My daughter Roz recently gave me gave me Melanie Reid’s autobiography, The World I Fell Out Of. Melanie was thrown from her horse in 2010 and broke her neck. From being a middle aged, happily married, successful columnist on “The Times” she became, in that moment, paralysed from the neck down. Melanie is brutally honest and unsparing of herself in her description of what followed and her terrors, despair and suffering.
She also describes her admiration for the NHS and especially the front line staff who, overworked, underpaid and under pressure, did everything for the helpless patients. This is no fairy tale, the NHS is flawed and so are some staff. But they are heroic in the work they do and, despite the horrors, the stories Melanie tells so brilliantly are often very funny. Andrew Marr in the foreword makes the point that we may all, at any time, need the NHS to a greater or lesser extent. Life is uncertain. And that was made obvious in my own family.
My daughter was also thrown from a horse when she was a teenager. She too was thrown off head first. She broke both arms and injured her face. But she did not, by the most happy of chances as I now realise, break her neck. She made a full recovery under the care of the NHS in the Queen’s Medical Centre, Nottingham.
Melanie describes why she was so stricken and we now realise why Roz was so lucky. Roz threw her arms out in front of her and broke both wrists, which protected her neck. Melanie, who gripped her horse’s mane, did not. Both were instinctive reactions.
As thousands of patients from car accidents, bicycles, motor bikes and so many activities, some in the garden from trampolining or diving in a swimming pool are injured to a greater or lesser degree and they are dependant on the NHS. Life is uncertain and any of us may suffer a fate we never imagined.
Both Melanie and Roz needed, as well as very expensive care, lots of drugs at the time of their accidents. Melanie’s need will be lifelong. The health care in the NHS, including drugs, fulfils Aneurin Bevan’s dream of being free at the point of need regardless of wealth or status. Will that continue after Brexit? That is a question that must be answered honestly. The answer will decide the quality of life for millions of future patients.
We must know the truth before we decide how to vote on 12th December. This is far too important to be a plaything, a pawn to be used in pursuit of political power.
I was reassured to hear Boris Johnson promise, clearly and unequivocally, that the NHS would not be affected by Brexit. He went further and said that in any trade negotiations with the USA the NHS would not be part of the deal. The NHS was safe.
He denied the accusation that initial and secret trade talks had already taken place. These were reassuring words. Could any decent, even civilised, person lie about such a subject? Could millions be conned with cheap promises and trashy fantasies on this most vital of subjects.
The British health care system is different to that of the USA. In the USA health care is sold and if you can’t pay you will be turned away. Patients sometimes mortgage their homes to pay for treatment. The same drug may cost three times as much in the USA as in Britain.
My confidence in Boris Johnson’s promises took a knock after I read a report by Antony Barnett, an investigative reporter on the “Dispatches” Channel 4 programme on 28th October. Barnett discovered, from “well placed sources”, that in an initial six secret meetings between US drug firms and UK civil servants where they discussed drug pricing had taken place. A Republican politician, close to Trump, said that the President insisted that the NHS had to be part of any trade negotiations.
Stephen Vaughan, a top American lawyer and former negotiator for Trump said that he didn’t understand what Boris Johnson meant when he said that the NHS was off the table in trade negotiations. Trump is determined to raise the price paid for drugs to American Big Pharma by the “free loading NHS.”
Former Conservative Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, thinks the Government should publish what the UK’s negotiating objectives are and rule out drug pricing from a trade deal with America. The Trump camp insists that there will be no trade negotiations unless drug pricing and the NHS are on the table.
So, we either believe what Antony Barnett claims he discovered or Boris Johnson’s promises. Like myself, you will decide for yourself.
Denis Watkins is a supporter of Wales for Europe. Want to write an article for us? Contact us now.
PHOTO: THE GUARDIAN.