Why we have a National Health Disservice

c: | f: Health / Corporate

We’re told the NHS is in crisis and needs funding. Let’s step back a moment and find out if it’s true and who’s to blame. The answer might surprise you.

Whether you believed the misdirection during the Brexit farce regarding the disbursement of Euro funds to the NHS, the overriding feeling by the mainstream media and people who lap it up is that our health service needs more money to survive.

I’m here to say that is utter rubbish.

Hardly a week goes by when 38 Degrees or other pressure groups aren’t campaigning for this and that about the NHS, and it usually comes down to outcries over funding, staffing or budget cuts. I support a variety of campaigns these groups stand for, but things like this not so much.

The problem has very little to do with funding, it’s to do with the incessant three-way tug of war that always — to date — results in a stalemate. The following main forces are at play:

  1. Us. The public, looking out for ourselves.
  2. The government. Any government, they’re all the same, looking out for themselves.
  3. The supply chain. Trying to make as much money as possible, looking out for themselves.

Spot the problem? Yep, nobody gives a crap about anyone else.

A system under strain

The last time I had the misfortune to need to enter our local walk-in health centre was an eye-opener. I try to avoid it at all costs. The place had been open for daily business ten minutes prior to my arrival, and already there were nineteen people in the waiting room. All of them except me and one other mother/daughter combo, was over fifty years of age. Some considerably older.

Admittedly, bodies may wear out more as they are used, so I expect the demographic to be top-heavy; and that top is becoming heavier as people live longer. But what I wasn’t expecting was to see that around eighty percent of the people in the waiting room didn’t need to be there.

I saw:

  • a couple of people with colds that could probably sort themselves out instead of spreading germs in public spaces.
  • one guy with a bandage on his wrist.
  • a woman who delighted in telling everyone about her migraines. Tip: it’s often your brain processing too much, or eye-strain so a trip to the optician might be more beneficial.
  • the customary bloke who mutters really loudly every time someone who enters the waiting room after him is called to see the doctor ahead of him. I have one word for the guy: triage. If you don’t like the system, write lies on the admittance form about how infectious you are, or start vomiting blood every two minutes.

Everyone else just looked miserable, but with no obvious ailments. So if most were not truly ill, or merely there because they need a changed prescription, or were told to be there ‘just in case’ because of their age, or are hypochondriacs, we need to analyse why.

The business of health

Before diving into that, let’s clear something up. We should not kid ourselves any longer about the true nature of the National Health Service. It isn’t a service, it’s a business. The fact it also fixes people is a by-product.

When it was officially launched back in July 1948 the government may have had lofty aims of it becoming a cash cow based on the average human life expectancy of 65-70 years. Presumably nobody took into account those statistics included the huge death toll during the second world war, nor predicted that the introduction of the service, along with other public health initiatives, would boost life expectancy to a point where the system would become unsustainable. Either that, or they did the maths correctly and chose to carry on regardless, to ensure future revenue streams or use it as a kick-starter to pull the country out of post-war depression/recession. Or all of the above.

Like most government schemes, the introduction of the NHS was a boon for business. It gave unscrupulous sales forces and CEOs another legitimate mechanism to stick a few zeros on the end of tender quotes and still be awarded the contract, propping up the private sector via the back door and making the country look prosperous on paper.

Think of how many firms around the world would crumble or at least struggle without government projects: BAe Systems, Lockheed Martin, Civica, IBM, Balfour Beatty, not to mention the myriad firms supplying medical and surgical equipment, drugs, office supplies and stationery.

Like state education and war, the whole thing is a money-making racket. But without it, we’re told, the country’s people would be far poorer; economically and physically.

Or would they?

Working up the drugs ladder

Back in the waiting room, we were called forward one by one to ante-rooms and then finally to see the doctors or nurses. This is what the people that didn’t really need to be there could expect:

Patient: “I’m feeling poorly.”
Doctor: Pokes around. “Say ahhh.”
Patient: “Ahhh.”
Doctor: “Cough.”
Patient: Coughs.
Doctor: “Here, I’ll prescribe you this antibiotic.”

Ka-ching!

And that’s how it goes, patient after patient. Here are the real winners:

  • The doctor is paid anyway. Second homes aren’t cheap.
  • The NHS gets cash from prescription charges or – if the person is exempt – wooden dollars from a different government pot topped up by tax money.
  • The drug company continues to rape the environment to make more chemical-based, lab-synthesised products with questionable benefits.
  • The government obtains more statistics that can be used to inform the public of a) the need for the service, b) the fact there are so many sick people that rely on it, c) the fact it can’t cope and needs more tax money to run.

It’s all about the money. Every last decision in the entire business, right through the supply chain, is driven by greed, not patient care or a desire to keep people alive longer.

One problem that stems from this model is that the patient is given one of two things at the consultation:

  1. The cheapest product to see if it works before moving onto the more expensive ones – austerity in action.
  2. The product the doctor has been told to pimp by the pharmaceutical firm-du-jour. The one with the greatest kick-back, probably.

