Stephan was 44 year-old British émigré, who first came to my office in early 2007, with a 6-year history of what was previously diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. Within a month, we quickly confirmed he was actually a type 1 diabetic, and controlled his diabetes properly with insulin. Over the next year, he started using an insulin pump and has used it effectively ever since.
Once we got to know each other well, Stephan and I began talking about why American medicine was superior to the British National Health Service (NHS). For starters, he probably wouldn’t have survived had he not been properly diagnosed as a type 1 diabetic (remember, he was being treated with oral medications for type 2 diabetes in England, before he emigrated). Despite evidence of his own life being in jeopardy from improper diagnosis and care from NHS, he steadfastly defended the “good” that the NHS brought to UK citizens, and how the poor would be left without health care if it were not for the NHS.
In recent years, Stephan began realizing the reality that he would not have survived had he remained in the UK, but could not bring himself to admit it.He came for a follow-up visit earlier this week, and seemed like a changed man. When I asked him, he described the two weeks he spent in England, caring for his aged and ill mother, this past winter.
“When I went to see my mother, I saw her slumped over in a chair, all by herself in a large ward. I could hardly recognize her, she was so run down. For hours there was nobody in her ward to even see if she was still alive”, he started. “This couldn’t be the NHS, I thought”. “When I went outside the ward, the staff were all watching TV, eating and laughing. When I asked them why nobody is taking care of my mother, they said, this is what she gets, they are following protocol.” He concluded by saying that he had to physically threaten the doctor and the administrator before better care was provided. He was finally able to place his mother in a senior center. “They were just waiting for all the sick & old people to die!” he exclaimed.
“I hate the NHS now, after trying to defend it all these years”, he finally accepted. What I could not convince him of in 6 years, a 2-week experience in England did. A lifelong NHS supporter now hates it because he saw first-hand what socialized medicine can do to health care, specifically to the frail and unprivileged class (remember, 90-year-old Prince Philip got an emergency coronary stent a couple of year ago).
On his way out the door, he offered me this advice “Don’t sell out your practice to the large hospital chains, you will become like the NHS if you do.” When I look out in my region, I see massive buyouts of physician practices by hospital chains, and I wonder, is the NHS coming to a neighborhood near you?
Arvind Cavale MD is an endocrinologist in private practice, you can follow Dr. Cavale on Twitter @endodocPA.
Photo by Jill A. Brown