Why Brexit endangers the British National Health Service

American actor Rob Delaney has experienced both the private American health care system and the British government-run National Health Service (NHS) and says that there is no comparison. He describes the NHSas “the pinnacle of human achievement”. He says that it would be crazy to vote for Boris Johnson and the Conservatives because after they get Brexit they would break up and sell the NHS to the private sector as the price of getting a trade deal with the US to make up for the losses of no longer being part of the EU.

The American actor, who is a vocal supporter of Labour, compared the experiences of being treated by the US private healthcare system when he was in a car accident when he was 25 with the “extraordinary care” his son Henry received from the NHS when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour before he died.

In the video, he asks British voters to imagine him as a “ghost of Christmas future” and as someone who has experienced a private healthcare system in the US, but who has “also experienced the wonderful NHS here, which even in its underfunded state is still so vastly superior”.

He added: “You don’t want what I grew up with.”

I enjoy the British TV series Doc Martin about a brilliant but gruff and acerbic vascular surgeon with zero social skills and lousy bedside manner who develops a blood phobia and has to give up his London practice and move to a picturesque coastal village to be the sole general practitioner there.

What I marvel at is that his ‘surgery’ consists of just two rooms in the small house in which he lives, his own examining room and a waiting room with a receptionist. That’s it. This is because there is no vast billing and insurance system to deal with. The doctor sees patients, gives them prescriptions and/or orders tests, and that’s it.

It is just as it should be, unlike the nightmare that exists in the US where patients are expected to know the fine points of their health insurance plans and even then are often blindsided with huge bills.


  1. Matt G says

    Amazing, isn’t it, how many “no-brainers” have become “brainers” in the Trump/Brexit era…?

  2. lorn says

    In the 80s I used to live down the street from a doctor in Virginia who retired because medicine had changed over the years.

    I used to do odd jobs, like hanging shelves for his medical books, and we would drink coffee and talk. I think hr just liked having somebody to talk with. He related that when he started out, I assume in the 40s, started with a freshly printed medical license, an untrained secretary/receptionist, a shingle, and the instruments in his bag. He was in control over which patients he saw, treatments offered, work hours, billing, and how the office was run.

    He said it changed slowly at first. Little things. More records kept. More paperwork filed with insurance. After a bit he had to hire a file clerk. Then it was getting everything approved with insurance and he spent more time on the phone. Eventually the secretary/receptionist job got to be too much. So he had to hire help to handle phone calls and field inquiries from drug reps and insurance companies. He was s[ending more and more of his time talking to insurance company representatives. Often talking medically untrained representatives step-by-step through treatment plans. He had to add a file room and an administrative office. He had to see more patients to cover the overhead so each got less time.

    After a few years the administrative burden was so great that he accepted an offer to join a medical group. They shared administrative functions but it was under a non-practicing doctor who ran everything. At first this meant more patient time and the administration was lenient and hands-off. But after a few years the patient load was worse than it ever was and the administrator was telling him where to park and what to wear. And always pushing for him to see more patients, even as the administrator was seemingly more concerned with a new sports car and was spending ever more time on the golf course and country club.

    Eventually he burned out and retired simply because ‘medicine wasn’t fun any more’. He said it wasn’t about helping people. It had become all about business and, ultimately, money.

    The American healthcare system has been optimized to maximize profits. Getting, or keeping, people healthy is entirely secondary.

    I used to hang out with British ex-pat, a PhD chemist, who claimed he maintained his registration with the NHS for something like $70 a year. This was back in the 90s. He would fly to England once a year and get a checkup, prescriptions written, and any work done all in one go. Several time he went for surgery and stayed for the better part of a week. He hated dealing with the medical system in the US. His biggest complaints were the paperwork, multiple uncoordinated visits that wasted entire days at a time, and the costs. His take was that Brits enjoyed bitching about the NHS but, to a man, they loved the NHS. More so if they had encountered the US system.

    I wish we had an NHS.

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