My NHS: Our system is as good as US private care


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The Independent Online

Every parent thinks that their child is one in a million, but my daughter Chloe genuinely is. Before she was born, we discovered that she had three congenital heart defects, two of which are found separately in only one in 30,000 births. The consultants we saw at the world-renowned Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, where we were living at the time, told us they had never seen them together before.

Despite that, my wife and I felt confident that we were in the best hands possible. In America, such reassurance does not come cheap, however. Our health insurance cost thousands of dollars, and  the consultations, scans, and operations thousands more. The investment could be seen everywhere, from the most advanced technology imaginable to the gleaming marble floors.

When it came to the pregnancy, the care was faultless. Rushed in to the hospital, my wife, Jules, had an emergency Caesarean, as Chloe’s heartbeat was dropping dangerously low.

It emerged that she had moved so much in the womb that she had wrapped the umbilical cord five times around her neck, nearly choking herself to death.

Three months after she was born, Chloe had her first operation, in which blood vessels the width of a hair were successfully blocked to prevent too much pressure being put on her heart.

Having seen Chloe so expertly looked after in the US healthcare system, we thought twice before moving back to the UK. We needn’t have worried. Aside from the slight inconvenience of not getting to choose the exact time of appointments, the level of NHS care was just as good as the private service in America. And, here, it’s free.

The Great Ormond Street Hospital is testament to the NHS principle of providing the most outstanding treatment to people who otherwise could not afford it – like the little boy on the ward with Chloe who had been waiting for a heart transplant for months, with his father working part-time to be with him.

Despite having two surgical procedures on her heart, Chloe was only in for four days. The last one is still hanging over us – involving breaking her chest bone and stopping her heart – but this is made easier knowing she is in the best possible hands. She is a little miracle, thanks just as much to the incredible care given by the NHS as to the private treatment in America.