Here’s a little perspective on health care reform in the U.S. from AJN’s contributing editor on international health. Jane Salvage, RGN, BA, MSc, HonLLD, FQNI, is a visiting professor at the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery, King’s College, London, and recently spent a year on the Prime Minister’s Commission on the Future of Nursing and Midwifery.
Just two weeks ago I learned I had a stage 1 endometrioid adenocarcinoma—a cancer in the lining of my womb. In many other countries today, and in the UK until recent years, this would eventually have killed me. But here I am today, happily home after a hysterectomy, probably cancer-free, thanking my lucky stars and our British National Heath Service (NHS).
My life has been saved by an army of people, from nurses and doctors to lab assistants, many of whom I’ll never meet. All my high quality care was free at the point of delivery, efficiently funded from my taxes instead of boosting the profits of insurance officials or millionaire surgeons. And I am pleased that my taxes have also subsidized the care of the demented, impoverished old lady in a nearby bed, even though her hollering and howling kept us awake most of the night.
What’s not to like? A great deal, you’d think from the nonsense talked about our UK NHS during your U.S. health reform debates. Last September, visiting the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Initiative on the Future of Nursing, I stayed at the same Washington, DC, hotel as a group of anti-reform protesters. They seemed full of hate, for the world as well as for President Obama, and their ignorant, implacable opposition astonished and scared me.
Just before I went into hospital earlier this week, I cheered at the news of the passing of Obama’s health care bill. By the time I came out less than 30 hours later, the Republicans were already busily trying to sabotage the reforms, as they will continue to do. Fellow nurses, don’t let them do it. Fight them all the way. You need all the help you can get—let us know what we can do.
And please don’t believe the lies told about the NHS on Fox News by minor right-wing British politicians who have zero credibility back here. To be sure, there’s plenty that needs fixing in our system, and we’re working on it. I’ve spent the past year on the Prime Minister’s Commission on the Future of Nursing and Midwifery in England, identifying problems but also widespread good practice. We suggested some ways forward in our final report, launched on March 2. Drafting this report and then unexpectedly becoming a patient myself—seeing things from the other side of the fence—has reminded me, in a humbling way, of the greatness of our NHS. For all its faults it remains a brilliant system, and you’d be hard put to find a British nurse, doctor, or patient who isn’t a staunch supporter.