As one outside the fracas I have been able to enjoy the whole wild ride from Death Panels and the Leaving Grandma To Die, to say nothing of the NHS as breeding ground for terrorism, without actual emotional involvement. I can't remember the last time I was that riveted by anything, since that 'news' show in Chicago that linked headlines from the paper with verses from the Bible. Although I am frankly dissapointed that no one has yet sought to link the whole Harold Shipman thing with some imaginative headline. I suggest: Due to insufficient pay British doctors forced to resort to MURDER. Tsk, tsk, tsk. Don't make me question your commitment to journalism, Fox News!
As regards the subject of nationalised healthcare, I can only say the following:
1) I have lived in an actual Socialist country during actual Socialist times, and really, it wasn't that bad. No one was dying in the streets, and the healthcare provided had saved my life and my family's life multiple times.
There are good and bad doctors in every system and the healthcare that we had was not perfect, especially when it was provided during times of war or by institutions that were so strapped for resources that when my mother had emergency back surgery in 2003 she was kindly asked by ward stuff upon waking up from anesthesia to be careful not to break the IV needle since it's the last one they had. On the other hand my mother had been operated on New Year's Eve by people who were so committed to providing excellence of care that I wanted to compose odes to them all.
People don't have a lot, but 80% of them try so hard that they go above and beyond the call of duty to help you. And that's just the state provided system, on top of which you have private healthcare that you're welcome to pay for if you can afford it.
2) The NHS has many flaws (most glaringly for me the mental health system) but it's far from the nightmare that it's being portrayed as. Yes the care you receive is luck of the draw - depending where you live and what kind of GP you chance upon, particularly if it's about routine or chronic but not-life threatening illnesses - but the emergency care and care afforded to small children has always been exceptional. (I have nothing but praise for all the people who looked after me when I had a haemorrhage after Matei's birth, and nothing but praise for people who looked after my grandmother when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer.)
While I definately think the system has much room for improvement, and there have been times when I've chosen to go outside the NHS (I hired an independent midwife to look after me during labour and beyond), I've always been glad to know that I have the NHS as a safety net.
I am an anxious person and prone to having my sleep disrupted by various disastrous scenarios, but I'm happy that one of them is not: "OMG what if one of us gets sick and we are driven into financial ruin while paying for their care".
However, since reading the Little House On the Prarie books while on the road trip, I've been thinking that:
1) Fever 'n ague is one of my favourite disease titles, ever. I wish it was in existence and use today.
2) I think I understand a little more about where the whole optimism and independence and self-sufficiency part of American culture stems from.
Finally, all this not-worrying I am doing about my healthcare outcomes is freeing up an enormous amount of emotional energy that I have invested into pleasant meditations on cake.