Monday, 25 November 2013
Monday, 18 November 2013
I should make it clear from the start that while I don't think the NHS is perfect (not to mention the recent shambolic develpments across the Pond) I am absolutely in favour of social healthcare. I have seen children in shanty towns in Peru with no teeth, where those living in poverty will walk out of a hospital and die two days later from appendicitis because they can't afford to pay for the surgery. But I also know a man in the USA who had a kidney transplant but is no longer in work and can't afford health insurance which means he can't afford the medication he needs to prevent his transplant being rejected. Fortunately, the local transplant patients basically pool their meds so that if one month someone can't afford their tablets, then they will be supplied by someone else; a situation which strikes me as no less tragic (although on the other side, also restores one's faith in humanity). However, one of the biggest problems with free medicine (and the Welfare State in general) is what happens on the receiving end.
Research shows that people who get free prescriptions visit their GP when they are suffering from a minor ailment in order to obtain over the counter remedies on prescription rather than paying. This has led to the establishment of minor ailment schemes, whereby those people who are exempt from prescription charges can obtain such remedies free of charge. This frees up GP time and resources for people who have more serious problems.
Recently there has been a lot in the news about the pressure which A&E departments are facing this winter, with 40% of those patients seen in A&E not needing to be there: they could have been treated earlier and/or in the community. At the weekends, A&E is often full of alcohol-related (alcohol-fueled) injuries, and sometimes people will end up there because they are seriously ill and it is one of the paths to hospital admission. A while ago I saw an ambulance which bore an explanation of what was meant by a life-threatening emergency. (I was tempted to give my brother a similar list after he woke me up extremely early to ask where Mum was.) Tales of bizarre 999 calls, which often include people who want a lift to a hospital appointment, are frequent and mind-boggling.
Often it is the elderly who suffer, whether because they didn't go to their GP in time (couldn't get an appointment or didn't want to bother them), or because nobody took them or even noticed that they were a bit off colour. The point at which someone realises you have a mild case of cystitis shouldn't be when you're admitted to hospital with a broken hip (more common than you might suspect), because if someone is suddenly acting confused (often the first symptom of cystitis in older people) then your neighbour or your friend or your carer or someone should notice. And if someone is calling the ambulance service because they need help bringing the washing in and the path is icy, or they need a lift to the supermarket, then we should be asking ourselves why. Why is it that this person had to call 999 for help with a simple task? And I fear the answer has a lot more to do with individualism, loss of community and the selfish desire not to be burdened with other people and their problems (which some might call freedom) than the fact that our healthcare is free.
Sunday, 3 November 2013
And it's not just me.
Recently I have had a few conversations with friends and acquaintances who suffer from a weird problem. Actually it was a relief to me to find I wasn't alone, because after yet another conversation with my Mum which involved her threatening to throw a book which I was reading in the bin because it had the word 'Catholic' in the title I was starting to get a bit stressed out. The only reason that book didn't end up in the bin (or the recycling, at any rate) was because I pointed out that it was borrowed. Others have had similar conversations with their parents about books written by saints or popes. We are Generation Y: hiding our spiritual reading under the bed.
The strange thing is that we were all baptised and brought up Catholic by our Catholic parents and now they don't like it.
Now, I admit that when I discerned my vocation and then entered community I didn't hand it as well as I could have done. Announcing my decision in the car as we were driving along a dual carriageway might have had a very different ending and comments such as 'over my dead body' were perhaps only to be expected. But it started long before that. When I first went to university, there was mild concern over my regular attendance at daily mass. Attending social events at the chaplaincy was also considered worrying. It was the first time in my life I had the opportunity to have friends who were also Catholic, friends who, whatever else they were getting up to at the weekend, would make sure they went to mass on Sunday. The people who thought this was odd were the same people who insisted I came home at 9am after a Saturday sleepover when I was a teenager, so that I could go to mass.
I have a crucifix on the wall and a statue of Our Lady in my bedroom which is considered excessively pious of me, and yet there is a crucifix on the kitchen windowsill (in fact, now I come to think of it, there are two). We each own a copy of the Catechism, but knowing what is written inside it is over the top.
I know that it is traditional and expected for each generation to view the other with mild irritation and bewilderment (music isn't what it was, after all) but praying the rosary, going to confession, not talking in church; these are things our parents taught us which they now hope that we don't do. And then there are the things they hoped we would do, these being 'normal', but we choose not to because we are Catholic: things like sleeping with people we aren't married to, using contraception and talking openly about the fact that we are against abortion rather than just thinking about it. We try to keep up to date with Church news, keep an eye on what the Pope is saying in his weekly audiences, and pray for episcopal appointments. We don't eat meat on Fridays, wish the clergy would dress like clergy and also hold dangerous views about such controversial things as...guitars.
Our parents brought us up to be Catholics, and now that we are, they find it worrying.