in the day especially to see Jack. There was no problem or reason for concern; he was just very pleased for us.

In later years I also had reason to have five other surgical procedures that required general anaesthetics, all but two involved more than overnight stays.  The only items I paid for in all those years were prescription outpatient medications.

Children in full-time education and senior citizens were exempt from those prescription charges and both had free eye tests. They did need to pay for any spectacles needed (lens and frames). Elly needed surgery on her eyes as a youngster, with follow up appointments for a couple of years, and again there was no charge.

Anyone with glaucoma, no matter what age has free eye tests as do their parents, siblings and children. Dental services are different and you will find more information here

I nursed my husband through Cancer over six years; all but nine weeks were at home. The services came to us. A hospital bed and many items were provided to aid me in looking after him. I suppose with hind-sight I could have made more noise and demanded more help. It was my wish to look after him myself and kept going as long as I could. All medications were provided and on one particular difficult day alone, I had three Doctors call to our home.

There were difficult days, but doctors are human and their time is limited. They got tired just as I did. Occasionally we had cross words, but they were few and we each understood the frustrations that caused them.

Now at 62, I have been considered a senior citizen for two years. 65 is the age for men, though the gap will be closed gradually over the next few years until the ladies are at the same level of 65 years of age. A glance at the past two years in my life will give a picture of how I found things with the NHS since retirement.

I have an on-going heart condition and am on constant medication, none of which I now pay for. I am called annually for Cardiac review & flu vaccines, while smear tests and mammograms are automatic at regular intervals of a couple of years. Eye tests are free, but I pay for the eye X-rays & glasses.

At present I am on the list for hip replacement. The Orthopaedic surgeon requested a full Cardiac report so I had all the tests including Angiography.  Last week I went for the Pre-op assessment (3 hours) where I met six members of the team all with different responsibilities in the care of an in-patient. Hopefully in the next ten weeks the new ‘shock absorber’ will be fitted. All this is free gratis and paid for by the taxes of the entire workforce.

Over the years waiting times were very long, sometimes as long as 18 months to 2 years for the surgery I need. That seems to be under revision at the moment and waiting times are a maximum of 13 weeks. A large number of people join BUPA for private health insurance and use it to upgrade & jump the queue. We live in a ‘NOW’ world where nobody is prepared to wait their turn… I sometimes wonder what they do with the time saved!

I hear scare stories of people on trolleys for days on end before they are found a bed… mixed wards with men and women in the same ward/room, but I personally have never had to deal with that sort of thing. I have heard people rant and roar at staff in busy A&E departments, but that is pure ignorance, abusive and disrespectful for fellow human beings. People who are really sick don’t have the energy to waste on being rude.

Modern medicine is both wonderful and cruel, amazing advancements have been made over the years, but we have outlandish expectations for miracle cures. We are all living longer and the way the health service works will have to change.  Illnesses such as cancer, once considered fatal, are now becoming chronic. Joints and internal organs can be replaced, but there is no such thing as a free lunch… the price is often with (like me) constant reviews and extra medication all costing the state and our pockets to stretch a very long way. We seem to have forgotten that we must die at some stage. I would like to live for another ten to fifteen years, but please don’t keep me hanging on like a vegetable, for another twenty, thirty or forty years, somebody show mercy, open the door and push me outside the igloo!

24 thoughts on “My Tuppenceworth ~ Health Debate.

  1. Annb

    That’s an incredibly well written post, reasoned, sensible and very logical. You have a very ‘healthy’ take on the health service. From my vantage point south of the boarder, I am continually impressed by the NHS, I realise it has it’s problems but to me, it just seems very fair and accessible to all.
    Wishing you good health GM.

  2. Rhyleysgranny

    1st – I am sorry you have all these ongoing health problems. You are so up beat you are an inspiration

    2nd – I am sorry you lost your husband to such a long and horrible illness.

    3rd – That is such a well written post. Unfortunately the media like to take the worst bits and do their superb job of sensationalism. I was a nurse for over thirty years so I can see both sides. I won’t get on my soap box but suffice to say the main problem is there are too many managers with no medical experience and any communication from the nurses and doctors working in the thick of things gets lost in a huge chain of command. Money could be saved if they just listened.
    I too have great faith in our health service if it was managed a bit better.
    In America where this debate is raging they are quick to say how people here die because of the inefficiency of our health service but they don’t mention those across the pond who die because they can’t afford the price of medical insurance.

    Off my soap box now
    I got on it after all 😉

  3. lilalia

    Thank you for writing this post. It shows so well how each system has it’s strenghts and weaknesses as well. It is important for Americans to realise it is not a matter of replacing a flawed system with a perfect one, but to create a workable system that can be improved over time.

  4. Kate

    That says it all really – the NHS has many problems but when the chips are down as they have been with my late Mum, my son, daughter and myself – they have always done their best to help us.

    P.s My daughter says she will be floating me out to sea with boxes of wine for company when I have got to the ‘lost the plot’ stage of my life.

  5. Nancy


    You have done a wonderful service by telling us your experiences with the NHS over the years.

    As you know, we are deep in controversy here in the U.S.A. regarding health care, and need all the information we can get from people such as yourself who are articulate enough to express yours and other people’s experiences in the Health Care Service.

    Our new President was elected partially on his promise to give Health Benefits to everyone, but the party currently out of power (The former Bush people; that should give you a clue what we are up against) are more interested in vilifying President Obama than in helping the people of our country. They are distorting the facts to the extent that
    quite a few people believe the outrageous lies they are spreading about what health care will be like.

