My wife has returned to the bosom of our home after a full knee replacement. The op went really well and its 'so far, so good'. She was a private patient with the bills being picked up by Norwich Union. In the next room was another lady, who was paying for her operation - which cost a lot of money. She had not been able to have treatment within an acceptable timescale on the NHS and her family had 'dug deep' to find the means to pay for her desperately needed treatment.
I hear a lot about how important it is that the NHS is free to all, at the point of delivery. This is a load of tosh. It isn't free to all now. It wasn't free to the lady in the next room - and it isn't free to the many thousands who are using up their savings to pay for treatments that they are in too much pain to wait for.
The reason this is in my mind tonight is because I have been reflecting on the big health issue in today's Telegraph. Should NHS patients be allowed to pay for drugs which have been deemed by NICE (The National Institute of Clinical Excellence) as not cost effective as an additional part of their treatment? This is a huge issue - because if it were to be allowed, it would introduce the likelihood of two levels of treatment for patients in adjoining NHS beds. But how long can we maintain a position of refusing to allow patients access to the range of new effective-but-costly drugs that are coming forward - just to maintain a principle which is already being flouted by some hospital trusts. This ideological principle is causing patients to suffer and die when they would not otherwise do so. Makes me think "Stuff the principle". This is going to be a tricky issue for the new Rainbow Coalition Health Minister.