Monday, March 03, 2008

A Humane Decision

Patients, staff and visitors will be able to park for free at almost every NHS hospital in Wales by the end of 2011, it has been announced. In fact, many NHS car parks in Wales will be free from 1st April.
Announcing the decision Welsh Health Minister Edwina Hart said:
"Car parking charges fall heavily on people frequently attending NHS hospitals, whether they are patients, staff or visitors. They are at best an inconvenience and at worst an unfair expense."
I'd go further than the admirable Ms Hart. Car parking charges at hospitals are inhumane. They are, as the BMA has argued, a tax on the sick- and on the loved-ones of the sick.

People don't use NHS car parks for fun, they use them to visit loved ones who are ill. To exploit people at such a time is outrageous, and a sad indictment of the mercenary, money-grabbing society we have become since the idolatry of 'market forces' replaced human values in the 1979 Thatcherite counter-revolution.

Wales will not only be without NHS car parking charges, but has already abolished prescription charges. By these two humane measures alone, the Welsh Assembly has justified its existence. Sadly, for those of us who live in England, the neoliberal 'lets rip-off the public whenever we can' ethos continues.


Anonymous said...


Charlie Marks said...

Worth pointing out:

Wales has a devolved assembly government controlling health

England is the only home nation without devolution - health is under UK government so ministers and MPs whose constituencies arent in England can be key in determining policy. This means that neoliberal policies are harder to beat.

Douglas said...

I'm happy for this decision, but I'm here to tell you that no one in my world wistfully sighs and says "Ah, if only America's health care system could be more like NHS."

America rejected that idea with extreme prejudice in 1993, and even an incremental version failed last year when the House failed to override President Bush's veto.

I understand that it's intuitively obvious to you that NHS is a great and glorious thing, but a majority of Americans are unpersuaded. I hereby invite you to persuade me that America should adopt an NHS-like health-care system. In the words of singer Pat Benatar, "Hit me with your best shot, fire away."

Anonymous said...

Douglas, my best shot would be in the UK: I can afford to be ill.

By afford, I mean not only financially because the service is free at the point of delivery but emotionally. I only have to be concerned about my health and the quality of treatment. Nothing else intervenes.

This contrasts with the experience of an American friend whose wife had a stroke. Both were tenured professors, fully insured. She was airlifted to Dartmouth University Medical Centre - probably one of the best hospitals in the world. The quality of care she received was excellent but not only was her husband distressed by his wife's illness, he was laid completely low as he coped with an insurance-based reimbursement system. He struggled with the insurance provider niggling over certain procedures/expenses, had to borrow money from his brother to ensure his cash flow before reimbursement etc etc. An additional trauma that we are thankfully spared.

Nor does America's huge relative expenditure in health yield (on average) long and happy lives. You live longer (on average) in Greece even though the Greek health system.

But health is so much more than a simply function of the quality of the health system...

Charlie Marks said...

"America rejected that idea with extreme prejudice in 1993" - perhaps because the propaganda campaign by the health insurance companies?

Douglas, does it not puzzle you that America is the only wealthy industrialised nation without a unverisal healthcare system?