Social Medicine

It’s been a long while since I wrote a blog on any subject. I’ve been away in San Francisco for the last month and have started a new role in the company I work for back in the UK.  So, to be honest time has been of a premium especially when most of the team I manage is 8 hours behind me back in SF which means I end up on the phone til late in the night. Having said that I can’t complain ….. at least I have a job!!!

What’s spurred me into writing is the comments that have been flying around on the ACOR Kidney Cancer Mail list (a great resource by the way for anyone who hasn’t already come across it). The emotive subject of social medicine has reared it’s ugly head and you can see from the comments that this is a topic close to many of our hearts.

Here’s my experience (and view) for what it’s worth.

First off I think it’s my duty as a founder of The Kidney Cancer Resource to stay as un-biased as I possibly can and ensure that my personal views are not splashed across the KCR  site itself… it needs to stay as factual as possible. I’ll use this blog as a means of expressing any personal views I have. Having said that we will always help to push a cause that has clear benefit to Kidney Cancer patients, witness the struggle to get Sutent approved in the UK over the last couple of years… I like to think we helped in our own small way.

That aside, I’d like to say that my personal experience of our UK Social Medicine (i.e. the NHS) has been fantastic. I am lucky in that the company I work for helps fund any private treatment I need through health insurance, but right up to the point of my surgeon saying “We need to take you Kidney out because you may have cancer” I stayed within the NHS system…. the second she said those words I asked if I could go private.

The difference between the NHS and Private for me was how long I’d have to wait for the surgery and the fact that I got a private room and slightly better food, outside of that I got the same surgeon and team, the same oncologist and the same care. Could I have pushed along the pre-surgery tests if I’d gone private? …. definitely, however I’m not sure how much difference that would have made for me personally, they caught mine early and were debating if I needed surgery, and even if I did they couldn’t say if it was cancer or not. I always take comfort in that, despite it being an 8cm cyst/tumour they thought it wasn’t cancer right up to the point they stuck it under a microscope……. darn those microscopes.

My NHS GP was fantastic, always on hand to answer ANY questions I had, pushed to get my scan results back and generally did all he could to put my mind at ease.  So, all in all I had a good experience with social medicine, and I hate to hear it being slammed down at every opportunity. 

Yes, I had to push a little to get test results and appointments,  but I always got them.  My wife and family thought I was nuts not using the private health cover, but up until the sugery I never saw the point….lets face it, if the people diagnosing me were the same then I doubt the private tag would have made much odds, the only difference I could see was nicer waiting rooms and free tea and biscuits.

Do I think there are issues with the NHS? Oh yeah!! and some, but not the nurses and doctors and carerers, they work their behinds off to keep it all going. There are always exceptions to this, but there are exceptions in the private sector as well. Somebody I know for example has been waiting for a year to get an appointment on the NHS for a very serious condition who lives in the same district as me … go figure, because I wasn’t made to wait at all.

The sheer waste that goes on at the management level in the NHS is reprehensible. I’ll use the NPfIT (National Program for IT) as an example of this …. it is/was the largest ever IT project ever undertaken by anyone…anywhere, and yet when you talk to the local NHS trusts about it (which I have), they simply don’t see where the added value is or why they’re being forced (in many cases) to implement it. So, all that money for what? These are some of the reasons we stood up and fought to get Sutent approved, because when you hear arguments over cost and then put that side by side against the waste it simply doesn’t stack up.

I didn’t fight because I think social medicine was a bad thing, I helped with the fight to ensure it gets better and that people who don’t have the luxury of private medicine get the help they need when they need it. Funding and miss-management aren’t always a good reason for condemning something… they can be fixed.

If I was really cynical I might suggest that we rename the “The National Health Service” and call it “The National Health Service and Banking Corporation”… Gordon Brown may throw a few more random billions at it if we did that. Yeah, yeah… I know there’s more to the banking crisis than that, but I couldn’t resist a quick dig.

I can’t really comment on how things work in the US, I have no personal experience of it. As John Smith says on the ACOR list, clearly the US get quicker access to the newer drugs and there certainly seems to be more research going on… however I can only imagine that if you’re out of work and with no savings how that might leave you when you get really sick, not something I’d like to have to face.

Posted under Andy Thomas, General

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