What do the British think of national health services?
LULU garcia-navarro, host:
President trump sparked outrage in Britain this month when he said the country’s national health service was “sensational and ineffective.” British officials have responded to a poll showing that most britons love the NHS. They just want to improve the money. NPR’s in Frayer, London.
Unidentified protector: when they say cut…
Unidentified protector: we say fight back.
LAUREN FRAYER, cable: this is a street protest that President trump is waging. Thousands of britons have been pushing for more funding for their state-funded health systems, which are expected to provide care for all. Mr Trump has accused it of providing very poor non-personal health care.
Government spending in the national health service has increased but slowed since the 2008 financial crisis. That means medicines are being rationed. Thousands of operations have been delayed this winter. Richard Murray, policy director at The King’s Fund, said emergency room wait times had come.
RICHARD MURRAY: if the emergency room is really busy, it puts ambulances outside the front door – not so good. In some cases, the hospital is complete.
FRAYER: but trump’s tweets upset a lot of people. The British health secretary responded by pointing out that 28 million people in the United States have not been reported. National health services cost less than half of what americans spend on health care. And the life expectancy here is higher. The NHS’s defences, says ms Murray, involve British politicians.
MURRAY: you won’t find leading politicians on the left – the Labour party – or the conservative right to talk about the privatisation of the NHS. That would be electoral poison.
FRAYER: the national health service is better than the queen. Some say the NHS is the closest thing to religion in Britain. It dazzled at the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics
FRAYER: Erich McElroy was originally from Seattle. He has been in Britain for almost twenty years and now his wife, two children and a new dog live in the south of London. He liked to see the doctor telling jokes here for the first time.
ERICH MCELROY: so I go there with American expectations, you have to pay, you have to put a credit card first, or you have to put a credit card first, or you have to put an insurance policy first. Then I saw a doctor – gave me some medicine. Then he let me go.
FRAYER: you mean, where’s the cash register?
MCELROY: yes. So I went back to the same receptionist. I thought, what am I doing now? ‘you’re home,’ she said. And nothing more. I think it’s great.
FRAYER: British health care is financed by payroll taxes, not service points. Eric doesn’t have to worry about getting health care through his employer.
MCELROY: yes. It’s not spa care, but it CARES.
FRAYER: what if you have to go back to the United States?
MCELROY: we don’t know what we’re going to do, you know? Otherwise I will have to find a real job again, which will be terrible. (laughter.)
Unidentified man # 2: the new medical service will be held all over the country.
FRAYER: the NHS was founded 70 years ago.
Robert bivens: the war is coming to an end, you know? The rubble is still smoking.
FRAYER: another American expat who spent decades in Britain, historian Roberta Bivins said, after the pain of world war ii, the British wanted to provide health care for everyone. They are still very protective today.
BIVINS: the people here are very, very uncomfortable and think the company should benefit from the patients. Of course, in the United States, we are more satisfied with the idea of the market providing services.
MCELROY: after the surgery, they gave me the fish pie, which was the first thing I said in my routine — it brought me back to the hospital because it was very sick — because, you know, they might give us health care, but the food is still very bad in this country.