I read Sandra Lynton’s letter extolling the virtues of Great Britain’s National Health Service (Open Forum September 28) with a mixture of amusement and incredulity. Apparently it has been many years since Ms. Lynton has lived in Britain, as the NHS she describes has little to do with today’s abysmal NHS.
I have lived in Britain recently, and in my opinion the NHS is a very sad excuse for medical care. Our English friends call it the National Death Service. All of them who can afford to do so have private health insurance (while, of course, paying for the NHS through their taxes). A friend of mine died in 2006 of lung cancer after having been assured by NHS physicians that she “most certainly did not have cancer.” At this very moment a friend of is dying of kidney failure because the NHS is unable to find time for her on a dialysis machine.
If it seems difficult to believe Ms. Lynton’s excited assertion that health care in Britain is “completely free!,” that’s because it is not at all “free.” It is only “completely free” for those who pay no
taxes whatever. It costs the nation’s taxpayers an enormous amount.
Yet, notwithstanding the heavy tax burden required to keep the NHS functioning, it is perennially short of funding. When we were living in England in 2000 it was revealed that the national tax on gasoline, which the government had always insisted went to keep up the nation’s highways, was in fact being siphoned off to shore up the nation’s chronically underfunded health public care system.
Ms. Lynton is right about one thing: “everyone is equal in the service that is provided” by the NHS. It fails everyone, rich and poor alike.