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Monday, March 08, 2004
The difference is the state

Anthony Browne has some surprising words for those who deny the quality of British health care.

Don't listen to the denigrators - the health service in Britain can be wonderful. I was recently walking down a London street on a Sunday afternoon, when I decided to have a medical problem dealt with. I dropped into a medical centre I happened to be passing, which was open, and asked to see the specialist, who attended to me there and then with a smile. In a sparkling clean clinic packed out with a vast array of brand new medical equipment that seemed like something out of a science fiction film, dozens of tests were quickly done, which, as well as diagnosing my medical problem, checked out a range of other conditions from brain tumours to diabetes. The specialised medical apparatus that was prescribed for me was manufactured instantly.

I know you think that I am making this up, just teasing you, that it is too good to be true, but it is not. I promise you, within an hour of walking in without an appointment on a Sunday, I walked out of the optician with a pair of bespoke spectacles for my myopia and astigmatism, and a dream that one day all healthcare in Britain would be this way.

Of course, opponents of health service reform did not predict this when the General Ophthalmic Service was effectively privatised by Margaret Thatcher in 1989. They said it would ruin the service, when in fact it has turned it into by far the most successful sector of the medical service.

Meanwhile, back in government hospitals:

She arrived at 10am. The place was dirty and grimy and smelly. Parts of the waiting area stank, to the extreme discomfort of those having to wait there. She was finally ushered in for her scan, where it emerged that in spite of having consumed large amounts of water as part of the prep for the scan she had to consume yet more. The harassed nurse departed to look for drinking water which was not readily available. After sitting waiting for a while, the door burst open to admit not the nurse, but a cleaner who, without acknowledgement or apology proceeded to hoover noisily around the room and around the patient.

Now if you really want to leave civilised political discourse behind, why don't you see if you can reach some reasonable conclusions based on these entirely typical anecdotes?

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