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Brittish defend NHS

August 14, 2009

Looks like the jolly ol’ English are sick of the lies of the right wingers too. Hope our neighbors in the Great White North are sick of this as well.

LONDON – Britons reacted with outrage Friday at American criticism of the country’s health care system and defended their cradle-to-grave medical coverage on Twitter, television and in the tabloids.

Right-wing attacks on President Barack Obama’s health reform plans have struck a nerve in Britain, where residents broadly take for granted their universal coverage under the state-funded National Health Service — and look askance at the millions of Americans without insurance.

“Land of the Fee,” declared the Daily Mirror in reference to the United States’ high-charging health model. The London newspaper called the “lies and distortions” being circulated in the United States about the National Health Service “truly sickening.”

“Jaw droppingly untruthful,” said the British Medical Association’s chairman, Hamish Meldrum.

“NHS often makes the difference between pain and comfort, despair and hope, life and death,” Prime Minister Gordon Brown tweeted. “Thanks for always being there.”

Even British health campaigner Kate Spall — who criticizes NHS failings in U.S. television ads produced by Conservatives for Patients’ Rights, a lobby group that opposes Obama’s plans — declared that the group had misled her and was distorting her true views. Spall’s mother died of kidney cancer while waiting for treatment.

“There are failings in the system but I’m not anti-NHS at all,” Spall told the British Broadcasting Corp.

“I help the vulnerable patients in our country that come to me for help, those that have been denied treatment,” she said. “So the irony is, the people that are falling through the net in the U.S. are patients that I would support anyway.”

Britain’s opposition Conservative Party is distancing itself from its maverick member of European Parliament, Daniel Hannan, who has criticized the NHS on U.S. news programs.

Conservative leader David Cameron dismissed Hannan as having “eccentric views.”

In an e-mail to Conservative Party workers published on his blog, Cameron said millions, including his own family, were grateful for NHS-provided care.

“Just look at all the support which the NHS has received on Twitter over the last couple of days,” he wrote. “It is a reminder — if one were needed — of how proud we in Britain are of the NHS.”

The NHS, founded in 1948, is the cornerstone of the United Kingdom’s welfare state.

About 12 percent of the UK’s 61 million residents have private insurance, but the vast majority rely on state-funded emergency care, surgery and access to family doctors. Even those who complain about the system say they want it improved, not dismantled.

British officials acknowledge that their system has been struggling to cope and faces a 15 billion pound ($24 billion) deficit. Hospitals are often overcrowded, dirty and understaffed, which means some patients do not get the care they are promised.

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