The fact the patient didn’t really need the medication in the first place is immaterial. A better course of action would be to tell them to stop time-wasting and put less faith in drugs that have all manner of side-effects. I forget who said it now, but I recall someone that quipped: if you take a cold remedy you’ll get better in seven days, but if not you’ll be better in about a week.

Introducing non-natural, so-called ‘remedies’ into an otherwise healthy system that would repair itself over time is foolhardy. Worse, starting on the lowest rung of the ladder with the cheapest, least effective products leads to a pool of people swimming in the drugs, leading to more people building immunity to their effects, leading to bugs mutating to survive, leading to more research required, and more environmental damage to synthesise pills that circumvent the latest strain.

The entire system is set up to be self-sustaining and to boost business. Money. Money. Money.

As more drugs are manufactured, there are more unknowns. Of course, the drug companies tell you their drug is safe if used correctly. Sure, it might be. They’ve tested it ad nauseum in isolation. But it’ll have side-effects. It has to. It’s a foreign object in an otherwise balanced system; an additive to the invasion that was already afflicting the body. It’ll interact with some people in one way and others in a different way that nobody can predict. One size never fits all. And they never take the person’s disposition or spiritual outlook into account.

So, if everything introduces side-effects, guess what? We need more pills to counteract them. And those not only affect your body in ways nobody can predict, but interact with other drugs in ways nobody can predict. It’s called the cocktail effect and is the same problem facing our food supply with the numerous pesticides interacting over time.

Combined with resistance, the cocktail effect poses more of a health risk than leaving you to get better of your own accord.

Pandemic or self-inflicted pathogens?

The Borg were onto something when they proclaimed “resistance is futile”. We already have MRSA outbreaks and superbugs that are resistant to antibiotics. Who’s listening? Who’s making positive changes to help? Nobody in the NHS, that’s for sure. It’s business as usual: synthesise more drugs to fight this particular strain to oil the cogs of the machine and maintain the revenue stream.

The ‘SA’ part of MRSA is on everybody. It’s part of the microcosm of life. It’s not bad, per se. Sure, surgeons need to scrub up, but they do anyway. The rest of us? No need for alcohol gel or 99.9% anti-bacterial soap in the kitchen. A few common germs aren’t going to kill you in an otherwise cleanish household if you’re fit and healthy. In fact, they’ll make you stronger as your body learns to fight them for itself instead of being awash with anti-something that confuses your immune system.

By the way, in case you missed it, the key phrase in the last paragraph was if you’re fit and healthy. In the surgery waiting room, I looked around. Looking for patterns. It’s what I do. What do you think was the key common factor between every single person that didn’t need to be there on the same day as me? Go on, have a random stab in the dark.

Exactly.

Overweight. Out of shape. Call it what you like. Not one of the people there were in need of anything that a drug company could supply. They needed to get active, exercise and eat nutritious food that their body requires. That’s it. The body then has more time and resource to fight the things that matter instead of fighting to keep the blood pumping through furred arteries or to hulk excess weight around.

I (over)hear the same tired phrases from relatives and people chatting in the streets. “I’m big-boned”, or “Your metabolism slows when you get old” or “It’s middle-age spread, y’know” or “It’s my angina”.

Bollocks. They’re all excuses.

The body is a fantastically-engineered, closed-loop system. In its most basic form it should form a balanced equation:

Good food in – energy spent – waste out = 0.

Put more in than you expend, it has to go somewhere; and it isn’t all expelled, that’s for sure. Middle age spread is not just your metabolism slowing down. It’s you doing less and eating the same amount, or more.

Listen to your body to detect if your metabolism is slowing. Watch for patterns. Eat less to compensate, or do more exercise, even just walking briskly up and down hill a couple of times a day, or taking the stairs instead of the escalator. Sure, you’ll wear out eventually, but if you want your body to last, respect and look after it. It’s that simple.

Infirm and age are not related

Just because you’re seventy-years-old doesn’t stop you being active. I play table tennis against pensioners and lose. It’s not because I’m crap (well, alright, it partly is). It’s because they’re out there doing stuff, still learning. Keeping themselves busy. An endorsement of “what’s good for the body is good for the mind” and vice versa.

One lass I play against is almost an octogenarian. She had to go to the doctors recently and they couldn’t find her records because she’d not been for forty years. Forty years! No check-ups, no flu jabs, no antibiotics, no nothing. And until this year, she kicked my butt at the game every single time.

She’s the business model to which we should all aspire. With more people like her, there would be no NHS crisis. It would have the resources to treat people who are truly sick or represent true emergency situations, and that’s it.

As a by-product, we’d all be healthier – and richer – because our immune systems would be better and our taxes wouldn’t need to be sunk into an ever-faster vortex, spun by our appetite for pills and the common diet of passive TV and bad food.

The crucial factor is that we, the population, have bought into the NHS business model: to be healthy and achieve longevity requires pills, experts, diagnoses, and finger pointing. That it requires you to pop along to the doctors for a check-up because you’ve hit fifty-years-old “just in case”, or to take some drug to help prevent something that might never happen.

I say break the cycle. Break the habit. Take control, and for goodness sake, let’s look after our bodies before considering going anywhere near a doctor so we don’t give the government another excuse to tax us into oblivion.

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