    For one instance, former Governor Sarah Palin has told her followers that if this health care policy goes into effect, there will be “Death Panels” who will decide that you have lived long enough and will euthanize you. Have you ever heard such an incredibly stupid remark? Unfortunately, many people believe her and bring it up at the Town meetings that are being held all over the country.

    So, thank you, GM, for telling your story so well and in such good detail. I saw the link to you at” Time Goes By “this morning and hope a multitude of Americans read your excellent post.

  6. Nick

    A good summary of how the NHS works. Who in their right mind would prefer the US system to that? When I think of how many free or subsidised consultations and treatments I’ve had over the years….

  7. Grannymar Post author

    @Annb – nothing is perfect in this life, but the NHS Does in general provide a very good service.

    @Rhyleysgranny – Everyone in life has trials of some kind, Looking around me I appreciate that I could be so much worse. I would love your take on this subject.

    @lilalia – Welcome to my blog. We are all human and unique with different needs; that alone makes the job of finding a working health service to suit everyone, almost impossible.

    @Kate – You, like me, know that first hand.

    @Nancy – Thank you. Your President Obama has a very difficult job ahead of him. We have had plenty of the ‘Sarah Palins’ of this world in Northern Ireland. For years we heard NO! NO! NO! at every turn. The only thing those same politicians didn’t say ‘No’ to was their wages!

    @Nick – You are another with first hand experience. Your take on this subject yesterday was very fair.

    @Ramana – I think that Ronni hopes to use all the material recieved as part of an ongoing discussion. Some interesting links at ‘Time Goes By’

  8. bikehikebabe

    “We seem to have forgotten that we must die at some stage. I would like to live for another ten to fifteen years,”

    Grannymar Please want to live AT LEAST 15 more years. Then you’ll be as old as I. I just had my “shock absorber” installed & I want to live 20 more years to use it.

  9. Jean Browman--Cheerful Monk

    Thanks for the information about your national health service. It’s nice to read something that throws light on the situation. Here in the U. S. right now there’s way too much heat, and there is legitimate concern about how any plan would work out in practice.

    About longevity…I’m more interested in quality of life than how many years I stick around. I agree with the person who says, “I want to die young…as late as possible.”

  10. Grannymar Post author

    @BHB – I do want to live longer, but only if I am well enough to contribute to life and not be a vegetable or burden on anyone. You still have Tom and long may you both be together, it makes all the difference having someone to share your life.

    @Jean – I hope when my turn comes it is with a heart attack – quick, and without my loved ones having to watch the long slow process as I did with four loved ones and a very good friend.

    My mother at 82 survived a stroke for 10 weeks. She was in hospital in Dublin for the duration, she soon stopped taking all food and fluids. When she became dehydrated a drip was set up, when the fluid levels rose the drip came down. This see saw action went on for weeks, I saw it not as abiding by the Hippocratic Oath, but a rather cruel way of prolonging death. It was obvious to all of us that she was dying… bloods were taken right up to the end, WHY? We wouldn’t treat an animal like that. The older I get the road to Switzerland becomes more appealing.

  11. Jean Browman--Cheerful Monk

    I agree about the heart attack and Swizerland. I belong to Compassion and Choices, and organization that fights for end-of-life choices. As I recall it was one of their articles that said a woman in England was going to go to Switzerland because of a terminal, presumably debilitating and painful, illness. Her family couldn’t go with her to support her at the end because if they did they would have been prosecuted for abetting suicide. Have you ever heard of something like that? I know in the 1940’s it was against the law in England to try to commit suicide. Obviously I think that’s too narrow a point of view.

  12. Darlene

    Thank you, Grannymar, for your honesty in reporting on the health care system (NHS) in Northern Ireland. It is vital that more Americans come to realize what a lousy system we have compared to other countries.

  13. Baino

    Excellent post GM. Our system is very similar. Those in need are attended to. It’s not perfect and there aren’t enough medical staff but the sensational stories are blown out of proportion. What I don’t understand is why the US don’t emulate successful health systems that already exist such as that in France or Canada. They have many people who can contribute via tax. I think the US isn’t used to having their services nationalised and see it as a socialist threat. Of course they don’t understand social democracy at all and think that Obama is turning the US into a Stalinist autocracy. Change is difficult and they’re going through huge changes. Those who have health insurance will still receive prompt care, those who don’t or can’t afford it will receive proper care. It’s a no brainer! I saw Nancy’s comment about the death panels which is absolute bunkum. The panels are to provided aged care and counselling, not euthanasia. There’s such fear over there I really don’t understand it.

  14. Grannymar Post author

    @Darlene – Our system is not perfect, but it works when you really need it!

    @Baino – Ronni wanted a broad spectrum of blog posts from across the globe. When last I checked there were 30 blogs linked to her site. and the American day is not over by a long shot. Hopefully all the contributions help with the debate.

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  16. Jefferson Davis

    Fantastic post, Grannymar. Your post on the NHS was refreshingly honest. So many people these days try to push their political views down our throats.

    If I could get back all of the money I’ve spent on health care cost, I’d be a very rich man! 🙂

  17. Lily

    A very well written post. A very reasonable view. I am sorry you have on-going health issues, but you handle them very positively. I like that attitude.

  18. Grannymar Post author

    @JD – Thank you, if my writing it helped you to enter the debate, then it was worthwhile. Stay healthy!

    @Lily – Not being a political animal I wrote as I found things. We all have issues in life; being miserable about them wastes energy and turns people away!

  19. bikehikebabe

    Attention everyone:
    When you write “Our…”, please tell us what part of the world you are referring. (Where you are located.)

  20. Grannymar Post author


    Good point. I suppose everyone thinks I know where they are calling from. Most of them I do.

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