I am 5 and i'm cycling up the road to my friends house on my little red bike. I am busy looking at the sky when I crash through a barrier and in to a pothole in the pavement. I'm rushed the hospital in a blurry daze, where I am treated immediately and bandaged up (turns out I'm miraculously fine). I try to avoid eye contact with anyone because I'm so crushingly embarrassed so cling to my mum as she stifles giggles.
At 13, I decide that I want to be harder, stronger and less girly, so attend Jujitszu lessons with my friend. At our first lesson we discover we are crap at it and assigned to a class of 5 year olds. We get a bit carried away, I am thrown on the floor awkwardly, my arm breaks and I am left lying on the floor groaning (or making sex noises, according to my teenage friends) surrounded by wide eyed 5 year olds. Back to the hospital. An X-Ray, a big plaster cast, pain killers.
By the time I am 20, my skin has bothered me for 7 years. It's not terrible acne but bad enough to make me feel self conscious. I have tried a succession of drugs from the doctors, for free, but none of them have worked. I am eventually referred to a dermatologist who order ongoing appointments, blood tests and prescribes a strong drug which ultimately clears my skin (halle-freakin-lujah)
My quarterly dates with a big needle in the butt cheek are by no means pleasant, but at 21 after the advice from the family planning clinic this was the best solution for me. At the first appointment I'm also given a Smear test, STI check, and a big bag of free condoms. Free. All of it.
When I fell over on the dance floor at a wedding last summer, making a tit out of myself and busting my ankle, I was able to hobble to the walk in clinic, get a diagnosis (probably broken, ouch) for free.
You probably know where I am going with this, but these interactions with the NHS have so far punctuated my life with painful (and sometimes hilarious) memories, yes, but also with the unquestioned support of the doctor, the hospital, the walk-in centre, the family planning clinic. The taken-for-granted ability to seek treatment or expert advice for free whenever I need it.
Unless you’ve living in a Nuclear Bunker, or something, you won’t have failed to notice the rumpus, outrage and general hoipolloi about the threat to the NHS in the UK. The government wants to introduce competition and pro-market strategies to the NHS, encourage hospitals to increase private income, give GPs responsibility for "buying" medical services and allow "failing" hospitals to go bust. This will change the NHS immeasurably, and ultimately set it on a course toward private health care.
And, well, I love the NHS. Yes, I know the NHS has its faults. But I don't not believe that these proposals are the answer to those faults. They are a disaster for free, universal healthcare, a principal I deeply believe in. Its not just me either, health charities, patient groups, professional bodies and trade unions are up in arms about the content of the proposals, but also about the way that they are being dealt with. Huge, untested decisions are being taken too quickly, behind closed doors, without proper consultation and without any trial. The health minister has been forced to delay his proposals under an avalanche of opposition, and is now running a sham ‘listening exercise’ so that he can continue with his reforms but say that he’s listened to us (cynical? moi?).
Anyway- this is just a little nudge to the website of the brilliant 38 Degrees who have done a marvelous job of mobilizing the public in contributing to (/flooding?!) this listening exercise, which ends tomorrow. Their aim is to make sure that when the figures are released, the headlines are clear: the bulk of the submissions to Lansley’s listening exercise are opposed his plans. It’s easy and fast to make a personal submission to the listening exercise using the 38 Degrees website. So if you share my concerns, you know what to do...
P.S I'd also love to hear about your comedy accidents too, I've had too many to name!