Thursday, 13 August 2009

#welovethenhs but should we have to?

The seemingly increasingly unreliable twitter had another outage yesterday but this time not because of hackers. No, this time the British public flooded the social-networking site with the hashtag #welovethenhs as part of a campaign by the creator of Father Ted, Graham Linehan. The accomplished tweeter has had some other successful campaigns in the past involving subjects from The Daily Mail to Eurovision.

Linehan goes on to say in his interview (linked to above) that "you attack [the NHS] at your peril". This is a response to the video above as well as a concerted effort by the American right to use the example of the British healthcare system as the argument against 'Obamacare'. Certainly there have been a lot of fallacies purported on news stations such as Fox News and these have since been succinctly dealt with by The Daily Telegraph.

The article seems to confirm what Stephen Fry tweeted about the matter and all should have been cleared up nicely. Unfortunately things didn't stop there and people's adoration of the NHS gushed through twitter. The problem with this is that the NHS is nowhere near a perfect system, in fact I would say for certain that the US system is a heck of a lot better than our own.

It would perhaps be unfair to have no provisions whatsoever for those who fall ill but a major reliance on the free market is simply the most efficient way to distribute healthcare. The traditional argument that 'at least a doctor here checks my pulse before my wallet' is absurd. These people associate health insurance solely with going on holiday but most Americans consider this a monthly bill that gets paid with utilities etc. The only reason we don't complain is because it gets taken out of our taxes, which pay for a variety of goods and services; including healthcare.

The campaign has also turned on Daniel Hannan who has also been a victim of @glinner's campaign. Despite making some authentic criticisms of the NHS, albeit not necessarily constructive, he has been made a scapegoat by even his very own party. The campaign has rallied such patriotic support that it has blinded some normally sensible people and whipped renewed fire into those on the left.

The problem lies in the fact that this isn't even much of a left/right issue as much as it is an authoritarian/liberal issue. It's the difference between wanting the government to interfere with healthcare provision and, as Hannan points out, flooded with bureaucracy or leaving it to the efficiencies of the free market. In my mind, Britain is leaning heavily towards the wrong side.

So America is slowly backing away from it's NHS hate campaign but I personally hope that this allows us to look at why the British healthcare system was picked out for ridicule. Of course a myriad of people have their own success stories with the NHS but this time the grass really is greener.