Mud On the Road

we're about to go shopping in Salisbury...

Mountain of Broke-Back

Posted by Deborah Courtnell

Mountain of Broke-Back

     If the Americans are terrified of getting a National Health Service like ours then we are terrorised right back by the spectre of a  privatised health system like theirs. 

     It's no surprise to me that the Competition Commission has charged UK private hospital chains, HCA, Spire, BMI, Nuffield and Ramsay with operating a monopoly and charging patients over and above the cost of the services they provide by £200m. A forced sell-off of some 20 hospitals now looks likely. 

      Unlike our European neighbours we pay extortionate prices for private health care here and that includes dentistry and eye care and with treatment like hip replacements deemed 'elective' for what is a very painful and degenerative condition, it's small wonder people are persuaded to fly to e.g. France and get the surgery done there for a fraction of the UK private price tag.

     It's cheaper, for example,  to drive to an airport, park, fly to Spain for the day (Ryanair or easyJet obviously) get blood tests and a mammogram done in a private clinic and fly home again in time for supper,  than it is to drive up the road to your nearest private hospital. I know because I've done both.

     A current price for just the mammogram, as advertised online by London clinic Pall Mall Medical is  £320. 


     A couple of weeks ago, on the sun-drenched island of Malta, while we were equally sun-drenched but beset by our boxer dog Cally having slipped a disc in her back... my Darling Mother fell and fractured two of her vertebrae: one crushed, one chipped.

     She was able to pay a nominal sum to see a General Practitioner who, as a matter of routine, visited her at home, gave her painkillers, prescribed rest.

     When after a few days the pain became much worse, she was able to make an appointment to go, not to Accident & Emergency, but to see an orthopaedic consultant who specialises in back injuries.

     The inclusive cost of the consultation and the X-ray which followed immediately (and which she was able to keep) and the medical corset she has to wear: £225. Cost of medication, painkillers: £81. 

    Cost of the whole saga to date with a follow up visit to the consultant: £425. What would that have cost privately in the UK, I wonder?


       I suspect one of the reasons so many people keep turning up at A & E is to bypass the GPs who, if you have a precarious  and or demanding full-time job and a difficult boss are well nigh impossible to get an appointment with and who seem to act as nightclub bouncers on behalf of the NHS, jealously guarding the hospital doors; maintaining the perimeter defences to deny the 'walking well,' as we have been dubbed, access to those twin modern deities, consultants and their hi-tech wizard machines.

     Presumably the nation is watching more Holby City and Casualty than is strictly good for it.

     Both of these [BBC] hospital soaps make great play of the modern hospital's sophisticated hardware and technical resources. No telly nurse or junior doctor is without their ipad nowadays and, if the BBC  is to be believed you have only to show up in Holby City's AAU ( that's Acute Assessment Unit for you amateurs out there) with a cut on your elbow and a stain on your lip to have the entire arsenal unleashed upon you.

     Yes. If you went to the GP in that condition he would probably tell you to wash your face and get a life; if you went to Holby City they would order an ultrasound, IV fluids, blood tests, urine sample, CAT scan, MRI scan and diagnose you with Diverticulitis.

     In France, Italy, Spain  and Germany it's quite standard for people to voluntarily undergo routine 'MOT' (Ministry of Transport) testing in the same way that we perform MOT tests on cars – it's all about roadworthiness.

     But here there is a deeply ingrained suspicion that screening the 'well' will turn us into a nation of hypochondriacs and fuss-pots.

      That kind of cultural snobbery would be well and good if stiff -upper lip bravura and stoicism and preferring to talk openly and in detail about our weather as opposed to our bowel movements, was making us any healthier but it isn't.

     In the  Health League Tables published by medical journal The Lancet in March of this year, those fuss-pots and hypochondriacs in Spain and France and Germany and Greece and Ireland, scored far higher than us. We came 12th out of an international table of 19. 

      Aunty BBC demonstrated the statistics in her live health check programme, Long Live Britain, in which the largest ever snapshot screening of  the nation's health was taken in a single day: 79 per cent of the 384 adults screened  were referred immediately to their GP because they were considered 'at an increased risk of developing' either Type 2 Diabetes, alcohol-related liver disease or cardiovascular disease. 

     Access to cheap private medicine might encourage swathes of the British population to look after themselves better. After all, according to yet another BBC programme, The Call Centre,  people seem quite happy to spend a fortune on Botox and teeth whitening and plastic surgery and cosmetics and spray-on tans....

     ...And large flat screen televisions and crisps and nuts to nibble and lots of red wine to swig while beached on the sofa like  fat whales mired in their own moral stupor rendered utterly inert by too many hours spent watching programmes like Long Live Britain and Casualty and Holby City and The Call CentreOoops!


Seen On Stockbridge Down This Summer

Small White
Small White - Pieris Rapae

A Red-tailed bumble bee, Bombus Lapidarius
A Red-tailed bumble bee, Bombus Lapidarius; I guess it's a worker bee not a Queen; the males apparently have yellow facial hairs and a yellow band on the thorax. 

Pear-Bordered Fritillary - Boloria euphrosyne
A Fritillary - I think this is the Pearl-Bordered Fritillary but I'm very happy to be put right!

Surrey Hills
But, I Am Not A Mote
I Love the M3
I Love the M3
Situation vacant
Fantasy Pub Landlady
Bradley Wiggins claiming Team GB's 7th Gold medal, 1st August 2012
High Vizzers

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