Many years ago I was in hospital for a minor operation. The tiny ward had room for four but there was only one other occupant; an old man who was very ill. A nurse asked me if I could chat to him to ease his final hours. I am hard of hearing and one of my hearing aids had run out of juice, so I said to the nurse I’d be delighted to oblige if someone could nip out and get me a battery. She asked if it was an NHS aid and I said no, but the batteries were standard. “No, we can’t help you if it’s a private hearing aid,” she said, forgetting that she had asked me for the favour.
I am reminded of this because in yesterday’s paper I read that a woman has been denied an operation on the NHS after paying for a private consultation regarding her severe back pain. On the NHS she would have had to wait five months just for a consultation (with the same surgeon). Now, she goes to the back of the queue (eighteen weeks) for another consultation on the NHS (with the same surgeon).
This is because any NHS patient has to be “referred on to an NHS pathway.”
Quite right too, you may say; she was queue-jumping. But what this argument ignores is that in paying for her consultation she was also paying (via taxes) for another one on the NHS which she did not utilise, hence easing the strain on NHS consultations (and thus operations) for countless other people. She was shortening the queue, not jumping it, with her own money. (Just think of what a fantastic service the NHS could give if the private sector took on half of their patients without removing any of its funds!)
Now she must pay for her operation as well, unless she goes to the back of the current queue and starts again. It’s a mad world.