Mumbles of a Medic: No to Hopkins, Yes to Free NHS


Column by aspiring med. student, Sahaj Kaur

Comments on the news:

‘Viewpoint: Katie Hopkins on NHS eating, smoking and drinking costs’

The BBC on 21-11-2012.

Editor’s summary: Katie Hopkins (former Apprentice contestant) argues that people who live unhealthily, eating, drinking, and smoking more than is good for them, should be paying more to the NHS, rather than the taxpayer. She calls for more payments for some health services.

A few months ago, I was happily browsing on the BBC Health News website (I’d recommend it for anyone seeking to keep up to date on the riveting world of medicine, you may even be one of the first to know about the 569th new flu jab!) when I came across this:

As someone who is pro-NHS and pro-equality, this infuriated me to no end. As I mentioned last time, the NHS is overcrowded and the taxpayer’s money is being stretched thin, but this is no solution. It is as, if not more, stupid as saying that Global Warming is caused by humans, so the most logical point of action would be to kill everyone alive. No.

I do agree that it is very exasperating to see NHS’ resources being spent on those with unhealthy lifestyles, as Katie Hopkins mentions, people who smoke and drink their life away. But it is important to remember and respect the fundamental values the NHS was built on in 1948 by Aneurin Bevan. It was made to be a free health service so everyone could access healthcare when and if they needed it, and in my opinion it should always be this way.

Picking and choosing people to charge for treatments is unjust. We are human beings, we are certainly not perfect but we are all equal, and no human has the right to pass judgement upon another. If we were to do this, where would we stop? Where does Ms Hopkins intend to draw the line? Do we want it to escalate to: ‘I’m sorry, your cancer is your ill fate and your misfortune; it doesn’t concern me and it certainly isn’t my problem, so, as a tax payer, I refuse to help you’? Where would be the humanity in this?

The NHS is the safety net of our society, of the way Britain functions, and implementing Ms Hopkins’ ideas would be like slashing holes through it. The moment we start picking and choosing, we give rise to a private healthcare system ― which must be avoided at all costs. We are so caught up in money, tax figures, and statistics that we fail to see the human value behind what the NHS does. The point is that it’s there for everyone. It ensures every person in this country has a sufficiently good quality of life and, in my opinion, if achieving this means paying a bit more out of my taxes, I heartily agree. There will undoubtedly be people who abuse the system, but that doesn’t mean it should change revolutionarily ― the people it does help shouldn’t be overlooked. What kind of a society would we be if a few had access to highly sophisticated healthcare while a vast amount of people had no access at all?

Although I love the NHS, times have changed since Bevan set up the system and inevitably, it has changed too. Today, large parts of the NHS are privatised. This has damaged the NHS, and the government’s policies on urgent cuts are exacerbating the problem. The NHS competes with private markets and it’s not very hard to guess who is losing. So the losing party then employs many people to gloss statistics, using such things as the A&E 4-hour target for campaigns, rather than trying to identify problems and channel money into the right sources. (Inevitably this target is hardly ever met, so doctors spend time trying to ‘fix’ numbers which should be spent treating patients). They then wonder why doctors quit each year due to horrendously low morale and after having suffered from cuts, policies, and bills which become banes in their lives.

Why can’t we just let Bevan rest in peace?

Photography: by SuperFantastic on Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

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8 Responses to Mumbles of a Medic: No to Hopkins, Yes to Free NHS

  1. Harry says:

    Sahaj, are you happy for taxes to go up to 70% and people’s pensions to be cut to zero to ensure that smokers can get cancer treatment and binge drinkers can have free A&E beds on a Saturday night?

  2. Sahaj says:

    Sometimes addictions have deeply rooted psychological problems. I’d rather people addressed that than succumb to the ultimate evil: money. I’d rather earn a bit less than be inhumane.

    • Harry says:

      Do you think it helps people’s addictions when the state fuels their disastrous consequences for free? “Earn[ing] a bit less” isn’t the reality – the NHS’s costs in terms of self-inflicted illnesses are spiralling out of control, and taxes are already exorbitant. Please at least acknowledge that people should have to pay some teensy weensy sum for their wasting of a country’s resources?

      • Sahaj says:

        But if they can’t afford it then they should be left to suffer?

        • Harry says:

          Let’s ignore people who can’t pay – let’s talk about people who spend £80 on alcohol on a Saturday night, then expect a free bed in A&E. Why is that okay?

          If people can’t pay, there’s much more of a case for providing them with free care, but the people who regularly spend serious sums on alcohol or cigarettes do not fall into that category.

  3. Izzy says:

    Interesting discussion! I believe that it certainly does help those with addictions when they can have access to professional health care and support in managing their addictions. I don’t believe that this is ‘fuelling their addictions’ but instead coping with them in a safe environment. If, as Harry suggests, those who caused ‘self inflicted’ damage by drinking too much were left to cope on their own this would have an incredibly negative impact on their friends and family. I can’t imagine, for example, that any student would wish to watch their friend die from alcohol poisoning after a rugby club initiation simply because it was seen as ‘their own fault’ and they were denied hospital access. That would be the sign of a state failing its citzens, and I don’t believe that funding health care for those who need it, regardless of income, is a waste of the state’s resources.

  4. Matt says:

    Very impressive Sahaj, looks like I have some competition on my hands!

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