Having experienced the US and the UK healthcare systems, here's the truth about the differences – and no, Donald Trump isn't right

Both the American and British healthcare systems are fragmented and broken, sure. But at least the NHS is founded upon rock-hard principles of compassion and equality

Nash Riggins
Monday 05 February 2018 19:23
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Admit it: we all love having a moan about the NHS. The waiting times are appalling, hospitals are always shorthanded and GPs practically force you out the surgery after three minutes of chatting shop. No one can deny Britain’s free healthcare system is criminally underfunded and unsupported. The NHS is broken, and something has got to change.

That’s why everybody and their auntie has some bright idea about how to fix the system – and it’s also why we’ve got to be open to innovative solutions and new ways of thinking in order to move forward.

But you know who’s innovative solutions absolutely no one in the UK has ever asked for? Donald J Trump’s.

To kick off his social media week, America’s busiest orange golfer decided to take to the Twittersphere to give the planet his two cents on a massive demonstration that took place in London over the weekend. His opinion was just as uninformed and out-of-touch as you might imagine.

In case you missed it, the rally Trump was on about was organised Saturday to draw attention to the severe funding crisis health workers across Britain are struggling to overcome. It was a celebration of everything the NHS stands for, and a call to arms against anyone willing to sacrifice those morals to the gods of political convenience and privatisation.

There, you already know more about it than the President of the United States. He seems to think it was proof that we believe the provision of affordable healthcare is a waste of time and energy. That’s why Donald Trump is so confident social security is for idiots, and that super expensive, private healthcare is the only way forward for any self-respecting democratic society.

Thousands protest in London over NHS crisis

Well, after wasting plenty of hours in hospital waiting rooms on both sides of the Atlantic, I beg to differ.

When I arrived in this country almost ten years ago, I had plenty of doubts about the NHS. After all, I came from a privileged background and had grown up bubble wrapped in a luxurious, corporate-backed insurance plan – and so the moment I started to encounter the odd ailment, I could immediately see why American politicians like Donald Trump were always warning me against the evils of free healthcare.

I tore some ligaments in my knee playing sport at university, and my local hospital prescribed me ibuprofen and told me to walk it off. My GP said not to bother asking for a prostate cancer screening until I was middle aged, despite the fact every man in my family has had it. Friends and loved ones spent weeks waiting in vain for mental health support, and months waiting on important surgeries.

I thought the NHS was a complete and utter joke. Nobody ever seemed to know how to help – and even when they did know how to help, they didn’t have the time in their diaries to actually do it. I took my family back to America salivating at the prospect of finally getting to enjoy world-class healthcare and doctors who actually gave a damn about my wellbeing.

But you know what I found when I got there? A whole lot of the same.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act Donald Trump hates with all his tiny heart, I was able to secure health insurance for a family of four at $700 per month. That didn’t actually sound too bad at first, even though I had to pay a $6,000 deductible before my insurance company actually offered to help me in any way.

For my trouble, I got the same rushed, conveyer belt GP service I’d come to loathe in the UK. I got a $1,000 bill x-raying my children for everything under the sun, when all they needed in the end was a bit of Calpol. I went to visit friends who could hardly afford to eat because their insurance plans refused to cover eye-wateringly expensive heart medications. They were the unlucky ones – but even the healthy people I knew wasted a quarter of their annual salaries on check-ups and opioids they didn’t need.

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It was only then that I started to realise just how good I had it in the UK. The NHS lets you down all the bloody time, sure – but it always seems to come through when it counts most. And so when I decided to bring my family home to Scotland, I was relieved and amazed in equal measure by the world-class maternity ward in my local hospital, and the warm and passionate care my family received in A&E. The NHS saved my mother-in-law’s life by airlifting her away from the scene of a rural car accident, and I can reel off a list of village GPs who still hand-deliver test results right to your door and chat you through them over a cup of tea.

Both the American and British healthcare systems are fragmented and broken, sure. But at least the NHS is founded upon rock-hard principles of compassion and equality. It was built around the idea that world-class, round-the-clock healthcare should be readily accessible to everybody – no matter where they come from or how much money they’ve got in the bank.

The NHS is far from perfect – and Britain has got a lot of work to do in order to try and better support it. But at least over here, we’ve got something that’s actually worth fighting for. Donald Trump can keep his big mouth shut, and his greedy, partisan-fuelled healthcare system all to himself. We’re better off without them.

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